from Dominic England, consultant, Dragon Brand Consulting

Sir; Simon Mowbray’s article (Spot the difference, The Grocer, September 4, p36-37) raises interesting points about the fractious spat between branded goods manufacturers (BGMs) and retailers.
Three issues need to be addressed. First, both sides underestimate consumers; second, retailers are inherently bound to offer choice and value. Third, BMGs should be working harder towards generating unique packaging designs as a point of difference.
UK consumers are more canny than many give them credit for. While we know most decisions are made in seconds at point of sale, BGMs’ advertising and psychological impact have a big influence. It seems therefore that BMGs’ task is to make packaging work harder to persuade shoppers to buy their product. It is no longer good enough for mere recognition to be the main driver behind design.
Recent examples include Hovis bread and Jaffa Cakes packaging by Williams Murray Hamm and our own work with Carlsberg and 24/7. In these cases, structure and graphics combine to communicate a strong differentiation that would be hard for retailers to replicate. That leaves consumers in no doubt as to which is a brand and which an imitation.
Retailers are in a difficult position with individual packs. Their umbrella brands carry broad messages that are difficult to translate into individual ranges and categories. At the moment, most copycat brands simply offer cheaper versions of similar products, rather than broadening consumer choice.
Dragon’s research has shown credibility is higher for brands with strong, unique identities and packaging that makes retailer copies look like cheap imitations. Retailers will always copy brands where they can because it offers a direct route to near parity with BMGs. It is up to BMGs to work with packaging agencies to develop brand design that ensures packaging is used more effectively.