Investing in the Future of Food: Start with the consumer when rebranding, advises Endangered Species Chocolate

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By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

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While modern wisdom may favor launching fast and iterating quickly based on consumer feedback, the director of innovation at Endangered Species Chocolate says when it comes to packaging and branding it is better to slow down and invest in consumer research up front to ensure marketing messages effectively hit their mark.

Otherwise, she warns, brands could risk confusing consumers in a way that leads to missed sales and misunderstandings about a company’s core values – lessons Endangered Species Chocolate learned the hard way.

At Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, Endangered Species Chocolate’s Whitney Bembenick explained that the brand realized it needed a new look when consumer research revealed that shoppers couldn’t find its products on shelves and when they were directed to it, they still didn’t always know what the flavors were and they missed the company’s mission to give 10% of its net profits to conservation.

“That triggered us to make an investment in consumer research and, over the course of the past two years, we have been talking to consumers and importantly listening to them to build out five core personas who we today position ourselves strategically to,”​ she said.

From there, ESC learned about the brand’s hierarchy, including when comes to chocolate consumers first and foremost want a bar that tastes great, second is made with premium ingredients and third has the added value of giving back for conservation, Bembenick said.

A unifying brand logo is key

A key element of the new look was creating a logo that represented the brand’s values and created a unified look across the company’s portfolio. This in turn allowed Endangered Species Chocolate more creative wiggle room when it came to designing the wrappers for its different SKUs.

“We wanted something that was iconic and resonated with consumers as well as our brand. You will see featured the elephant,”​ which consumers said was the first thing they thought of when asked about endangered species, Bembenick said. “And that was great for us because an elephant really embodies a lot of the things we do: longevity, loyalty, stewardship and all of those things are properties that we want to abide by as a brand.”

The backgrounds of the bars also incorporate elements of the animals that the company is striving to protect and which their bars previously were identified as, Bembenick said.

“The other think you will notice is that we used a lot of color in our bars, and that is because color can help stand up off shelf, and it can also emulate the flavor profile of the product,”​ she explained.

However, because taste is so important to consumers, she added, the brand also spells out clearly on the front of each bar each of the main flavor components.

Strategies for a successful rebranding

Based on Endangered Species Chocolate’s experience, Bembenick advises companies considering a rebrand to start first by identifying their consumers’ needs and perceptions of the company, and second to set aside more time than think they’ll need to go through the whole process.

This means first identifying the core consumer and what matters to them most, which might not be anything related to the product or even the category, but something specific to them, she said.

“That is going to help them tailor in on the hierarchy of your packaging and even down to the product itself, including what you are going to talk to the most, what you are going to highlight and how you are going to do it,”​ she said.

More mature brands that are overhauling established brands should dedicate two to three years to a rebranding so that they effectively hit on consumer needs but don’t sacrifice heritage.

Holding on to loyal fans once a new look launches

Once the new look launches, Bembenick advises companies to follow three steps to ensure loyal fans aren’t left behind and still can find the products they love.

First, she recommends, the new look should overlap on store shelves with the old packaging so that consumers can slowly transition and make the connection between the different design elements and the brand they love.

Second, Bembenick said, brands should use signs at the point of sale to clearly point out the company and product name to avoid consumers breezing past the newly designed product while looking for the old imagery.

Finally, she said, ESC teased the idea of the new look on social media before it hit in order to create buzz but also to give fans a heads up that something big was coming and to keep their eye out for a new look.

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