This is the third in a series of five blogs we are sharing on How to Speak to Shoppers.
If you want help developing shopper communication based on the principles we are talking about please get in touch.
Right, onto the blog…
Being Instantly Recognisable
Let’s start with a quiz on vexillology.
Don’t worry, we’re just going to ask you about some flags.
Which country has a flag that is white with a red circle in the middle? Easy, right? Japan.
Which country has a flag that is blue, white and red horizontal stripes. Harder? There are a few options. Netherlands. Croatia. Slovenia. Serbia, Russia. Luxembourg. It’s a popular design.
Which flag has green, black and yellow horizontal stripes. A red triangle. A yellow star. And an err…AK47? Hard, right? Very well done if you said Mozambique.
Some flags are instantly recognisable. Some much less so.
Why are we talking about flags? Well, vexillologists (OK…people who study flags) have some basic rules for flag design.
First, keep it simple. The flag should be so simple that a child could draw it from memory. The Japanese flag easily passes this test.
Second, be distinctive. The flag should be different to every other flag. Blue, white and red horizontal stripes could be one of many. A big red maple leaf can only signal Canada.
Third, be meaningful. The flag should relate to what it symbolises. For instance, the Stars & Stripes has 50 stars to represent the states and 13 stripes to represent the original colonies.
What is important to designing flags is important to designing for shoppers.
In fact we’d say it’s even more important.
A grocery store is one of the most visually complex environments you can put anyone in. Lots of products. Price labels. POS communication. All competing for attention.
The same is true online. Except the information is even smaller. Small product shots. Small font sizes. Small search boxes. Small drop down menus. It’s a visual bombardment.
Shopping is scanning. From side to side. Up and down. Shopping is filtering. Filtering out the stuff that’s not relevant. To focus on the stuff that is relevant. Shopping is selecting. Making quick choices about the best things to buy. Feeling confident in those choices.
So, are you applying the 3 flag design rules to your shopper communication?
Are you… keeping it simple? This means being really easy to process. Limiting the number of visual elements on a pack or piece of POS communication. More than 5 is too many.
It means having a clear visual hierarchy. Directing the order in which shoppers see things. Making sure they see the most important thing first.
It means designing for clarity. Limiting the number of colours. Giving words space. Making sure the background is not competing with the foreground.
Are you being distinctive? This means having a crystal clear and ownable visual identity. So that when a shopper glances at you, it can only be you.
It means consistency. So that when your products come together – on shelf, on displays – you are reinforcing your brand block.
It means being recognisable from all angles. Designing for the way shoppers usually see you – from an angle. Designing for imperfect execution. The product facing the other way. The half empty display.
Are you being meaningful? This means having the right body language. Reinforcing the right category and brand cues. If your product is about performance then its body language should signal this.
It means reinforcing the key benefit visually. If you want to show that ice cream makes you happy then show a happy person eating ice cream.
It means being obviously meaningful. Not tickling shoppers with a subtle semiotics feather when you can hit them with a symbolic sledgehammer.
These rules apply to all design. Packs. Shelf ready packaging. POS communication. Display units.
They are rules that we all should know. But that are easy to forget.
Don’t be another red, white and blue striped flag when you could be white with a red circle.
The land of the rising sun. Simple. Distinctive. Meaningful.
Look out for the fourth blog of the “How to Speak to Shoppers” series next Friday.