Ad Age has a piece this week on search marketing, with a list of the top 50 search terms for the week ending October 17th. And what did surprise me was what this list did NOT contain . . no consumer product brands.
And apple.com is usually the only thing approaching a traditional consumer brand in lists of 50 most visited sites.
The top 50 search list certainly contained the usual suspects including facebook, myspace, youtube, and craigslist, but no Coke, no Tide, no Tylenol. This would seem to be a disconnect between the marketing investment made by CPG companies, who consistently dominate the top 50 advertisers list, and what I will call the “share of search” that they seem to be getting.
Perhaps “share of search” is not a great measure of brand awareness, but nonetheless I began to wonder what this meant for consumer product brands and package design.
In a recent post on package design in the 1950s I began to talk about the 3 stages of evolution that retail brands had gone through by the middle of the 20th century.
They can be quickly summed up as the following,
Stage One – The Retailer – Until roughly the end of the 19th century, a package generally acted as merely the vessel for the product in a personal hand-to-hand exchange at the store.
Stage Two – The Manufacturer – Through the first half of the 20th century, the package began to take on the role of surrogate for the product’s manufacturer.
Stage Three – The Brand – In the early 1950s, with the growth of mass media, retail consolidation and national distribution, the package began to support the growth of new retail brands. This was the decade that began with the introduction of Minute Rice and Sugar Pops, continued with Alka-Seltzer and Mrs. Paul’s frozen fish sticks, the frozen waffle and the frozen TV dinner, and ended in 1959 with the launch of two very different toys – Barbie and Colorforms.
Others have written about this evolution in brands.
Joe Pine writes about the agrarian economy becoming the industrial economy becoming the service economy becoming the experience economy. And interestingly the top 50 search terms list contains almost exclusively service and experience providers.
So it would seem that even CPG companies should move radically away from the commodity, the manufacturer or even the brand approach, and evolve toward services and experiences. As a logical result the package must also evolve toward becoming an integral element of the total experience.
If this is the case we will need to redefine the function of the package again. Even in a service or experience economy the package will remain one of the few solid, tangible touch points (don’t like this overused term but it works here) for a CPG brand.