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Exclusive: 3 Keys to Brand and Packaging Success

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Robert Brands, president of VariBlend Dual Dispensing Systems and author of "Robert’s Rules of Innovation," says building on consumer needs and wants and increasing ease of use are the keys to sustainable innovation in business. Here, in an exclusive interview with GCI, Brands speaks about innovation, sustainability and the top three things that brand managers need to do to ensure success.

GCI: How does one help to foster a culture of innovation at a brand?

Brands: Fostering innovation starts at the top. The CEO has to be the chief innovation officer and has to be the driving force; lead by example, chair the monthly new product development (NPD) meetings to drive progress set priorities … But it only works if you support this effort with all the surrounding support systems, such as an aligned vision, mission and strategy, and if there is a commitment toward getting the right people. The key for a successful culture and environment is lots of communication and, most importantly, the alignment of individual objectives and rewards. If they are not aligned, success in innovation will not be achieved.

GCI: How do you do this at VariBlend?

Brands: We follow the structured repeatable process as in "Robert's Rules of Innovation." These are 10 imperatives that describe how to create and sustain innovation. We schedule monthly NPD meetings, commit to resources and objectives, and reward alignment. All this is prioritized on a regular basis and kept top of mind.

Signature brand and packaging changes should not be taken lightly. The key is consumer and customer input to maximize ease of use and purchase intent. Doing it right is more important than speed to market.

GCI: How can a brand use packaging to help its business thrive?

Brands: Packaging is a key differentiator in consumer packaged goods. Whether a commodity or niche, it makes a huge difference. Think about the transition from soap liquid dispensers to instant foam. The foam platform was preferred 10:1 as it provided the medium the consumers wanted and communicated the properties they were looking for. Same for sophisticated dual dispensers, which offer dialing and dispensing custom ratios and thus optimize the personalization for the

GCI: Is it possible for a brand to successfully add sustainable innovation to its packaging without digressing from its signature packaging branding in the marketplace?

Brands: Absolutely, diversification in offering and packaging should build on existing packaging and innovation to fulfill customer and consumer needs. Color and logo are the first brand recognizers for consumers and should be steady. But building on consumer needs and wants, fulfilling needs, increasing ease of use these are all key to sustainable innovation.

GCI: If a brand decides to take this step, what is the best way to do this?

Brands: Signature brand and packaging changes should not be taken lightly. The key is consumer and customer input to maximize ease of use and purchase intent. Doing it right is more important than speed to market. These are big investments on all fronts and cannot be taken lightly.

GCI: What are the top three things that brand managers need to do to ensure success?

Brands:

1. Understand the need and want vs. a perceived market or market size and opportunity.

2. Engage customers and/or consumers for feedback and input to optimize design and desire.

3. Avoid the “It’s Not Invented here Syndrome” by using open innovation, or observe and apply from other products and markets.