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Good Creative Lasts a Moment. Great Strategy Lasts for Years.

I get it: You’re in a hurry. There’s a deadline, perhaps a category review with your dominant retail partner. Or maybe someone new in your organization wants to put their stamp on the product. So you want a new packaging design for your food and beverage product, and you want it now.

A new package or identity is exhilarating. It can make a splash in the market. But it’s oh so temporary. If your creative isn’t doing the heavy lifting of translating your brand strategy, you aren’t winning.

The secret to great packaging and identity is strategy, not beautiful design. Strategy and creative execution are inextricably linked.

Great creative without great strategy is wallpaper that will be wildly outdated in 18 months. Great strategy without great creative is a binder that sits on your conference room shelf.

Skip the strategy part and go straight to playing with typography and color, and someone else in your category will make the same moves within about six months. So you’ll have to redesign all over again.

Unless you do the strategy work first.

Why Brand Strategy Should Lead Brand Creative

Brand Strategy as a Foundation for Creative

In the world of consumer goods, great design is table stakes. But what makes creative last is a strategy that looks beyond your management team’s understanding of the universe. A brilliant brand strategy allows you to ignore what your competitors are doing (moves that often inspire a we-gotta-do-this-NOW approach to redesign) and build a deep and powerful relationship between your brand and your audience.

Strategy, of course, isn’t just a marketing activity. All roads lead back to your WHY: your brand’s unique point of view and the promises you make. It’s a risk-management and resource-management philosophy. Strategy drives every decision your organization makes: the products you launch, the channels you sell through, the audience you attract, the opportunities you don’t pursue. And yes, the way you package and present your products.

The output of strategy isn’t killer creative. Rather, it’s a defined framework for making decisions, including creative. Brand strategy is creative’s superhero suit—it repels competitors, fends off trends, flashes a signal that summons fans. It allows you to make the right moves that will disrupt your category and remain a force for 5 years or more.

This is the reason we audit a client’s brand positioning against the category and all adjacencies — before we start any design work.

Sometimes, this takes a bit of convincing. Prospective clients who come to our firm for a packaging design makeover may want to skip the strategy — perhaps because they don’t understand its importance and value, or they have limited time or money (or think they do). We explain that taking 8 to 10 weeks to do it right means they won’t have to redo the design in 12 months.

So if you think you need packaging, how do you know you need strategy?

· If something is broken but you don’t quite know what it is

· If you sense that your brand’s relevance is eroding and your sales are trailing off (this is not something packaging alone can fix)

· If you’re pretty confident that you know your audience well (you may know your current people, but who are you not selling to that wants your product?)

· If your sales trajectory is inconsistent with your competitors’ and you aren’t sure why

· If redesigning is just a thing you do every X years

Design Follows, It Doesn’t Lead

Some marketers believe that doing the design work will answer the bigger questions, that they’ll turn up the strategic stuff as they go through the design process. But letting design lead the initiative is a lousy move because the brand team will get emotionally invested in visuals before they get invested in the strategy.

The discipline of package design will never illuminate a new audience or new product or channel strategy or pricing structure; those are all things that only brand strategy can do.

Repeat after me: Creative is always the output of strategy. They’re always done sequentially, not in tandem.

Which isn’t to say that your design team shouldn’t be involved in the strategic work. Inviting senior creative people to the table is a real time-saver. (And if you’re up against a deadline, a pretty great reason to make time for strategy.) When you bring senior creative people in to ride shotgun on strategy, they can get to the solve in just a round or two of ideation. It brings alignment and prevents burnout … “We’re on Round 37!” You’ve created a North Star that provides guardrails for design exploration, focuses feedback, and drives decision-making.

Early in my career, I was guilty of making really beautiful stuff that was so transformative that it pointed my clients’ business in a new direction … and then I came to understand that beautiful stuff doesn’t really cash the check. So our team’s work always starts with our competitive audit – a benchmarking exercise that informs brand strategy and identifies opportunity. Armed with that insight, leaders can make really bold moves that only your brand can make. Including packaging design that doesn’t copy what’s already on the shelf — but transforms the shelf.Ready for a smarter approach to your brand’s creative expression? Let’s have a conversation.

David Lemley

David was two decades into a design career with a wall full of shiny awards and a portfolio of clients including Nordstrom, Starbucks, Nintendo, and REI. His rocket trajectory veered when his oldest child faced a health challenge of indeterminate origin. Hundreds of research hours later, David identified food allergy as the issue and convinced skeptical medical professionals caring for his child. Since that experience, David and Retail Voodoo have been on a mission to create a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable food system for all.

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What Does an Ice Cream Brand, a Trampoline Park, and the World’s Oldest Vegetarian Brand Have in Common?

Sometimes brands think a new design is the answer to all their problems. Diana Fryc and David Lemley would argue that’s not true.

They founded Retail Voodoo to help brands grow by getting straight to the heart of the problem. As the “data whisperers,” they know how to sift through truckloads of information and find the details that really matter. But how do you take that information and turn it into a strategy for growth?

In this episode of the Gooder Podcast, Diana Fryc and David Lemley of Retail Voodoo join Dr. Jeremy Weisz to discuss Retail Voodoo’s strategy for helping brands grow. They talk about their process of analyzing each brand’s data, how they develop team alignment, and how they grow a brand’s audience without losing the loyal customers.

In this episode we learn: 

  • Typical questions Diana Fryc and David Lemley are asked by new clients
  • The types of services that Retail Voodoo offers
  • How Retail Voodoo uses audience analysis to find the data that matters most
  • Retail Voodoo’s general process for clients that come to them
  • Why people trust Retail Voodoo to build their brand
  • How they developed a strategy for Alden’s Organic Ice Cream
  • When is the problem marketing — and when is it the design?
Gooder Podcast

What Does an Ice Cream Brand, a Trampoline Park, and the World’s Oldest Vegetarian Brand Have in Common?

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About Diana Fryc and David Lemley: 

David Lemley is the Founder, CEO and Chief Strategist for Retail Voodoo. Retail Voodoo helps build, grow, and evolve brands in food, beverage, wellness, and fitness spaces. David founded the company on the belief that brands should inspire meaningful connections with real people. Through insight, visioning diagnostics, research analysis, and consensus building, they’ve helped companies like REI, Starbucks, Sur La Table and Nike become the beloved and dominant brands they are today.

Diana Fryc is the Chief Sales and Marketing Officer for Retail Voodoo. Diana has over 20 years of experience in marketing, research, and business development. Before her time with Retail Voodoo, Diana was a freelance consultant for marketing and project management services, the Director for New Business Development and Client Services at Lemley Design, and the President of AAF Seattle.

Guests Social Media Links: 

LinkedIn Diana Fryc: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dianafryc/

LinkedIn David Lemley: https://www.linkedin.com/in/davidlemley/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/retailvoodoo/

Website: https://retail-voodoo.com/

Show Resources: 

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Retail Voodoo

Retail Voodoo has been building beloved and dominant brands in the food, wellness, beverage, and fitness CPG industries for over 30 years. They’ve served multinational companies like PepsiCo. and Starbucks, startups like High Key, and everything in between. 

Their proven process guides hundreds of mission-driven consumer brands to attract a broad and passionate fan base, crush their categories through growth and innovation, and magnify their social and environmental impact. 

So, if you are ready to find a partner that will help your business create a high-impact strategy that gives your brand an advantage, Retail Voodoo is here to help.

Visit retail-voodoo.com or email info@retail-voodoo.com to learn more.

Diana Fryc

For Diana, a fierce determination to pursue what’s right is rooted in her DNA. The daughter of parents who endured unimaginable hardship before emigrating from Eastern Europe to the U.S., she is built for a higher purpose. Starting with an experience working with Jane Goodall to source sustainably made paper, she went on to a career helping Corporate America normalize the use of environmentally responsible products and materials before coming to Retail Voodoo.

Connect with Diana