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Walk down a retail aisle and all too often we see generically designed products that, label aside, are all born from the same idea. It may tick cues of familiarity, but it fails on originality and leadership.

 

Colin, Cuthbert, Carl, Clyde – there seems to be a lot of Caterpillars residing in the UK these days. Oh, and don’t forget Morris (obviously Morrison’s couldn’t think of a boy’s name beginning with ‘C’). Probably the most recent example of copycat marketing but this is the least of our problems.

 

It goes much deeper than this. Pasta, Hard Seltzers, Shampoos – all a blur when it comes to shopping the aisle. Have we got so caught up with ‘category codes’ that brands are too scared to step out of their comfort zone?

 

‘We must fit in, not stand out’ seems to be the common mantra.

 

And if we do step outside of the norm it’s not to do something truly ground-breaking but to latch on to safe bet, well-established global food and drink trends. Tuna that aids immunity, vegan sausage rolls, low sugar cereals, soft drinks that are now energy drinks and so on. It’s good for the bank balance but doesn’t really add to genuine customer choice, just more of the same repurposed ideas filling the supermarket fixtures.

 

When did marketing innovation get parked and copycat culture kick in?

 

And more importantly who is to blame?

 

Could it be the retailers demanding pre-existing data for proof of concept!

Maybe brand owners picking low hanging fruit and quick wins, qualified by self-funded research.

Or quite possibly it’s consumers who quite frankly like what they like unless told otherwise – I’ve often believed there is a problem with focus groups as it merely pushes you down the expected path; brands have even set up their own community panels to accelerate product launches. I’m sorry but 3000 people, incentivised to give their opinion, is not a scalable or robust enough tool to reflect the 68 million people residing in the UK.

 

I fear the pandemic has left us fearful of our own shadows. Safe and bland marketing. Drip drop innovation. NPD motivated by legislation. Whatever happened to gut instinct, being brave, taking a risk. Using your expertise of the category that you breath, day in & day out, to do something that is genuinely differentiated.

How can marketing and turning customer heads, kick in from the design and innovation stage to springboard ground-breaking new ideas? And importantly what can we do to turn the tide and not continue to give rise to a world of copycat marketing and the genuine fall of consumer inspiration.

Brett Goldhawk

About Brett Goldhawk

Brett Goldhawk is MD at Ziggurat Brands, and is quite frankly a little teed off by bland brands, copycat or lifeless retail shelves and too much blah around marketing speak. Six years helming Ziggurat and 14 years in broader marketing and design agencies brings experience across Global and UK food and drink brands including Pataks, Grupo Bimbo, Greene King, Burtons Biscuits Company, William Grants, Unilever & Nature’s Aid. And with that comes a bag load of opinions around finding proper insights, brand stretch, brand purpose, sustainability in packaging, marketing gimmicks, and the rules of standing out.

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