Last week, just as temperatures started to drop heralding the start of soup season, Tesco announced that it is delisting New Covent Garden Soup (NCGS).
And yet, this is the brand that invented the whole chilled soup category, bringing a new concept to the market with its distinctive product and packaging. How times have changed, unlike - it appears - the brand...
For both consumer-facing and B2B brands alike, keeping products and brands fresh and relevant is incredibly important. It’s like a doctor checking a pulse to see if a patient is still alive - regular health checks are essential, but many brands forget to do them until things start to go wrong.
How many of us put off going to the dentist because our teeth feel fine but then, sure enough, we need a filling? The same thinking can be applied to brands vying for precious space on supermarket shelves. You might think all is okay, and then bang - you’re out. To ignore brand reviews is to play a dangerous game.
In my experience the retail world is much more switched on to this than others. Maybe it’s because the general public is, for the most part, a fickle partner. Also, with so many brands to consider alongside their own retail brands, retailers need vigorous processes to ensure that they have the best choice of products for their customers.
However, generally speaking, while many brands do have their own continuous process of ‘review, update and refresh’, there are many others that don’t. The latter find that it is a painful, time-consuming experience, their view being, ‘If you have a well-designed brand and/or product , why change it? Why risk replacing it with something that might prove less successful?’
Well, if this is your point of view, consider this. Your brand may not be changing, but everything else around you is. Customers are constantly updating their opinions and views on everything - driven by the constant flow of communications - both branded and non-branded - which are either pushed to them, or which they find themselves via the web and social media.
Similarly, your competitors are likely to be reviewing and updating their own brand and products/services. So, if you are not doing this yourself, how can you ensure that you are retaining relevance to your target audience, that you are aware of all the opportunities available to you and that you are not going to be overtaken by a newer, shinier brand?
In our experience brands should typically plan for a review every 12 months. Interestingly, consumer brands seem to review more, but it is just as important for B2B brands to take a step back and look in the mirror. Brand reviews can take different forms, but what can work well is to bring in your design agency or agencies to present their trend predictions and how these might impact on customers.
This can help in assessing brand relevance and if changes need to be made - either now or even two or three years hence, depending on how important they are. In the case of big, mass market brands there is also a case for doing ongoing research to keep a constant eye on changes to the customer landscape so that small brand adjustments can be made as and when deemed necessary.
You may find, post review, that you don’t need to change anything. But at least that is then an informed decision, rather than a non-decision.
Unfortunately, though, the decision to refresh your brand is not a straightforward one - there’s no black box you feed your brand into, turn the handle, and get your answer. It’s about adding science to art - which comes from years of experience, insight into the marketplace and instinct.
In addition, you also then need expert skills to determine just how much change is needed to keep a product fresh, relevant and in the consumer or client’s favour - and, ultimately, on a retailer’s shelves or a business’s supplier roster.
Of course, in the case of Tesco delisting New Covent Garden Soup, there may have been other factors at play, not least the launch of the retailer’s own New York Soup Co brand last year. The fact that NCGS has seen sales fall by 8.3% year-on-year (Nielsen 52 w/e 13 October) should have set alarm bells ringing much earlier.
When the brand came out 25 years ago, it was fresh, relevant and new, it could command a premium price. It may be that it can now do none of these without a radical change in direction, or at least a change that, for some, might feel quite drastic. NCGS have revamped their packaging twice in the past year or so, but it’s been tinkering around the edges rather than facing the fact that it is now a challenger brand, rather than a leader.
Keeping brands fresh sometimes requires brands to make difficult decisions and take risks, especially when all the ‘me toos’ have become as established as they are.
NCGS have just launched a new ad campaign that is to be ‘their longest running ever’, but it seems like it may be too late to soup things up now.