Consumers like your product because they like the way that it makes them feel. This is an emotional response to their brand, and product experience, not a rational one to the communications or the ingredients list.
When you change the format of a product, you change the consumer experience.
If you change the size, it may affect the balance of the different elements of the product. The ratio between the outer coating and the filling, the thickness of the outer coating, the substance of the bite… It may change the size of the mouthful, the length of the time in the mouth, the way that the product is consumed.
If you are moving into a different category, say a bar into a drink, the whole consumption experience is different.
So how do you deliver the same – or an equivalent – brand experience in a different format?
The answer is, in fact, hidden in the question. You are not trying to deliver the same consumption experience – this will inevitably be different when you change the format. You are looking to deliver an equivalent emotional experience.
To make the important point again, your consumer likes your brand not specifically because of its sensorial qualities, but because of how that sensorial journey makes them feel psychologically. You should not be trying to replicate your sensorial delivery in the new format, you need to understand what are the important elements, both sensorially and psychologically, of your brand experience that your consumers will be seeking in the new format.
The first step is to understand the emotional journey that your core product delivers. Not just how it makes your consumers feel, but the whole emotional journey from brand encounter through and beyond product consumption. You need to understand how and why each element of your communications and sensorial journey prompt different emotional responses in your consumer to create the brands unique emotional journey.
Once you have this understanding, you can look for other formats or product categories where your consumers are seeking similar emotional journeys – where your brand will be a good fit.
Once a few potential formats have been identified ensure that you understand the subtle differences in the emotional journey that your consumers are looking for in this format as opposed to your current format.
It is unlikely that your consumers are seeking exactly the same emotional delivery in a different format. There will be subtle differences and now – before you start making any products – is a good time to identify them.
Once you are clear what emotional journey you need to deliver in the new format you need to also to be clear how you can do this through your branding and sensorial delivery.
All too often I find myself in conversation with product developers who have been given a clear brief by their marketing colleagues that details the emotions they want the product to deliver, but no one has much idea how to do it. If you did stage one properly and you identified how and why the sensorial experience of your current product delivers its emotional journey you should also be able to reverse the process to identify how to design your new sensorial experience to deliver the critical emotions in the new format.
When you think about your brand experience as the emotional journey that your brand delivers for your consumers, and you think about your branding, communications, and product experience as the tools that you are using to deliver those emotions, Brand Management becomes much clearer, more enjoyable and more rewarding.
Chris Lukehurst is a Consumer Psychologist and a Director at The Marketing Clinic:
Providing Clarity on the Psychological relationships between consumers and brands