Help I have a headache

No store beats Target for acquiring new packaging and merchandising idea-links. Oddly enough, the best way to find them is to not look for them. It’s better just to go about your business and see what catches your eye. If something grabs your attention despite your benign indifference, take note.

That’s precisely what happened to me during a visit to the Target pharmacy. Despite my single-minded mission to simply pick up a prescription and return home, one display proved captivating enough to interrupt my focus. (See the display below. The picture I took in the store was blurry, so I grabbed one online.) If you’ve read my book, IDEA-LINKS, you know that whenever something stops you in your tracks, you need to put on your analytical hard hat and find out why. There’s an idea-link in there somewhere.

I can’t tell you the brand name, because that’s central to the idea. The standard naming convention we packaged-goods folks have been steeped in—endorsing brand, brand name, descriptor—was stripped away and replaced by simple consumer statements. “Help, I have a headache.” “Help, I have a blister.” “Help, I can’t sleep.” Six in all. This simple repetition across so many ailments contributed to the arresting nature of the display.

So here’s the idea-link: In crowded, cluttered, and mature categories, one way to stand out is to change the naming convention of the category. (Help, I have a headache.)

Think about it. If all the students at your child’s school have conventional-sounding names and you want your kid to stand out, one way to do it is by changing the way you name yours. Giving your kids names like Apple, Blanket, or Moon Unit, makes them stand out because you’ve broken the convention: You’ve named them after objects. That you’ve also ruined their lives is beside the point. The point is that changing convention causes consumers (and classmates) to notice. Likewise, the “help” line of products may end up a bust and face the same kind of ridicule a kid named Blanket might. Even if that turns out to be the case, be careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Changing accepted conventions in crowded, cluttered, or mature categories—naming, package size, package shape, pricing, etc.—is one way to stand out as a newcomer to that category. I’m not saying you should always do it, but under the right circumstances, it might make sense. But remember this: just changing the convention won’t guarantee success. You have to choose the right convention for the right category.

PS: Two more idea-links are hidden in the attention-getting nature of this new line. Can you find them?


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