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Sales are sloping, and you need some extra pop for your product in Aisle 7? Arranging point-of-sale marketing for your CPG brand is going to be either: a) monumentally expensive, or b) greatly frowned upon at most decent-sized supermarkets. 

The majors hate any tat or non-conformity in their pristine aisles – but will do so for a princely payment. Go ahead, ask one of your category coordinators about running a two-week shelf talker campaign. I’m laughing out loud at the thought of their response. 

But what’s truly funny is there’s already a free POS space available that hardly any brands use effectively. Yes: it’s the humble shelf ready packaging, or SRP for those keen on initialisms. 

SRP is the cardboard unit your product is delivered in to provide easy shelf placement. It’s designed so your product is ready to sell, with no unpacking or repacking required. These units not only keep your products tidy and neat on the shelf, but also act like a mini billboard. You can print anything you want on them. A key message, brand facts, a special offer or even QR codes. 

But how is the average brand using this opportunity? I’d say sweet FA. Some brands manage to place a fat logo on them, or the even fancier string of smaller logos. Many brands just leave them plain. Nothing. A blank piece of cardboard that says ‘Nobody home’. What a fucking waste.

I ventured out into the retail battlegrounds to find some good examples of what’s working, along with examples of how not to underwhelm the public. Here are a few thoughts worth noting.

Remind people of your superpower

Does your product make a meal in seconds? Have 50% less sugar? Offer the highest fibre available? Then why not let customers know immediately that you provide the unique quality they’re seeking. These two products follow the brief nicely, focusing on speed and ease respectively. The key here is to keep it simple. One message. Clearly stated. That’s all you get.

SKU differentiation

Have a range of 11 simmer sauces, and need to indicate your Korma Curry from your Butter Chicken at a glance? Again, the SRP is your best tool. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve grabbed the San Remo Wholemeal Couscous instead of the Regular, due to a lack of distinction. A clear standout on an SRP would have been a welcome navigation.

This technique is especially useful for snack bars, which often appear to retreat deep into a shelf especially if stock is low. Here’s our client Ridiculously Delicious, turning their colourful flavour indicator into a focal point helping customers select their favourite flavour.

Let the brand speak

Your brand voice is one of your most powerful tools – an overlooked tool at that. I absolutely love it when a brand writes using a voice that could be no other brand. Who Gives a Crap, Dove and Oatly are all poster-children for great tone-of-voice. If Heinz Baked Beans or even Clif Bar said Eat Mighty or No Weird Stuff, you’d be scratching your head. For the Mammoth Bar it’s perfectly on-brand, as is the simple application.

If you’ve got it, flaunt it

A minimalist pine-green toothpaste package is unusual, right? If you have a brand asset that sets you apart on the shelf, such as a pattern, colour or bespoke typography, then your SRP is perfect space to showcase this even further.

If you have to just use a logo

Okay, I’ll backtrack on what I said about just using big fat logos (see, there really are no rules). When your logo can capture your audience’s gaze, exude a strong brand essence, and make competitors seem redundant, then use that logo. But use it wisely. 

While Authenticity can be an unpopular word these days, Lea & Perrins truly capture just that with their lesser-known script wordmark, placed with finesse on their bright orange base. Meanwhile, Tabasco takes the opposite approach and shouts it big and bold, just like their flavour. If everyone in the aisle were doing the same thing, it wouldn’t work. These ones work.

Sides matter

You never know how or where your product will be displayed, given the range of layouts used by different retailers. Always put the whole box to work – top, bottom and sides. You’ll need to make space for a few mandatories, such as barcodes and addresses. But for the most part, the box is yours to go forth and brighten.

A few things to steer clear of

Not to pick on anyone, but the two examples below represent opportunity lost. For Azalea, why simply repeat what’s on the bottle in a barely legible colour combo without telling customers how it’s different from the Monini’s product on the right? Give me a reason, or I’m probably going to choose based on price.

As for the Always Fresh pickle SRP, either this was done by an AI plugin or a junior designer who ticked the barcode box and then went to lunch. And yet they went to the expense of paying for a varnish on the box. Go figure!

Production pitfalls

A good creative concept is only as good as its execution. So make sure to check the mechanics of your SRP design before it goes to print. Choose a colour that will contrast against the packaging, and will print clearly on an ink-thirsty cardboard base. Your printer can advise on minimum font and stroke size, and any pertinent knock-out or trapping information. For example, the bread mix uses reasonable call-outs but the font and icons were too light to handle the knockout and became less than perfect for fast-paced viewing.

Your design should also be placed well away from any perforations, ensuring that no messages are chopped-off when the lid is ripped open. Everything about the Russino anchovy packaging gets lost on the shelf, from the too-detailed packaging, to the poorly conceived SRP design that obscures most of the product.

Free and easy – what’s not to love?

Thousands of new products hit the market each year, many of them aided by little or no marketing other than an Instagram account and the occasional in-store demo. Clever and informative packaging plays a massive role in matching great products to the right customers. And that should be supported with a clever SRP.

In our opinion, the SRP is one of the smartest ways to extend your conversation with customers at the point of purchase – at zero additional cost to you.

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