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You know the tiger and the brand (and love the snack)–and the Frito-Lay branch of PepsiCo. is no stranger to product innovation. In fact, it’s a large part of the company’s success story, which also includes listening to its customers. Savvy CPGs know that it’s all about building products to meet their needs.

Cheetos Mix-Ups is four different snacks in one–and in different shapes and colors. Xtra Cheezy and Cheezy Salsa are the two varieties available. Essentially if you love Cheetos, now you don’t have to debate between mild or spicy, puffs or crunchy. (This Huffington Post article breaks down the flavors and the eight Cheeto components.) Can other varieties be too far behind?

PepsiCo. consistently introduces new flavors of hot established brands in addition to developing new products.

Of course, you’ve probably noticed the snack industry as a whole introducing new wild and crazy flavors to grab your attention (chocolate-covered potato chips anyone?).

How are you keeping up with changing taste buds in the food sector of the CPG industry?

It’s been a while since we blogged on the topic of just why a pretty package is more than just that. About two years ago, we wrote about why consumers do judge a product by its packaging. Today, while social media is all the rage and studies can argue more and more that buying decisions are made well ahead of the in-store experience, it’s still fair to say that visual appeal and packaging is one of the top components of highly effective branding. (Check out this article to learn about the other four ways to manage your brand). The fact still remains that all things being equal–that is, between two products with the same features and no pre-conceived ideas from friends or social media–consumers will pick the one that looks more attractive. Why? Because visual appeal is typically associated with “a better user experience and functionality,” according to the effective branding article.

After all, to be profitable a brand must be easily differentiated from its competitors–and packaging is one of the best ways to differentiate. As the article says, if you need proof, take a product that clearly didn’t focus on its packaging and put it right next to one in the same product category that did.

Now imagine you don’t know either price or the prices are the same, and that they both offer the same features.

Which would you buy?

You know so much about what you do that you should be doing webinars, right? Most people don’t think about attending a webinar put on by others, though. The advantage is you might learn something new–like a new way of putting a spin on some old fact you’ve been presenting.

Take for example a webinar I attended recently on digital package printing. For years I’ve been saying digital is a competitive advantage. This webinar added value to that simple statement with one word: Digital is a no-cost competitive advantage. Wow what a difference a word makes.

Another key point is that you always hear that X percentage of purchasing decisions are made at the shelf. And while this percentage is relevant, it’s been called “the moment of truth” for packaging. Now because of social media, there’s a new important term out that, again adds just one word: “the zero moment of truth.” This is the moment, the webinar says since about 2009, where the tide started turning. Consumers, it seems, started hearing messages and forming purchase decisions earlier as they engaged with friends in social media networks.

I also wanted to share some really innovative brands taking advantage of digital package printing: Goldfish crackers and Kleenex.

And you thought personalized M&Ms were cool.

When PepsiCo. learned through research that Mountain Dew lovers were looking for an alternative to coffee, tea, and juice in the morning, the brand decided it was a golden opportunity to create a whole new product category: breakfast juice drinks, or in marketing ease “sparkling juice beverage.” Kickstart, hitting the shelves now, has the flavor of Mountain Dew, five percent juice with Vitamins B and C, and a little jolt of caffeine. Though the drink has little caffeine compared to typical energy drinks and is being marketed as a breakfast juice drink, flavors like “energizing orange citrus” and “energizing fruit punch” can clearly compete in the energy drink market, too. This is especially smart because the brand was careful not to get into all the issues (including negative attention) that are affecting true energy drinks as of late.

Kickstart has only 5.75 mg per ounce of caffeine, higher than original Mountain Dew,  but lower than Mountain Dew Game Fuel.

This is a great example of how a brand innovates not only with new product introductions, but paves the way by forging a new category when clearly there’s consumer demand for it. And importantly, PepsiCo. did its homework–and connected all the dots in marketing, too.

Here’s a quote from VP of Marketing for Mountain Dew Greg Lyons: “Our consumers told us they are looking for an alternative to traditional morning beverages – one that tastes great, includes real fruit juice, and has just the right amount of kick to help them start their days. We heard them loud and clear and created a completely new offering with Kickstart to give them exactly what they asked for.”

What’s an even better way to connect with its consumers? PepsiCo. offered them the chance to be one of the first to taste Kickstart before it hit shelves by going to its website and requesting a can. From there, consumers were encouraged to send in a photo of themselves drinking the new beverage for a contest where winners were selected to be included in a promotional video.

One of the biggest things business owners struggle with is delegation. Well, imagine your surprise when you start thinking about an exit strategy and putting a value on your business–only to find out the value of the business is essentially nothing without you.

This is a great blog that explains it’s more than delegation at the heart of the issue, it’s not developing the leadership team you need to be able to delegate. This blog series is based on a management system called “EOS” or Entrepreneurial Operating System that covers many key areas of business success and tools to help achieve it.

I provided a book club summary on Traction by Gino Wickman recently, so be sure to check it out for more information on this, one of many, management systems.

The EOS system points to achievements in “Vision, Traction, and Healthy” to help you position your company as valuable with or without you in daily operations.

Vision answers the question of what it is, where it’s going, and how you will get there. Traction is focused on accountability and Healthy on trust and working for the common good.

Seems to me–even if you are not an owner, but in a leadership role–that adding value in these ways to your company would be beneficial.

What management systems have you had success with?

Did you know that Ben & Jerry have an ice cream graveyard?

Yes, it’s real–it’s in Waterbury, Vermont near the ice cream factory. It’s a place where fans of flavors that have passed on (been discontinued) can go to pay their respects and mourn the loss of their favorites.

Really, it’s all in good fun–just like the brand. Remember, this is the brand of ice cream with all of the fun flavor names (think Cherry Garcia and Chunky Monkey). Of course, the packaging is fun, too. Big, bold fun fonts and graphics are a mainstay.

Everything Ben & Jerry’s brand personality says is about fun, which sometimes includes poking fun–in a tongue-and-cheek, non-threatening way.

When the “Economic Crush” from the 1987 stock market crash crashed itself, it was laid to rest in the flavor cemetery. Each flavor gets its own personal headstone with a whimsical epitaph and birth and death date.

Leave it to B&J to have its flavors go out with a bang.

What are your gone, but not forgotten flavors?

Whether there’s just a lot of discussion online lately or I’m just more in tune with it all because I’m guest speaking at a number of conferences, there are some tips and suggestions on what not to do that are worth repeating here.

On the flip side, I’ll reference some ideas of what you should be doing, as we learned in one of my previous posts on Presentation Zen, which provides practical tips on how to connect with your audience–and how every successful presentation starts with mental preparation (doing your homework).

Two of the top related don’ts are one, an assault on visuals in your slides, which means you’ve packed too many graphics, colors, and fonts in each one that it makes your audience dizzy. Secondly, reading every slide aloud.  Instead, according to Zen, you should show one simple slide and then talk through the details.

From an image perspective, avoid generic stock photos that make your audience yawn and stop paying attention. Engage them with photos of people looking in the direction of the text and ones that convey a message so powerful you don’t need text at all (which is ideal).

As Zen points out, Steve Jobs and his presentations were all about simplicity–and how less is more from a visual perspective.

When it comes to what you shouldn’t say, besides reading every slide aloud as if explaining to a child, avoid “winging it” which turns into a “babblefest,” as well as two other final tips:

Don’t be too clever in your wording, be conversational instead, and be careful to not “date” your references (stick to the classics).

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