9 Points for Subtle Advertising: Branding the Useful Product

Subtlety is everywhere. Whether you call it subtle marketing or subtle advertising, the point in the end is to make your brand into a constant, continual companion in the lives of consumers. Making them into true fans is just icing on the cake.

These are nine points so that you get what subtle, branded packaging is for – and how it should be. Whether you’re working on the store shelf, at a trade show or at the point of sale, having items branded for long after the sale is the name of the game.

1) Logos are not subtle.

You may think that your logo looks nice on the side of an otherwise useful plastic container or bucket. Chances are, your consumer will not. They may use it but are they really going to show it off? Put a plant into it? Place it prominently in a window?

Far more important is a good catchy design, playing down the logo and going for something bold. That’s right. Subtle advertising can be quite bold.

2) Utility is subtle.

Just like with this article, getting people to use your product – or the container it came in – is a subtle art. Dry foods are particularly apt for re-usable container marketing. “Where did you get that bucket?” That’s some good marketing.

3) Utility is also sexy.

Useful, helpful, thoughtful… all of these things put a nice face on your brand. They extend to a hundred different ways your brand can be involved in the kitchens, garages, workshops and gardens of your customers. “Useful” is the key to much of good marketing, right there behind beautiful, emotional and attractive. How many of those are you going to be?

4) Trade Shows are ripe for subtle.

There are a dozen reasons for attending a trade show. Unfortunately, only one or two of them is going to mesh with your own reasons. Are you going to miss out on all ten attendees there for something else? One or two of them is just there to get something for free – and that’s exactly where you’re “nicer bucket” ought to leap into their greedy hands.

5) Reusable is Forever.

Now that’s quite a promise. Consumers don’t like throw-away plastic. There’s nothing subtle about that. If they’re going to buy what you’re selling, then give it to them with the understanding that they’re going to hold onto it, and hold onto it for a while. A good long while should mean your brand is sticking around too.

6) Reusable is Human.

Your customers know that, too. Throw-away plastic is inhuman, inhumane and indifferent. Re-usable branded plastic means you’re engaged, your brand is engaged and thoughtful and perhaps even beautiful.

7) Everything you learned in Social Media College can be applied to the Reusable Container.

Packaging people always think it’s cute talking to marketing people, and especially social media marketing people. You can’t keep dry pasta on Facebook. In fact, life on Facebook, or Twitter or anywhere else, is so heightened, so flooded with marketing messages that you’ll have a much nicer time doing some good analog marketing – on the store shelf – or back home in the kitchen. Imagine that. And make sure the experience is human and good.

8) “FREE” is not subtle, but works wonders.

“Free Serving Scoop.” “Free Decorative Container.” “Free Re-Usable Container.” All of these phrases work amazingly well. And when you consider you’re not really giving anything away, there’s not much reason not to make your containers re-usable, your scoops beautiful and your entire packaging concept into one great marketing tool that goes on, and on, and on.  Subtlety is everything that happens next.

9) Subtle is actually better than marketing.

Subtle is just shy of being more obvious. Look at it this way; if they figure out you are selling, then you have probably lost the sale. That’s bad marketing. Good marketing sells without ever having shown up in the sales process. Useful items will sell for you. Reusable items will sell for you. They sell themselves, and sell whatever you’ve got inside of them too.

Branding doesn’t mean slapping a logo onto every available surface.

Branding is useful. It’s thoughtful, humanizing and interactive. People want to engage with a brand that matters. Customers want to relate to a brand that shares their values and their sympathies. Customers want to engage with a brand that respects their own concerns and complements their way of living, their decision making, and their sense of utility, efficiency and practicality. All of that is better marketing than your logo on a keychain.

We work all the time with brands interested in better selling a brand and a product that matches the needs and aspirations of particular markets. But in the end, every market is made up of people. Selling more – or smarter – to any of them means talking, listening and learning from them too. For that, the single best strategy is to make them love you.

This article was written by james t., a marketing and business writer in Mexico City.