Some food packages are boring, telling you just enough to buy the product you need. Others are so full of colors and claims that you can barely tell what the item is. Either way, people become desensitized to packaging. We remember the brand and general color so we can grab it off a shelf in a hurry. Enticing pictures or strong adjectives might help when we are looking for something new. But outside of the Nutrition Facts, we don’t look to the packaging of a food item for an education or a feel-good message. We don’t look because marketers don’t bother much with packaging, a task they normally relegate to the art department.
Because of its rarity, a great marketing message, right there on the label, is a joy to behold. With all the competition for shelf space, desktop space and mind space, I’m amazed that more companies don’t take the opportunity to tell their special story on the label. But you’d better have a real story to tell, or people will feel lied to and they’ll make fun of you. Take for example a brand of toilet paper called “Soft ‘n Gentle,” which in my experience turned out to be neither.
Lindsay Olives is a company that does on-label marketing well. It starts with their logo, which says, “Estd 1916” above the name and below the olive tree. That makes me smile. I don’t normally think of an olive company as having such a rich heritage that they want me to know when it was established. Think winery.
What got me thinking about all this was their “Lindsay Naturals” line of California Green Olives. I love olives and sometimes eat them by the can. Cheap or expensive doesn’t matter. Mostly I eat olives in a cucumber and tomato salad my friend makes for me. Recipe here.
The Lindsay Naturals label is unassuming enough, with simple print on white background and some interesting adjectives. Who thinks of green olives as being “Smooth & Buttery”? That got my attention. Under the words, “California Green Olives,” we read, “Olives in water and sea salt, nothing else.” Once again, I’m tickled. I like that they use plain sea salt. And I like the “nothing else”. No preservatives, no colors, no flavors, but they didn’t have to say any of that. It’s all implied in the “nothing else” on the label. Eloquent. But it’s the back of the can where we get the real story:
THINK BLACK RIPE…
THESE ARE BETTER
These natural, freckled beauties without added preservatives are harvested just once a year to capture the smooth, buttery flavor. The taste is slightly salty, subtly nutty, and melt-in-your-mouth unique. Absolutely nothing like the tart Spanish green ‘martini’ olives.
Voted “favorite olive” by Lindsay Olives employees.
Much as I like all olives, I really wanted to try these particular olives. Turns out, they really were as good as they said. Had they not been great, had they even been mediocre, I’d be writing this same article while making fun of them, as a cautionary tale that you should not lie to people in the telling of your marketing story.
This was great writing! I particularly liked “nutty flavor” and the contrast to tart, Spanish green ‘martini’ olives. I love that the employees even have a favorite olive, and that management knows what it is. I’m sure that Subway employees have a favorite sub sandwich, but I don’t expect that upper management knows what it is. I feel like I know the people at Lindsay olives better than I did before I read the label. I also believe they really care about olives.
Even a can of their regular black olives tells us a story. “MIDDLE OLIVE SYNDROME That’s a compliment to this member of the family. Just the right size to be the center of attention, everywhere it goes. Savor Olive Life!”
They actually do make a good, firm, consistent black olive. They didn’t oversell it. They just told me a story.
Bear Naked? For another great example of on-label marketing, pick up and read a bag of Bear Naked granola. Their story is a delight, and I don’t even eat granola. But I’d love to meet these people. “It’s not just a food company. It’s a lifestyle.”
Sure I’m endorsing the Lindsay Naturals line, which come in both green and black olives. But what I really want you to walk away with is this notion of on-label marketing. When done well, on-label marketing can transform your product in the mind of the consumer.
Most marketing is in-your-face repetition, brute-force hyperbole and occasionally lies. At its worst, it does the job of getting you to think about their product. But at its best, marketing can be a spiritual adventure, enriching the lives of those it touches. It can even impact design and product development.
So tell us a story about your product and put it right there on the label. Make it engaging, brief and fun. And next thing you know, someone might just be blogging about it. Take comfort in knowing that you are making people’s lives better, even before they take your product home. Thank you, Lindsay Olives. You made my day.
One last thing. On-label marketing does not only apply to food products. It can apply to all sorts of consumer and commercial products, even websites. The question is this. How can you apply on-label marketing to educate and enrich the the experience of your users? How can your packaging make your product even better? There is no such thing as a great idea for a product, only great delivery.
DISCLOSURE: At the time of this writing, I have no working or financial relationship with Lindsay Olives. And I’m staring at an empty can.