Your Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide to CPG Branding (with examples)



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20 min


10 January, 2023

In an oversaturated market, it’s essential to prioritise your CPG branding.

If you’re a company working in the CPG sector, established or just starting up, it’s important to consider whether your branding is resonating with your audience, or getting lost in the sea of other product options.

So, in order to stand out your CPG branding must be on the mark, from the packaging design all the way through to the core values of your brand.

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In order to keep things clear from the get-go, CPG stands for consumer packaged goods, often used interchangeably with FMCG (but we will get into that below!)

This can be anything from toilet paper, to Coca-Cola, hence why we stated that CPG companies must create branding that will make customers desire the products no matter how mundane!

In this post we are going to explore CPG branding in all its glory, taking you through how to create a successful CPG brand strategy and providing some examples of companies that got it spot on!

But first let’s detail the difference between CPG and FMCG…

supermarket aisle

CPG and FMCG: What’s the Difference?

Consumer packaged goods (CPG) and fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) may seem one and the same, and in most cases each acronym can be used interchangeably.

This is because both CPG and FMCG are considered to be goods that require routine replacement and are often consumed and used daily.

For example, products such as:

  • Food
  • Beverages
  • Cosmetics
  • Cleaning products

These products are sold quickly, at a relatively low cost, and are often considered to make up the bulk of everyday household items.

The only slight difference between CPG and FMCG is that the products in the latter group are sold just slightly faster than those in the CPG category.

For example, if you head to your local grocery store to pick up your weekly essentials these would be in the category of FMCG.

However, if you were at the store and decided to pick up something from the cosmetics aisle such as a face mask or mascara, this would fall into the CPG category.

The distinction between the two is that in your weekly shop it’s unlikely that you’d be picking up a new face mask or mascara every time, whereas something like potato chips would likely end up in your cart everytime!

Despite CPG moving at a slower rate compared to FMCG, this doesn’t mean branding can fall behind as ultimately all products need to stand out in this oversaturated sector.

CPG Branding

Branding is what makes customers choose one product over another.

This applies for the branding of CPG products too.

However, it’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that branding is limited to packaging, colouring, and logo design.

Yes all of these elements are important as it is often the design that catches the eye of consumers, however without strong messaging and a good foundation of brand values it may be difficult to get customers to stay with you for the long run.

If your CPG product doesn’t showcase your offering as well as your brand story, customers may consider you for a one time purchase, then their loyalty may tail off as they don’t know what you stand for.

But more on that later!

So, it’s essential to combine both attractive design elements, with your brand mission and values in order for your CPG branding to be a success.

In the CPG sector a lot of products aren’t all bells and whistles and it can be hard to sell the likes of toilet paper, or disinfectant spray as these household items are used for an everyday purpose, not created to be adored by consumers.

That’s why packaging design is important, but branding it where it all begins.

Now we have covered what CPG branding is, it’s time to get stuck into how to create a CPG brand strategy!

Box of Kellogs unicorn froot loops

How to Create a Winning CPG Brand Strategy

In order to build a brand that succeeds in the overwhelming CPG marketplace, it all starts with creating a solid brand strategy.

This involves getting down to the nitty gritty of what makes your brand unique, and why consumers should be choosing your product over competitors in the marketplace.

Creating a CPG brand strategy is no easy task, as it means getting to grips with everything there is to know about your brand and product.

By the end of the process you will have a solid and clear understanding on areas such as:

  • Audience
  • Competitors
  • Brand identity
  • Brand positioning
  • Brand messaging
  • Brand values
  • Brand mission
  • Brand guidelines
  • Brand story
  • Brand touchpoints
  • Tone of voice

So, with that being said we are going to walk through the 5 stages of creating a corporate brand strategy, outlining the specific must-knows for CPG branding, so this can act as your ultimate guide.

woman shopping in grocery store


The foundation of your brand strategy starts with who you are targeting, and who you are up against in the industry.

Customer Personas

Understanding your customer is important for the branding of any product or service, but when it comes to CPG products things become slightly more complicated.

There will be a need for you to appeal to more than just consumers, but to wholesalers too.

If you wish for your products to be lining the shelves of the leading supermarkets you need to appeal to wholesalers first to get you there.

The list of criteria is slightly different for both audiences, so let’s start with wholesalers.

Let’s say you have a new brand of toilet paper, you need to differentiate it from competitors just enough to give wholesalers a reason to stock your product.

Do you have a price point that hasn’t yet been beaten?

Do you have enough stock to fulfil the needs of retailers and customers?

Can you convince customers that they need your products over competitor toilet roll brands?

If your answer is yes to all of these questions, then you’ll be well on your way to making deals with wholesalers,

However, if you are still building up your reputation, or the amount of stock you have, you may need to pause the process.

It can be difficult to be certain about price, customer demand, and availability, particularly if you’re a new start-up business. Therefore, we’d recommend starting by building up your customer base by selling directly to consumers and increasing sales first.

Competitor Research

Conducting analysis on your competitors within the CPG industry is key if you want to stand out in a market.

Ultimately there will be hundreds, if not thousands of brands selling a similar product to you so you need to know what they’re doing.

Let’s stick with the toilet paper example.

As we know there are thousands of toilet paper brands out there, some with cute mascots such as the Cushelle koala, or the Andrex puppy, some with a difficult to beat price, and some with quality that is yet to be rivalled.

At this point you will probably ask yourself “where does our toilet paper fit within the wider landscape?”

This is a question of positioning, a section which we will get onto soon, but it’s important to remember that you can learn so much from what others are doing well, and not so well.

It may be that one brand of toilet roll has good value for money, but the quality could be improved, or their identity is clouded and it’s unclear what the brand is promising to consumers.

At this stage, it’s worth researching your competitors and making a list of what they’re doing well, what elements of their branding you can take inspiration from, and what isn;t working so well for them .

Once you have this list you will have a better idea of your potential position in the market.

Conducting competitor research will give you insight into what is missing in the CPG sector, and help you to determine whether your brand can be the one to fill the gap and meet consumer needs!

stories matter written on typewriter


Once you have made it clear who you are targeting, in the case of CPG branding we have outlined that it’s more often than not wholesalers, retailers, and consumers, it’s time to get into the meat of your brand.

This is the story behind your brand, what you do and why.

Brand Story

A brand story is how you tell consumers why they should buy your product.

Not just because they need it, or because they want it, but because your brand offers something more than others in the industry.

Let’s look at Kelloggs for a moment.

Founded back in 1895, the cereal company started from one type of cereal, Cornflakes, and ballooned into a breakfast empire. It was family founded and continues to be a family favourite across the world all because of its humble beginnings.

Consumers like to be told a story, and reminded of this and the memories associated with a brand every time they buy. Hence why Kelloggs are still so successful today, as it is a brand people know, love, and trust, and with a brand story so strong, it’s as if that brand was only founded yesterday!

Brand Values

Similarly to a brand story, brand values are equally important for CPG branding.

With a lot of the industry being made up from food, beverages, and cosmetics, it’s important to consumers that brands value what goes into products, as well as the effect the products may have elsewhere.

For example, why is it that nine times out of ten, people choose Ben and Jerrys when they head down the frozen aisle, over the supermarket’s own brand of ice cream?

Yes the great taste and the unique flavours, but beyond that the company have always been clear and honest about who they are.

They value human rights, social and economic justice and are committed to making a positive impact on the environment.

This isn’t just written on their “Values” page on the website and forgotten about, but it is shown across their marketing and branding too, as they company comment on current affairs, and create petitions to send to the government to make positive change.

This is an example of a brand whose values are at the core of their branding, as just as they want to create a product that has limited effects on health and the environment, they have created a community for consumers to join them and battle worldwide issues.

Grocery store shelves


Now it’s time to really strip things back and think about why your CPG brand exists in the first place.

This comes down to two main elements: what is the purpose of your product, what do you want your product to achieve and why?

Brand Mission

When considering what your brand mission is, it’s useful to keep things super simple and answer these two questions:

  • What do we do
  • Why do we do it

These two answers will form the basis of your brand mission statement that will likely become the focus of your packaging (which comes later down the line).

So, let’s say you own a face wash brand, your mission statement could be something along the lines of:

“We provide a quality face cleanser, to keep your skin looking clearer and healthier”

This makes it clear exactly what you are providing to consumers, and what you are guaranteeing your product can do for their skin.

Creating a mission statement helps to keep all CPG branding elements aligned, as both your company, staff, wholesalers, and consumers know who you are, and what you will always provide as a brand.

Hersheys chocolate


Onto the long-awaited brand positioning now, and this will help to outline where your brand will sit in the CPG market.

Brand Positioning

As we mentioned earlier, your competitor’s research will help with this step, as you may already have answers to some of the questions you’ll need to ask yourself.

It can be difficult to determine exactly where you plan for your brand to sit among competitors, let alone where you expect your brand to be in the next year or two, so start by asking yourself:

  • Who are our biggest industry competitors currently?
  • Who is our cheapest competitor and who is our most expensive competitor?
  • How are we different from other brands in this market?
  • Where does our brand sit between these competitors?

Often in the CPG sector brands are offering a highly similar product inside but with very different packaging and messaging on the outside. This is what determines brand positioning.

It’s the outside appearance of the product that places it within its rankings, along with price, availability, and reliability.

In short, think about the Walmart Great Value chocolate bars, compared to Hershey’s chocolate bars.

Now we aren’t about to rip apart the branding of Walmarts chocolate bars but it’s clear that Hersheys have spent years and years solidifying their position in the world of chocolate.

They have luxury style packaging, a logo with a wordmark that has remained the same for decades, and built up a loyal customer base who would choose a Hershey’s bar over many other brands, any day of the week .

Like we said, this does not discredit the taste, packaging, or overall branding of the Walmart Great Value candy bars, but Hersheys will most likely be chosen first if the option is there.

This is how Hersheys, and many other huge CPG brands can charge more for their products as they have established their position in the market, and know that customers will pay more for their product rather than stray from the brands they love and believe in.

Box of chocolate bars


We are onto the final step, and that is how you are going to get your product onto shelves, online, and in front of your target audience.

At this stage you should have established who you are, what you stand for, your purpose and your audience, so the only thing left to do is create a packaging and a marketing plan to match.

But first, let’s start with your brand identity.

Brand Identity

This is the moment in which you need to pin down exactly what makes your brand unique.

To create your brand identity, it’s important to include aspects such as:

  • Your logo design
  • The font and typeface you will use
  • Your colour palette
  • Any photography and imagery
  • Your print material designs
  • Your social media appearance
  • Your packaging design

Although all components of your brand identity are important, packaging is particularly important for CPG brands.

When consumers are busying around the grocery store looking to get the items they need in their basket they will be faced with an array of different brands offering the next best option for them.

Whether it’s toothpaste, toilet roll, chocolate, or potato chips, there are a variety of options already available on the shelves so your CPG packaging must stand out.

If you miss the mark on colouring, or your mascot is looking a bit too creepy, this could result in a decrease in sales and your brand positioning will plummet.

If you’re offering an affordable option of a product and that is at the core of your values and mission statement be sure to include it,but don’t then scrimp on design of your packaging.

This will put consumers off as it will be obvious they have gone for the cheap option as your packaging is dull, you have a rather generic logo, and your entire brand is about saving money.

Consumers want to feel drawn to packaging design.

Think about how it feels shopping for coffee, do you go for the plain red tin that says “Instant Coffee”, or do you browse through the glass jars that show the product inside and use rich browns and golds to accentuate the taste of the product.

If you said the red tin, we don’t believe you.

Being a consumer is an experience and when overwhelmed with so many choices for all products in the CPG market, customers want to be faced with an option that jumps out to them and sells itself with its appearance.

Brand Touchpoints

The grocery store shelves aren’t the only place your audience will come into contact with your product, as if you have a website, social media channels or other marketing and advertising materials this may be the first time they see your brand.

Each time a consumer comes into contact with your brand, you need to ensure they have a positive experience. It’s not enough just having one touchpoint that succeeds and others that don’t retain your customers’ attention.

After all, consumers might see your advert on a billboard on their morning commute, then visit your website, and then go into a store to see your product for themselves.

That’s more than one occasion where a consumer is coming into contact with your CPG branding, so make sure they work together, and ensure your audience are moving towards making a purchase!

Brand Messaging

As much as packaging design is a vital part of how you are going to attract your audience to your product, your brand messaging is what will evoke emotion and push them to become a customer.

This can be best presented in the form of an advertisement or mission statement that connects with an entire audience at the same time.

Linking advertisements back to your mission statement is a great way to solidify your brand messaging and we see hundreds of brands do this time and time again.

Be sure to consider what emotion you want to strike up in your audience:

  • Are you looking to make them laugh with your cheeky brand mascot?
  • Are you looking to make them trust you by pledging your commitment to the future of the environment?
  • Are you looking to surprise them with your low prices and value for money?

Whatever it is, be sure to match this to what you are saying.

Don’t claim the lowest prices if your product actually costs more, and don’t promise something you can’t fulfil.

This way your audience knows what to expect from you and knows what they can rely on you to deliver.

Tone of Voice

Going hand in hand with brand messaging is your brand tone of voice.

This is how you choose to word what you want to say to your audience.

If you’re launching a children’s cereal, the last thing on your mind is being sarcastic or serious as children won’t understand and it doesn’t put across the right message.

Instead you need to come across fun, friendly to appeal to young ones, and reliable and safety conscious for parents. This way your voice appeals to both audiences and both children and parents know what they’re getting: a tasty cereal with health in mind.

The Best CPG Branding Examples

Now it’s time to move onto examples of CPG brands that are ultimately the best in the business.

They have cracked all elements of their brand strategy, so much so that they are household names and we can almost guarantee that you have a product from one of these huge CPG organisations lying around your kitchen or bathroom.

So, let’s kick things off with NestlĂ©!

Nestle packaging

1. Nestlé

Nestlé owns a variety of sub brands in the CPG industry, including Nestlé Toll House Cafe, KitKat, Nespresso, Purina, San Pellegrino, and Stouffer’s to name but a few.

There is a reason why we recognise Nestlé products as we browse the aisles and surf the web, and that is because of their heavy focus on brand identity, packaging design, and most of all brand positioning.

The CPG giant adopts a position in the market that is attractive to a large audience by producing products that are affordable, safe, high-quality, and nutritious. This makes the majority of their products suitable and accessible to an exceptionally large global market.

Equally the mission statement for Nestlé is short, sharp and allows consumers and wholesalers to see exactly why the CPG brands do what they do. The statement reads:

“Our purpose is clear. To unlock the power of food to enhance quality of life for everyone today, and for generations to come.”

Nestlé is a great example of a CPG brand that is clear about its brand strategy throughout all elements of branding, and prioritises the needs and desires of consumers.

2. PepsiCo

Owner of companies such as Pepsi, Frito-Lay, Quaker, and Gamesa, PepsiCo are a leading CPG company.

Their brand mission is loud and clear as it is to: “Create more smiles with every sip and every bite” which aligns perfectly with the CPG products that they sell.

Not only this but similarly, their values are split into 5 key sections: consumers, customers, communities, the planet, and shareholders, showcasing that the organisation is prepared to do their bit for every single group within their audience, not just selling products to consumers.

One value that stands out within the PepsiCo brand strategy is the love for people, as all of their strategies form branding, to marketing, to design are human centric and this is something that connects well with audiences.

Consumers want to be sure that the company they’re buying from values their workforce, and this is clearly showcased through the carefully thought out brand touchpoints for each and every product.

PepsiCo are a huge CPG organisation that connects talented professionals allowing them to create product packaging designs relevant to their audience that ultimately showcase the diverse and exciting culture of the company.

Hence why PepsiCo products are so popular, and so successful!

3. L’Oréal

Known as a world leader in Beauty, L’OrĂ©al are very much still a CPG brand dedicated to the mission of providing the best cosmetics in terms of quality, efficacy and safety.

Despite L’orĂ©al products being sold in high street drugstore chains such as Boots, Superdrug, Ulta, and Nordstrom, the L’OrĂ©al Groupe own a considerable amount of high-end luxury brands, as well as other drugstore brands that are more accessible.

The group is split into 4 categories: L’OrĂ©al Luxe, Consumer products, Active cosmetics, and Professional products.

So, it may even be said that the cosmetic CPG brand appeals to all audiences possible, providing brands such as YSl, Kiehls, and Prada as well as, CeraVe, Garnier, and KĂ©rastase.

This blend of products appeals to a wide audience and each has a sleek and unique brand identity that all seem to fit neatly under the L’OrĂ©al Groupe umbrella.

Equally, this CPG brand is clean and clear when it comes to brand values and ethics which is just as important for audiences when it comes to beauty, skin and haircare products. L’OrĂ©al have a strong board and leadership figures that are committed to ethics and sustainability.

Your Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide to CPG Branding (with examples)

So, there we have it, your ultimate step-by-step guide to CPG branding.

We have covered the vital steps to get you from product production, to creating the right brand strategy for your business, to getting your product onto shelves!

As we said above, it all starts with brand strategy as without it you will have nothing to base your offering around and your target audience won’t know why they should come to you over industry competitors.

In such a large global industry where new products are created and enter the sector with new messaging and bigger and better offerings, it can be difficult to know where to begin, let alone how to solidify your strategy.

At Canny we are branding experts, with the right knowledge on how to create the right identity for you and your product that aligns with your company values and goals. We have worked with many CPG brands, OPI Frutta is one that spring to mind, helping them to create great branding and packaging to match!

If you need a little bit of support or guidance in the branding department or need to hire an agency to take the pressure off, get in touch with the team here at Canny today!

Hola, I'm Glen, Head of Design at Canny. I feel like the elder statesman at Canny, from being in a tiny box office to travelling the world. I help clients get the most out of their brand visually, whether that be on the web or the real world.

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