As the growth curve in the cold food industry continues upward, movers seek to protect their share, big players in affected categories scramble to protect declines Three Happy Cows Brian Tin their core and small, innovative brands ride the category wave and carve out their own niche. 

As the category matures, however, it becomes more and more difficult for brands to stand out.  By that point in the lifecycle, there are a handful of big players stealing share from one another with big advertising and aggressive price wars. This tends to have a commodity effect on the category, and encourages consumers to brand switch. Meanwhile, small players experience a double whammy, as they also get hit with a flurry of big brand extension activities.

So, how does one stand out in a saturated product category?

Know your category
Researching the category and competitors is smart, but expanding your field of vision to those who sell products that might fulfill similar needs is critical. Think about the utility that your product offers in order to gain insight on opportunity areas. Don’t just ask what kinds of needs aren’t being met by direct competitors, but by brands in similar categories. With Greek yogurt, for example, don’t limit your research to those products alone. From a utility perspective, you are also competing with regular yogurt, protein bars and drinks that offer similar nutrition and portability. Look for white spaces and ideas to pull from those adjacent categories.

Know your consumer
Consumers are buying in your product category to satisfy a general need, but they choose your brand because of its unique attributes, whether it be value, lifestyle, nutrition, ingredient quality, taste, absence of allergens, getting kids to eat healthy or even trying something new. To succeed at the register, you have to know your target consumer very well. Narrow down what matters most to your potential customers, then position your brand in a way that best illustrates how your product should be their best—and only—choice.

Know the competitive landscape
If a category is saturated, it means there is enough demand to entice vendors to a category already brimming with similar options. The equation equals a jammed arena to advertise and sell your product, but it may also mean many of the retailers are copycats whose products overlap. There is likely still a gap somewhere in the product offering, and the opportunity lies in filling it with something different enough to interest consumers. Perhaps consumers like most aspects of the category, such as nutritional benefits, but hate another component, such as flavor or texture. What kind of flavor combination, product use or other unexplored niche hasn’t been developed yet? Or, maybe competitors are talking about a specific day-part such as breakfast, but are not talking about afternoon snack.

Expand consumer’s idea of how to use your product
You can set your brand apart from competitors by helping consumers see new ways your product can apply to their lives. For example, most shoppers haven’t considered baking bread, muffins, pancakes or casseroles with Greek yogurt, but they’re each delicious when done right. Some yogurts can be substituted for cream cheese or even frosting, which appeals to picky eaters as well as those striving to make healthier choices without sacrificing taste. Find fun, interesting, exciting and inventive uses for your product to introduce to fans and potential purchasers.

Explain why you’re worth trying
Once you can communicate exactly what sets you apart, you have an opportunity to sell with success. Consumers are busy, and they’re shopping in a world riddled with distractions. You have mere seconds to catch the eye, so boil down your messaging and design to a few clean, key concepts. Keep messaging simple and succinct. Also, get out there and be a part of your target consumers’ life.

Define your brand voice
Your brand voice and identity is critical. When people buy a product, it’s not just because the product meets their needs, but because of the way the brand makes them feel. When consumers are connected to a brand’s personality, they enjoy buying it and feel good about the purchase. Project a clear attitude with cohesive messaging that can mix and match across marketing realms from the shelf to social media and everywhere in between. For example, are you edgy, funny, laid back or wholesome? A clear brand personality conveyed through words and design not only helps you sell, it also makes your product more memorable. 

Inspire fans to become your evangelist
No matter how cluttered the digital marketing landscape becomes, friends still connect with friends in person to share their lives. If you have collected a loyal following, why not reward them with a product they love in exchange for telling their friends about your product? No marketing tool will ever be more powerful than the recommendation of a friend who understands what you like, so if people are fans, find a way to reward them for rooting for you.

Making the best, most interesting product you can is vital to success, but so is the way you present your product to the market and stay connected with customers. Find your brand voice, define what makes your product special and spread the word by making your brand a part of your consumer’s life.