i was about 18 years old and traveling through Mississippi when I witnessed a scene at a convenience store that years later would resonate in my professional life in a profound way. That day, as I watched an old man putting his roasted peanuts on a display for sale near the register, I realized the old man was watching another fellow in line who, apparently on impulse, decided to buy peanuts. The customer reached over and grabbed … some Lance peanuts. Clearly confused and offended at the gall of the fellow to purchase brand name over his, the old man asked: “What the hell is wrong with MY peanuts?”

All these years later, that old man’s question is still in the back of my mind when I approach branding and packaging with a client. It was a good question; why was his product passed over, likely by someone he even knew, in favor of another? What it boils down to is this: Consumers are scared to make bad decisions, and familiarity along with branding and packaging that says to them “This is a good choice” will win out in the end. 

Consider the cereal – or chips or beer or shampoo – aisle in your grocery store: a ton of like products that probably contain basically the same ingredients competing for the consumer’s attention. What, then, sets them apart? Shelf experience and brand equity stemming from dynamic packaging. This is where we shine: we help create an experience that quickly speaks from the shelf to the targeted demographic and offers the promise that our product is a good, safe choice among potentially more well-known brand names that – rightly or not – have the perception of a better quality product. 

Three recent Farmhouse projects are good examples of packaging and brand equity in action: one for a new business, another for an established business and the third for an established business with a new offering.

Our task for client Mighty Miss. Brewing Co. was to make this new craft brewery pop amid a sea of competitors. From the logo to the naming of each varietal, the packaging has to deliver the most promise in the beer-aisle battleground. In this case, we decided less was more and bucked the trend of using mural-like artwork for labels and cans. Simple, clean icons representative of the name of each varietal give shoppers just enough information to identify the brand quickly. Through a macro method of branding for our the microbrewery, we created a cohesive and highly visible family of products that stands out in a crowded field of craft beers.

For Rendezvous barbecue restaurant, our mission was to update the label for this Memphis tradition’s sauce and seasoning products, giving the packaging a fresh appearance without being an abrupt departure from the familiar. This brand has shelf experience, but as competition increases Rendezvous needed a few tweaks for its products to stand out. Keeping in mind the legal aspects and industry standards by which we must comply, we re-created the labels, giving them a sophisticated – yet not too understated – new look. Changing the size and view of the logo and using a matte label instead of gloss, for example, resulted in a clean presentation which reflects the high quality of Rendezvous’ products and its world-renowned reputation.

– We redesigned the packaging for Tom’s Tiny Kitchen two years ago, giving this maker of handcrafted pimento cheese a sharp look that conveys the idea that we’re not just selling cheese; we’re selling Tom’s Tiny Kitchen and the image therein. Now, Tom’s is offering a cheese dip and in Memphis, Pancho’s has been the big cheese dip. Our vibrant, 4-color process label will give Tom’s an edge, as it imparts the promise of a high-end, quality product that is well-worth the higher cost. With a huge local following, Tom’s branding has proven to deliver. 

“What the hell is wrong with MY peanuts?” If I could answer that old man’s question today, I’d tell him that in all likelihood, there was nothing wrong with the peanuts. The problem was the peanut’s promise – specifically, a lack of one. And that, in a nutshell, is the power of branding.