Category blurring is a phrase you may have heard thrown about the office, but might not fully understand what it is exactly or how it works. Given that it's become a top tactic for leading brands across multiple FMCG categories, it would seem now is as good a time as ever to explain it.
Category blurring: An innovation tactic employed by brands to disrupt the status quo on shelf by blending features of two or more categories with each other. According to Mintel, blurring occurs in three ways - with flavour, packaging/format, or health/functionality.
Here are some examples to provide a better idea and illustrate how top players in the market have successfully blurred their brands.
By blurring its signature rum with the vibrant world of tequila, Malibu Red shifts the perception of its brand as the drink of choice on holiday to the drink of choice for a night out. Though all the brand equities, from bottle structure to holding shape to logo are present in Malibu Red's design, the brand feel has been completely altered. Gone is the pure white bottle and the tropical tone of original Malibu. It is now a striking combination of metallic red and silver, colours that turn the volume up on the brand, making it urban and modern. It's a great example of how packaging can facilitate category blurring and help grow a brand outside of what its known for.
An aerosol-powered foam drink, Turbo Tango is Britvic's soft drink offering in a personal care packaging format. Not only does the blurring put Tango at the forefront of innovation in its category, but it sits extremely well in the brand's playfully irreverent personality. Bluemarlin were lucky enough to bring Turbo Tango to the masses. Find out more here.
Pringles seasonal limited edition flavours
With these limited edition products, Pringles blur their savoury potato snacks with super sweet flavour. Only a brand like Pringles, with its energetic and fun personality, a strong consumer following and a portfolio of core flavours that people know and love, could pull something like this off. You expect the unexpected from Pringles, and look forward to how far the brand is willing to take it.
Blue Hill Yoghurt
While Pringles can pull off flavour blurring because it has a fun, energetic, creative personality, Blue Hill can pull it off for an entirely different set of reasons. Blue Hills is a premium yoghurt brand known for high quality ingredients and products. Therefore, when it launches a new range blending savoury vegetables with yoghurts, consumers trust that the brand because they believe Blue Hill has the integrity to not create anything that doesn't reach high quality and taste standards.
Combining health with functionality
Biscuits are bad for you, right? Well they were until Belvita blurred them with the breakfast cereal category. Belvita's innovation has set a trend for breakfast on-the-go with some clever and well executed blurring between health and functionality.
There are no shortage of tea brands claiming that their products comes with various health benefits. It's a common example of category blurring, combining the refreshment of a beverage with personal care. Kusmi's wellness teas are a great example. They taste great and come in the multiple flavours you'd expect, but can also help you detox or improve your skin.
Brand blurring is a brave move. It is a key method for a brand to innovate, evolve, and grow. It gives brands with a solid base the opportunity to explore and discover their place in the market and in the world, reaching new consumers and growing to new heights. While it come with risks, it can make a good brand a great brand.
Before considering blurring, a brand needs to have a solid core, a clear and powerful understanding of what it stands for, what it what's to achieve and how it wants to express itself. Only after these factors are determined can a brand recognise which lines can be blurred and which lines just shouldn't.
Blurring should be a step for towards the future, not a desperate move to get attention in the market. When a brand does this, it risks creating something so jarring that it confuses consumers or something so unappealing that it ruins its reputation.
Don't try and tell us that you're not tempted to try one of these babies?
Dr Oetker's Pizza Burgers certainly aren't easy to ignore. However, it's a questionable move for a brand that is originally known for home baking. Going from providing quality ingredients for cupcakes to frozen pizzas was stretch enough, but to start producing something as gimmicky as pizza burgers makes it seem like the brand has gone considerable off the radar. This product doesn't scream quality of ingredients, and while it might have a stake in appealing to bachelors, it could very easily turn off the culinary mothers who have been loyal to the brand's core offering. The danger is this target audience might carry their negative feelings for Dr Oetker's Pizza Burgers to all of Dr Oetker's other products. Not really worth the risk just to get noticed.
And so, before you blur, make sure you're doing it for the right reasons. Furthermore, only blur in the lines that align with the core purpose and expression of your brand.