Positioning Strategy Template for a Premium Brand

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Learn from 3 Premium Examples: Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse, Apple MacBook Pro and Bonne Mamam

The positioning template is integral to designating a brand as premium.  It’s important to craft the brand strategy to align and reinforce the premium image at every step, for instance, with the packaging and consumption or unwrapping experience.   The look and feel of the product and its packaging are important to consider.

Positioning Template for a Premium Brand: Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse Cookies

When you think of a premium brand, which brands comes mind?  This varies by category, for example, in packaged grocery store cookies, Pepperidge Farm is prominent.  

While some may not initially think of Pepperidge Farm as premium, the products are premium within the grocery store cookie category.  For example, Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse Thin & Crispy Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies retail online at Kroger for $4.19 for 6.9 ounces or 61 cents per ounce.   Pepperidge Farm commands a price premium of over 250% compared with Chips Ahoy! Originals at $2.99 for 13 ounces or 23 cents per ounce. Even higher-priced offerings within the Oreo brand do not approach these levels. For instance, Oreo Fudge Covered Sandwich Cookies are $3.29 for 7.9 ounces, 42 cents per ounce.    We used Kroger pricing as illustrative since Kroger was identified as the largest supermarket chain in the US.

Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse cookie packaging signals premium with its small size, higher price point and look of a white, resealable bakery bag. Inside are white fluted cups with vertically stacked tiers of larger-sized cookies.  The occasion suggested is a treat to be enjoyed, alone or in smaller groups.  Of course, other types of Pepperidge Farm cookies come in other packaging, but the white bakery bag is the dominant form that sets the tone for Pepperidge Farm cookies’  image.  

By comparison, Chips Ahoy! and Oreo come in larger-size packages with plastic overwrap over a plastic tray.  This pricing and the packaging suggest a mainstream occasion, such as family or kids’ snacking.   

It can be argued that the definition of a premium (packaged supermarket) cookie is a cookie that comes in a smaller package at a higher price point, whether or not that cookie actually delivers a higher-quality taste experience when compared with others.   Similarly, a premium bread such as La Brea is generally a smaller-sized loaf in more artisanal packaging. 

Positioning Template for a Premium Brand

Positioning Template for a Premium Brand: Apple MacBook Pro Computers

Another consideration is the level of price premium desired.  Luxury brands go well beyond premium in their pricing. These are the most popular online luxury fashion, jewelry and watch brands in 2021:

  1. Gucci
  2. Chanel
  3. Hermes
  4. Dior
  5. Louis Vuitton
  6. Rolex
  7. Tiffany
  8. Prada
  9. Versace
  10. Armani
  11. Valentino
  12. Balenciaga
  13. Cartier
  14. Burberry
  15. Omega

In personal computers, Apple is a premium brand but not a luxury brand.   Most Mac computers are priced at over $1,000 at entry-level, and the MacBook Pro is the flagship laptop, with retail pricing starting at $1,299 for 13” or $2,399 for a newer 16” model.   The 16” model has significant advantages over the 13” in memory (up to 64GB vs. up to 16GB) and battery life (up to 20 hours vs. up to 11 hours).

Apple’s MacBook Pro delivers a number of important benefits for consumers, including:

“smooth user experience, high-end hardware including the processor and display, excellent customer support, aesthetically pleasing design.”   

Among other drawbacks, the Apple MacBook Pro is:

“expensive, even base models aren’t cheap, not ideal for gaming.” 

Of course, being expensive is part of the premium pricing positioning of the Apple brand.

In comparison, a “well-functioning” PC laptop for everyday use will run between $500 to $1,500, well below the cost of the MacBook Pro.  That means the base model of the 13” MacBook Pro is at the top end of the PC laptop range.

As with the Pepperidge Farm cookie, Apple computers also come in high-quality, white packaging.  The exterior box that holds the MacBook Pro is elegantly designed to support the Apple brand’s premium positioning.  The start of this video shows the unboxing.  Also, similar to the Pepperidge Farm cookie, with its interior flutes to hold the cookies, the box interior has cutouts to hold the various accessories, such as power cords, etc.  While these interior aspects are clearly functional to prevent damage to the product, they are also aesthetically appealing. 

The net effect is that opening the Apple MacBook Pro box feels very much like unwrapping a special, premium present. 

As an aside, the exterior Apple boxes are so sturdy and nicely designed that they may even enjoy reuse beyond their original purpose.  For instance, a friend of mine, who is not an Apple fan, uses the box that his company iPhone came in to hold and carry D&D dice.

Positioning Template for a Premium Brand:  Package Structure vs. Package Graphics

Recently, we were in conversations with a direct-to-consumer snack brand that considers itself premium.  The product uses high-quality package graphics with a foil appearance and retails for over $6 per ounce.   Certainly, the pricing is premium. 

However, despite the appealing graphics, the packaging is not resealable, and the size is a bit much for an individual single serving and too little for a group serving.  The product’s packaging structure does not clearly deliver on premium.

The exterior delivery box is plain cardboard, which is unlikely to support the premium image.  After our conversation, the brand decided to explore the in-home consumer unboxing experience to gain more insight.

Large-scale quantitative research among over 1,000 US consumers found differences in their reaction to packaging structures.  This provides an example of the variation in how premium consumers rank different structures, based on illustrations.   Of course, other research methods can evaluate more finished packages, but this example was intended to evaluate packaging choices that this brand actually had.

In this example, microwave convenience delivered value to consumers, and brand packaging structures that delivered this benefit generally were associated more with premium.  For instance, microwaveable hand-held cups were considered premium by 56% of consumers, and regular microwaveable cups were considered premium by 51%.  Microwaveable bowls came in at 56%.  The more complex structure illustrations, such as microwaveable, single-serve steamers and meal trays also appeared more premium at 63% and 56%, respectively. 

Microwaveable pouches were an exception, at 42%. Despite the convenience of microwave ability, the pouch package structure is generally not associated with premium. This is consistent with other research we’ve seen, where products like juice drinks in pouches are generally associated with inexpensive, non-premium products.

While glass jars scored relatively low on premium at 40% in this particular research, we believe this was due to the specific, plain glass jar shown, as there are many other situations where glass conveys a premium image. For instance, glass is favored by many brewers and distillers.  A FTC complaint elaborates:

“Glass promotes a premium or distinctive brand image; enables brewers and distillers to convey a premium image by associating the quality appearance of the glass with their product identity; protects beer and spirits by guarding against oxygen invasion for a longer shelf life; maintains the true taste of the beer or spirits; is chemically inert and does not leach chemicals into the beer and spirits; and is 100% recyclable.”

Just 24% of US consumers believe plain, normal-width cans similar to those found in the canned vegetable aisle are premium.    Details matter, as a more appealing (and expensive) shaped can that was resealable scored much higher, with 62% of consumers considering it premium.

As one source explains:

“Beverage producers package in different types of Specialty Cans for different reasons. For example, carbonated soft drink producers package some of their products in 7.5-ounce slim cans specifically to reach consumers who want a smaller portion in an attractive, sub-100 calorie package. Popular with producers of flavored malt beverages are 8-ounce slim cans. Energy drink producers package in 16-ounce and other “sleek” cans in order to differentiate their products and convey a premium image in ways that cannot be achieved by using Standard Cans. Some tea and energy drink producers further differentiate their products and convey value by packaging in large 24-ounce cans.”

Lastly, smaller, lightweight boxes  like the 7 ½ “ by 3 ½ “ size that hold a 7.25 ounce macaroni and cheese box were considered premium by just 20% of consumers. 

Since there is a great deal of variation within packaging structures, these results are not meant to be universal.  The particular illustrations were actual choices for the brand that we were working with, within the current capabilities of the brand’s manufacturing organization.

Positioning Template for a Premium Brand

Positioning Template for a Premium Brand: Bonne Mamam Preserves

In our household, Bonne Mamam raspberry preserves are the top choice for topping breakfast breads and English muffins.

Bonne Mamam is a good example of a premium supermarket brand.

Kroger shows that Bonne Mamam raspberry preserves are priced at $4.56 for a 13-ounce jar, or 35 cents per ounce.  By comparison, Smucker’s Red Raspberry Preserves Spread is priced at $4.29 for a 16-ounce jar.   This works out to be a 47% premium on a per-ounce basis, and a 6% absolute price difference, regardless of size.

The package suggests artisanal, homemade and by inference premium.  Bonne Mamam preserves come primarily in a somewhat smaller, squat, ten-sided 13-ounce glass jar.  With its ten sides, the jar itself is more interesting than a standard round jar.  The lid is given interest through a red and white gingham checkered pattern, reminiscent of a cloth covering.  The plain white label looks almost like a home canning label.    Furthering the homemade, artisanal brand, “Bonne Mamam” means “granny.” 

Positioning Template for a Premium Brand

Smucker’s follows a similar approach with its packaging, with a larger jar.  It also has the red gingham lid, with package graphics that show illustrations of the fruit against a white background.

While not extremely evident on the package, the Bonne Mamam brand is made from “5 simple ingredients” – the fruit (in this case raspberries), sugar, brown cane sugar, concentrated lemon juice and fruit pectin.  The Bonne Mamam brand website also touts Non-GMO (also on the package label), gluten free (also on the package label), no additives or preservatives, and no high fructose corn syrup.   Leading mainstream competitor, Smucker’s does have high fructose corn syrup in its ingredient list.

Like many food brands, Bonne Mamam is growing. In 2021, Bonne Mamam launched a new 10 market US digital TV advertising campaign, “Made simply, with love,” and reported that it is the #2 preserves brand in the US, with sales of $116 million in 2020, up 31% vs. 2019.

Taking all this into account, is your brand supporting a premium positioning with its pricing, packaging and consumption experience?  Apple, Pepperidge Farm and Bonne Mamam are delivering on premium.

You’re invited to explore additional positioning template examples from nine outdoor brands such as Patagonia and The North Face, many of which are premium.  Or visit the positioning resources page for more examples including aspirational positioning approaches from brands like Zillow, Asana, and Peloton.  Or bring your questions and insights to our upcoming Office Hours.

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