Leading consumer-products companies are investing to revitalize their products and their brand packaging sooner than ever, and with more frequency.

Recognizing the need to contemporize packaging and gain or regain higher visibility on increasingly crowded retail shelves is important. But engaging in complete rebranding and repackaging with too much frequency can also raise a red flag.

Detecting that sales are beginning to table, or even slump, is generally symptomatic of a consumer-brand disconnect. Will rebranding and repackaging fix the problem? Will launching a new advertising campaign? Conversely, will cutting some of the advertising spend?

Or, will these exercises just put a bandage on a deeper sore that's beginning to fester? If that is the case, then rebranding, repackaging, and new ad campaigns will only result in fruitless exercises and wasted investments.

Yet, companies engage in this practice every day. It's far less painful to assess lagging sales in a superficial manner than it is to dig deeper into company practices, customer-service issues, and the actual product mix being offered—not to mention how customers are experiencing the brand and whether that brand is delivering on its promises.

Author and teacher Douglas Rushkoff puts it so well in his book, Get Back in the Box:

American companies are obsessed with window dressing, because they're reluctant, no, afraid to look at whatever it is they really do and evaluate it from the inside out. When things are down, CEOs look to consultants and marketers to rethink, re-brand or repackage whatever it is they are selling, when they should be getting back on the factory floor, into the stores, or out to the research labs where their product is actually made, sold, or conceived.

If companies truly want to reconnect with the consumer, maybe they ought to be turning their attention inward. Consumer product companies that really want to dig for the truth ought to seek answers to these questions:

  • Which of our branded products form the core of our company—in the eyes of the consumer?
  • Which of our branded products miss the mark—in the eyes of the consumer?
  • Have we innovated, altered, or "improved" these products to respond to competitors' products or new ideas in the marketplace—to the point that they aren't what the consumer has come to expect and demand from us?
  • Have we listened to the consumer and responded to their needs?
  • Has our customer-service interaction been impeccable, or has it fallen below consumer expectations for some time now? If that latter, where are the problems and what do we need to do to fix them?
  • Do our products deliver on our core brand promise? Do we remember what that promise was when we launched this brand and it was performing strongly in the marketplace?
  • What kinds of experiences are consumers having with our products? Our core brand? Our company? Are they positive overall, are they mixed—and are aspects of these experiences negative?
  • Do our core brand values correlate with the consumer perception of that brand—or is there disconnect between the two? Remember what Tom Peters famously said: "Perception is reality."

Maybe, just maybe, it's time to get back to basics. In the corporate scramble to bring ever more products to market, to innovate faster and faster, to jump on the latest social-marketing craze, to launch a new advertising campaign, and finally, to rebrand, revitalize and repackage sooner and sooner, maybe we're all missing the point.

As uncomfortable as doing so can be, consumer product companies need to reassess their internal operations and processes, to see the reality of "what is" in the full light of day.

Getting consumer feedback is a vital aspect of conducting an internal audit. Spending time, capital, and human resources on this exercise, if done thoroughly, is never fruitless. Never a waste of money. It's the best bang for your marketing buck.

In fact, the results may surprise some executives and lead them back to reinstituting those products, those policies, and those brand values that made them successful in the first place.

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Ted Mininni is president and creative director of Design Force, a leading brand-design consultancy.

LinkedIn: Ted Mininni