Producers have traditionally focused on winning shelf space and then maintaining that hard earned retail real estate. Of course business has been anything but traditional since March 2020, and the competition for retail shelves skyrocketed with on-premise businesses either operating at reduced capacity or entirely closing. While this has strengthened the position of off-premise accounts, as online grocery sales climb to historic levels in the US, the coveted eye-level placement might not have the same purchasing influence it once commanded.

Consider the recent news from goPuff, an online delivery service based out of Philadelphia, who purchased BevMo! to expand into California. goPuff is expected to use BevMo! retail locations to expand their delivery footprint, offering consumers another digital alternative to retail shelves. How do these digital transitions change where consumers interact with brands, and how brands need to prioritize marketing and sales dollars?

The key will be to understand in what situations your consumers are discovering and purchasing your brand. Producers will be pushed to shift focus from an in store experience to a digital first experience, and as consumers interact with brands more through screens than shelf talkers, having packaging that stands out and equally strong digital assets will define the brands of the future. A brand’s digital assets should grow to include videos and media mentions, but all brands should start with quality photography. This is powerful not only for a brand’s social media and website, but also for retail partners who are building out their digital presence. The expectation is that a brand will provide the retailer with quality digital assets to help with consumer pull.

Not every image will capture every facet or element of the brand, but there are a few areas that a brand should work to capture with their imagery.

FUNCTIONALITY : How can your brand be used in a cocktail? What food would it pair well with? When would a retailer recommend a consumer pick your brand over another? This is the more practical, straightforward side of what your brand and product offer. Showing your bottle with a Moscow Mule mug, for example, is a poignant way of showing that the brand can be used for Mule style cocktails.

PERSONALITY : While the first point is more intuitive, this is an opportunity to show a bit more about what makes your brand bold and unique. Indoggo, a new flavored gin from Snoop Dogg, presents its playful and fresh personality in both the vibrant color of the bottle, the smoke hovering around the bar, and the luscious flower garnish on this cocktail. Everything in the picture, both the packaging and the presentation, tell a consumer more about the brand’s personality.

LIFESTYLE : Here’s an image showing a brand in context of the user’s lifestyle behavior and mood. After deciding who your target audience is and the things they do, photos can instantly make a connection capturing the setting and activities where your brand is enjoyed. Here the fast-growing, low alcohol aperitif Haus portrays the brand with warm fall colors in a comfortable environment. It informs consumers about who the brand is for and an occasion for imbibing with Haus.

CHARACTER : This is perhaps the hardest point to capture. Photos with a brand’s character tell the consumer how they can feel and what sense of place a brand can offer them. These are images where a brand evokes a deeper reaction, pulling a consumer in. Think about the physical setting and time period a consumer might envision when enjoying your product as a starting point to determine the brand character. Brilliant Mistake Cabernet Sauvignon captures this through their bottle design, but also with the early 20th Century typewriter prop that’s used as well. There are countless photos of wine bottles on a desk, but this helps inform the consumer about the brand’s character and what Brilliant Mistake offers from an emotional side.

The space on retailer shelves is getting tighter and tighter, and the demand for online delivery and digital first-brand discovery is continuing to grow. As brand owners build their go-to-market strategy, they must consider the digital assets they have in place, and how those assets fit into the consumer’s discovery and purchasing situation.

What are your thoughts on these areas to capture in a brands imagery? Take a moment and nominate great examples of situational cues in images that suggest: 1) Functionality; 2) Personality; 3) Lifestyle and 4) Character. Comment below, we would love to hear your thoughts. As always, keep unpacking.