Brand loyalty is always the goal for CPG companies and retailers alike. And while it always is tough to achieve, it is even more so with all of the market uncertainty the COVID-19 pandemic has brought.
“Brand loyalty has been challenged,” says Mike Nolan, Product of the Year’s global CEO and founder. “With pandemic-induced supply chain disruption, shoppers have been faced with limited options, often forcing trial of new brands/products and, in turn, converting new long-term consumers.”
Entering the 2021 Product of the Year Awards — the largest consumer-voted award for product innovation — is one way legacy brands striving to regain core consumers’ favor, and challenger brands hoping to retain shoppers new to the brand, can differentiate their products and start building loyalty.
Winners Weigh In
Product of the Year was established over 30 years ago to guide consumers to the best products in their market and reward manufacturers for quality and innovation. What makes the award unique—and so effective—is that winners are determined by the votes of 40,000 consumers in a nationally representative survey conducted by Kantar, a global leader in consumer research.
Mondelez International, parent company of Trident, was one of the 2020 POY award winners with its Trident Vibes—a unique, multisensory gum that starts with a crispy, candy-like outer shell that gives way to a smooth, long-lasting chew. It took home honors in the gum category.
“We know that Vibes is a delicious product, and we wanted to validate that consumers agree!” reports Iryna Shandarivska, senior director of confections at Mondelez International. “We knew POY would get our product in the hands of consumers who could review the product, and that winning POY would help give it visibility and credibility.”
Rain-X® Silicone Endura®, a premium beam wiper blade made with precision-engineered silicone rubber designed to perform in extreme weather and provide extended durability, was the 2020 winner in the car care category. The blade features Climate Defense® Technology, which defends from the damage caused by the ozone, UV rays, wet weather, extreme temperatures and normal driving wear and tear.
According to Cheryl Petrishin, senior brand manager of Rain-X, the company entered last year’s competition because POY is the largest consumer-voted award for product innovation.
“Knowing this award is backed by the votes of over 40,000 everyday consumers is especially significant, as it serves as a testament to the trust and impact Rain-X has built over the years,” Petrishin says. “The Rain-X team was honored to receive the Product of the Year award for the second straight year. We know the award is recognized by consumers for innovation—a benefit which helps differentiate Rain-X Silicone Endura from other wiper blades.
Procter & Gamble boasts 7 Product of the Year winners this year, with marketing spend on the rise as sales soar. For Downy, the patented, exclusive Fiber Relaxing technology the company used in developing its Downy Wrinkle Guard Fabric Conditioner made the product an ideal entry in the 2020 Product of the Year competition.
Consumers agreed: Downy Wrinkle Guard Fabric Conditioner won in the Laundry Booster category. What did consumers find so appealing? Its in-wear, wrinkle-fighting formula not only penetrates between and into fibers to improve flexibility and prevent wrinkles — this liquid fabric conditioner also reduces friction and helps protect clothes from stretching, fading and fuzzing.
“In an environment where ratings and reviews are so important, I think getting this credential by 40,000 consumers is huge,” says one P&G Brand Director.
Winners get full inclusion in the national PR campaign, which generates a minimum of 500 million media impressions annually, and can promote the win and use the POY logo for two full years.
Rain-X plans to take advantage of the promotional opportunities being a POY winner affords.
The company will feature the award throughout its national media campaign, which started in October — the main selling season for wiper blades.
“Rain-X will feature the award utilizing these marketing tactics: ESPN MLB Post Season Playoffs, Sports & Weather TV Sponsorships, Data Enabled TV, Streaming & Programmatic Video, YouTube Pre-Rolls and Social Media,” Petrishin says. “At select retailer partners, the award will be placed on in-store displays, endcap header cards and on website product pages.”
Trident also plans to promote the win.
“We’ve added the POY seal to some of our featured creative this year,” Shandarivska reports.
Innovation is Key
The fact that POY recognizes innovation has been instrumental to its success since it was established over 30 years ago. Recognizing and promoting innovative products, Nolan stresses, is more important than ever today.
“Numerous reports from companies including Kantar and McKinsey suggest that innovation in times of recession or market conflict is the key to bouncing back sooner and higher,” Nolan says. “POY is the ideal way to show your company, brand and product kept innovating through turmoil, meeting new and ever-changing consumer demands. To that end, the POY seal will stand out all the more in 2021.”
Those pluses pertain to retailers, too.
“Helping your shoppers in-store or online find the best innovations is giving them what they want, when and where they want it,” Nolan says. “The fact that POY is voted on by 40,000 American’s also speaks the language of retailers—it's listening to the shopper and communicating it back to them as a recommendation. This is why the logo is so powerful and why POY works with so many retailers around the world to enhance their shopper's experience.”
Across categories, the results speak for themselves: Data show that Product of the Year USA winners outperform category sales performance by 38.1%1; that the Product of the Year logo is 25% more effective on a package than the word “New”2; and that coupon redemption consideration increased 24% when the Product of the Year logo was featured in a Free Standing Insert (FSI)3.
But with all of the day-to-day challenges that consumers are facing, will they even notice?
Nolan answers with a resounding yes.
“Consumers are spending more time at home and online and less time in-store perusing the aisles for new products. Everything from food and exercise to beauty and personal care are being brought into the home and innovations must continue to meet, what we anticipate being, this long- lasting trend,” he says. “More so than ever, consumers will have to rely on word of mouth, peer reviews and accreditations like POY when making a purchase for their home, from their home.”
Ultimately, it all goes back to the one thing for which all CPG companies and retailers strive.
“Trusted retailers that continue to offer their shoppers the best and brightest new innovations will command long-lasting shopper loyalty,” Nolan concludes.
Products launched after January 1, 2019 through December 31, 2020 are eligible to be entered in the 2021 POY Awards; the entry deadline is October 31st. For more information on how to enter, visit productoftheyearusa.com.