The 4Ws are the key elements that customers need to assimilate in order to recognise a product and distinguish it from other similar products. The 4W’s are defined in the GS1 guideline, and are paraphrased here:
- Who is the brand? This refers to the consumer recognisable brand name.
- What is it? This usually refers to the type of product. Is it a shampoo, a cat food, an ice-cream, a moisturiser, etc?
- Which variety is it? This usually refers to flavour or fragrance, but covers any characteristic that distinguishes this particular product from other similar ones.
- HoW much of it is there? This refers to the amount of the product that the shopper gets, also known as ‘size’. This may be communicated by weight/volume, or by number of functional uses. If the pack contains discrete items, then it is important to communicate both the number of items and the size of each item.
Within bundle layouts, ‘HoW much of it is there?’ refers to the number of packs, and the size of each pack. If there is a bundle of packs that contain discrete items, then this refers to the number of packs, the number of items in each pack, and (optionally) the size of each item.
In most cases, interpreting ‘Who is the brand’ and ‘How much of it is there’ is straightforward and unambiguous.
However, different people may interpret ‘What is it’ and ‘Which variety is it’ differently. For example, some may consider the following attributes of bottled waters to be part of the ‘What’ and others consider them part of the ‘Which’:
- Still or sparkling
- Flavoured or unflavoured
- Spring water or mineral water
Nevertheless, the exact distinction between ‘What is it’ and the ‘Which one is it’ is not important. What matters is that the 4W’s as a whole convey everything that the shopper needs to know to recognise the product and distinguish it from other similar products.
Furthermore, when considered together as a whole, the first 3Ws are usually comparable to the corresponding product title.
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