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Spokesmen and how to use them efficiently!

Spokesmen and how to use them efficiently!

Those of you who have read my books or the articles on know that I prefer both icons (e.g. spokesmen) and design style (identifying a brand) to a logotype, as they are more emotional. Today, I’d like to give some advice on how to use the brand spokesman in the most efficient manner on […]

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My 4th book is now available (the first is sold out). It has a very clear message: how to improve the copywriting, as well as the layout on the back/side panel of your pack. As the previous ones, this book is directed to schools, design agencies, brand managers, sales forces, etc… well, anyone interested in […]

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Typography, a communication tool

Typography, a communication tool

Once I heard that typography was a “beautiful group of letters and not a group of beautiful letters”.

May 22

The other day, I saw an ad in The New York Times which spoke about the truth, so crucial in today’s journalistic world, when someone invented the alternative facts. How is it on packaging?

Well, if we start with the front panel, I can say there is no place for lying today. However, it is a must to ‘beautify’ a product in order to look better than the competitor.

In food, this is achieved by selecting the most photogenic parts, arranging them up front in a warm light. The food stylist knows, today, how far one can go in order to ‘tell the truth’.

It is a bit different when it comes to back panel communication. We obviously can’t change figures or mention wrong ingredients and we cannot show figures that mislead, but we can try to be smart and amplify the good things in a product.

I prefer, for instance, information from a German Innocent label which tells you, in quite a funny way, how you will appreciate their juice. It’s called “the Innocent juice appreciation curve”. I don’t think I need to translate it for my European readers.

But the best ever label is the one Julius Maggi (an outstanding marketing man) printed on his Maggi Würze bottle around 1910-20! I think this is still the best pack within the Nestlé world. It has it all! Here’s the text in English:

In every kitchen
is unequalled
is unique
guaranteed pure and top quality
MAGGI is still the most refined seasoning
Keeps indefinitely
Sole producers: MAGGI GmbH

IMPORTANT: this MAGGI bottle can only be sold if it contains the pure MAGGI aroma, any offender risks a heavy fine. (i.e. trust)

Confirmed on several occasions by the Supreme Court of the German Federal Republic. (trust)

In fact, this MAGGI bottle bears our company’s name in the glass. Our MAGGI brand, as well as the star, are registered and therefore protected. (trust)

Other products of the MAGGI company: MAGGI bouillon cubes – MAGGI soups (cross advertising).

Nobile quia optimum… (known because the best) – (Latin gives an image of quality).

Directions for use:
MAGGI aroma is very rich; use it sparingly (who would say this today?)

It is unnecessary to season every soup and every dish; only neutral-tasting soups and dishes need seasoning and this merely to enhance their own flavour. This is the truth.

It is impossible to fix the necessary quantity of aroma to be added beforehand – simply sample it several times. (good advice)

On no account must MAGGI aroma be overpowering. (good advice)

Do not cook MAGGI aroma – add it just before serving.

Control analysis:
Specific gravity 1.264 – 1.274
Dehydrated substance approx. 49%
Mineral substances and various nutritive salts respectively approx. 19%
(like on a S. Pellegrino label).

LW/December 2017

May 16

Today, we do not take enough time to analyse communication, as we are too preoccupied with the execution of a project. Furthermore, we favour guidelines, best practice and rules to the profound analysis which obviously demands more from us.

Thus, we design labels as the one below that I picked up in a hotel in Atlanta. When you, still a bit sleepy, arrive to the breakfast buffet, common sense tells you that the key information you need when you choose your teabag is the denomination of the tea. But to find this text on this label, you must be very awake!

No doubt the design is elegant, well balanced, I’d even say beautiful! It is what I call a ‘designer’s label’ and certainly not a ‘consumer label’.

Why does this happen? And it happens daily in the design world. Because most designers are usually more preoccupied with execution than communication.

When I think of it… to replace “Tea & Company” with “Black tea” would be very easy, still maintaining the elegant layout. I most likely cannot change the illegible USDA stamp, as US legislation is very strict and does not allow certain information to be on the back where they belong. Marketing blah-blah like “Emperor’s Breakfast”, “(Reserve Lot)” and “Caffeine” do belong to the back where it can be explained why the tea is so great that it can be called “Emperor’s Breakfast”.

What would be more appreciated on the front would be to tell the consumer that it is a mix of Assam, Darjeeling and Yunnan, words that most tea drinkers understand!

This was just one example I use when I teach communication. Those of you who have heard me know that I have many others up my sleeve!

LW/April 2018

May 09

When I got the idea to write this article, I had a specific pack in mind, but I’ve decided not to show any illustration so as not to embarrass the brand owner. In fact, the above title is valid for almost any pack.

The biggest weakness with most of today’s packages is overcommunication. What does this mean? It means that brand managers believe that

  1. the consumer needs all information
  2. the legislation stipulates all information
  3. the pack has to include all information, etc.

This is certainly not the case, especially as there are big differences between a so-called ‘health product’ and the common ‘indulgence product’, between a soft drink and plain water!

As most companies have issued internal guidelines, there is a common belief that a guideline (which is not necessarily a legislation) has to be followed to 100%! This means that no common sense is being used and that the guidelines (which should just guide) are applied slavishly.

This is particularly true when it comes to promotional packages where information is added and nothing is deleted. If you want your key message (the promotion) to be bold, it is obvious that something else has to go.

It is here that common sense is essential. I therefore suggest that the brand manager goes through the following list before briefing the design agency. I’d also like the design agency to use their own check list which may not be the same:

Do I really need, on the front panel,

  • – to see the complete brand logotype?
  • – the corporate brand to be visible?
  • – the RDA on the front? Can it not be on the side?
  • – the illustration if the product is very well known?
  • – the product denomination? (Mars has none!)
  • – to duplicate brands? (which is the most common weakness)
  • – Fairtrade or other symbols?
  • – to strictly follow the brand guideline layout or can certain elements change position to better highlight a promotion?

If the answer to these 8 questions is positive, the NEW layout of the front panel will become more simple, more dynamic and more SELLING, as the promotional message will undoubtly stand out better and thus be more convincing.


Package design is about SELLING and, as far as I learned during my 40 years at Nestlé, the simpler and more dynamic the design, the higher the sales curve!
Good communication and good products go hand in hand.


LW/March 2018

Apr 25

Storytelling II

Posted by Wallentin in Uncategorized

Do you want to sell more? Do you wish to have a stronger link with your consumer?… Well, tell a story!

But not just any story. A story that is as emotional as possible to touch the heart more than the brain.

As the illustration says: “Those who tell stories rule the society” and it was not anybody who said it… it was Plato some 2’000 years ago and it is still valid today!

The story must be linked to the brand in such a way that the consumer remembers your brand. Your brand can tell a story through the product and its use or characteristics, but it can also be a story in a media. 

Telling a memorable story without overdoing the design is not that easy, as you have to balance out the verbal and the visual, even the symbolic in such a way that the story is quickly understood.

Today, we have a tendency to want to say as much as possible on a pack, not to forget the legal (necessary and unnecessary) information and thus drown the story. Moreover, we often look at the design on a computer screen, not next to competitors’ products and we know that on the illuminated screen everything looks great.

When we wish to tell a story, we should never forget that it is the PRODUCT that should be in focus and not the brand, so the product has to be in the foreground!

I’ve chosen a wafer biscuit as an example and, in my opinion, this design would have been a masterpiece if 3 elements had been moved to the side or back panels, as they disturb the story:

  1. the corporate brand Jacob’s, as we then could say something about the Jacob’s quality, etc.;
  2. the nutritional information which one ignores when buying ‘indulgence’ food;
  3. the net weight which could have been replaced by the number of wafers. Nobody is looking for 175g of wafers!

So if we clean out the design, we have a perfect ‘Italian wafer’ with the name MILANO (easy to remenber) and the trattoria. That’s storytelling!

When writing these lines, there is, on our local TV (maybe on many other channels), an excellent example of the above, featuring Federer and Barilla!

LW/April 2018

Apr 01

Creativity takes courage

Posted by Wallentin in Uncategorized


Creativity: the unexpected connections between unrelated concepts or ideas (Edwin Catmull, Pixar).


Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating (John Cleese).


Working with change is what creativity is about (Edwin Catmull, Pixar).


Creativity: things I have collected over time always have relevance at some point later on (Lars Wallentin).


Creativity is about curiosity and the joy of doing something new.


Creativity is intelligence having fun.


Creativity is the generation of novel and appropriate ideas. Innovation implements those ideas and hereby changes the order of things in the world.


Creativity without implementation is irresponsibility (Ted Lewitt).


Creativity is to challenge oneself!


Nonconforming oddities can be enriching and humanising! Indeed, exceptions to the rule are often more interesting than the rules themselves.


Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes and last, but not least, having fun! (Mary Lou Cook).


The impetus to conform, so widespread today, will, if not checked, kill all forms of creativity (Paul Rand, 1960).


LW/March 2018

Mar 25

Those of you who have read my books or the articles on know that I prefer both icons (e.g. spokesmen) and design style (identifying a brand) to a logotype, as they are more emotional.

Today, I’d like to give some advice on how to use the brand spokesman in the most efficient manner on packaging, POS or advertising.

If I start with the style or type of spokesman, it can express many different positionings of the brand:

  • –       cheap (inexpensive) or luxury
  • –       basic or special
  • –       friendly or distant
  • –       fun or serious
  • –       childish or adult
  • –       human or animal
  • –       hyper realistic or stylised
  • –       agricultural or industrial
  • –       specialist or layman
  • –       traditional or contemporary, etc.

The illustrations to this article show some of the above characteristics.

Once the spokesman (or icon) has been decided upon (its expression of the brand), the next decision to take is its position on the pack and other media, i.e. attached or non determined position. It’s here many design manuals make the mistake to determine a precise position and fix the size.

As the spokesman is more attractive than the brand, my opinion is to not decide too early upon how to use it, as it is impossible to foresee all the situations that will come up.

It is useful to fix the spokesman’s position next to or attached to the brand logotype when you register it, as it then strengthens the registration, but once this is done, let the spokesman take the best spot on the pack, POS or advertising. Now and then, you have a portrait format and thus the spokesman will most likely appear above or below the logotype. On other occasions, you might have a landscape format and then the spokesman may be to the left or to the right. It all depends on how big you wish the brand logotype to be in relation to the spokesman.

My experience is that, if your spokesman is photographic or a hyper realistic drawing, it is useful to also have a simplified, stylised version, depending on the printing technique, the material, the background, etc.

The following points have also to be taken into consideration:

  • a)    The background: a face looks different against a white background compared to a photographic one. You may decide to frame it which I would advise against, as it limits its use.
  • b)   If it is a person, should you allow it to have diffferent expressions and/or positions? I would be for it, as my experience with the Nesquik Bunny is a good example. Don’t forget that, on a pack, you have a back panel where you can amplify your spokesman (Sardines Lou Ferrignade).

Last, but not least, always allow your spokesman to overlap your brand if you have limited space!


LW/November 2017

Mar 16

It’s about focusing

Posted by Wallentin in Uncategorized

The other day, I drove down to our railway station to pick up my Saturday newspapers, the Financial Times, Courrier international, Die Zeit and L’Equipe, as I’m a fan of sports.

On the way, I passed a poster that CAUGHT MY EYE, as it was simple and emotional – I could imagine myself on it. I remembered ALL I saw, the word MERCI, as well as the thanking gesture as the car stops at the pedestrian crossing!

So far, so good… but a little bit later, there were 3 posters that did not catch my eye. Nevertheless, I stopped to photograph them, as they were examples of what 90% of such outdoor posters look like. I call them “designer’s posters”, as I can imagine the designer filling a blank surface with what he or she likes, without thinking of me, the viewer.

I ask myself: when designing a poster, a pack, POS material, do we not want it to be read and understood instantly?

These 3 posters have been chosen randomly and I do not wish to comment upon them, as the reader certainly understands very well why I write these lines… with the hope that designers conceive communication not for themselves, but for the potential viewer!


LW/January 2018

Jan 11

Has Pepsi woken up?

Posted by Wallentin in Uncategorized

Dear reader, look at this design and ENJOY! Well, it can still be better, but isn’t it great to re-discover a logotype equally good as Coca-Cola? Forgive me that I have forgotten in which market I picked up this can. My wish is that this special edition becomes the new standard.

I fully understood Pepsi’s campaign many years ago which led Coca-Cola to change their recipe in the US. Not only did Pepsi have a little bit sweeter taste for the young generation, but also the design looked more modern.

But as we live in a constantly changing world, it’s high time Pepsi forget their uninteresting thin logotype in favour of the great traditional one they had once upon a time! Young consumers do appreciate today something that looks as if it had been around for a long time, especially as they have not a clue of “The Pepsi Challenge!”

I make no comments to the round icon, as it speaks to me as little as the Vittel squares… I don’t think my comments matter, as it is a strong and recognisable icon, but my philosophy is that icons should tell a story.

Let us keep our fingers crossed that this ‘special edition’ has come to stay!

LW/January 2018

Jan 06

Multi-layer materials

Posted by Wallentin in Uncategorized

This is why we need multi-layer materials and packages that weigh as little as possible

By combining different materials, it is possible to create “customised” protective packaging with the least possible material consumption, above all for foodstuffs. The most common combination is paper, plastic and aluminium foil. These materials are all good on their own, but the combination is even better. The composite materials are lighter and less resource-consuming than one single material with the same properties. Thus, the amount of waste is reduced. This is of course even more valid for flexible plastic packaging.

In general, many different properties are demanded from a package. The classical description of the main demands on a package says that it shall contain, protect and preserve, facilitate handling and use, inform and sell.

In practice, it is exceptional to find one single packaging material whose properties meet all these demands. This is the reason why much of our present-day packaging consists of multi-layer materials in the form of laminates, e.g. materials that are composed and combined in different ways.

By combining two or more materials, it is possible to build several properties into the package and to have the composite material fulfil many functions. Each separate material layer can represent one or more properties. The combination of many thin layers of different materials gives a package that provides the product the best possible protection, using the least amount of material. Compare with the “multi-layer parinciple” recommended when dressing for bad weather. You should have one windbreaking layer, one for warmth, one against moisture, etc.

X  X  X

The foundation for modern distribution

It is a fact that composite packaging materials have been of vital importance to our modern way of distributing goods. Cardboard and paper were used originally without being combined with other materials, e.g. wrapping paper, shoe boxes, cake cartons, flour bags and sweet papers, for purposes with simple functional demands.

The development of composite materials began when we learnt how to coat paper or cardboard with plastic. Now quick and reliable heat sealing (welding) could be substituted for paste and glue. The technique suddenly made it possible to pack liquids in paper! It became possible to develop different cardboard and paper based packaging solutions for new products, e.g. deep-frozen food. This also created new opportunities for rational production and distribution of food.

The self-service system and an increasing variety of products created a demand for packaging with even better protection for the products. This meant fast development towards more and more “customised” multi-layer packaging. Not only were different types of materials combined (e.g. paper, aluminium and plastic), but different plastics were also combined into materials with very advanced properties.

X  X  X

For a given product, there are often several effective packaging solutions able to perform the required functions. But some solutions are more resource efficient than others in that they use less resources.

Today, resource efficiency is a critical objective, given the Earth’s limited resources and, more generally, the World’s environmental challenges. It is at the core of the flagship initiative for a resource-efficient Europe under the Europe 2020 strategy, seeking to transform Europe’s economy into a sustainable one by 2050.

What does ‘resource efficiency’ mean exactly for packaging? This has to do with the minimal use of material and energy resources throughout its lifecycle and also the minimised amount of material leaving the cycle (i.e. not recycled).

X  X  X

The general perception is that a pack, serving the same consumption purpose with a high recycling rate, is better than a pack with zero recycling. This is not necessarily true as the packaging weight must be taken into  account.

Compare, for example a non-flexible pack weighing 50g with a recycling rate of 80% and a flexible packaging weighing 5g with the same functionality, but with zero recycling. Which pack is the more resource efficient? The flexible packaging of course! Even after recycling, the net material loss of the non-flexible packaging is 10g – twice as much as the 5g flexible pack.

X  X  X

New methods created

New materials made it possible to develop an entirely new technique for maintaining freshness and quality in foodstuffs and to facilitate cooking in microwave ovens. New improved plastics opened new possibilities. The number of layers could be increased. New techniques for the lamination of material layers made production cheap and the method of co-extruding plastics (one single work operation to combine different molten plastics) revolutionised the production of multi-layer materials. It has been established that if one single material is used instead of a laminate (= multi-layer material), the material consumption would be at least quadrupled in some cases. Also, more energy would be consumed in production and distribution and the amount of waste would increase considerably.

X  X  X

Recovery – a challenge

As can be understood, the use of multi-layer materials is highly motivated. But new demands for material recovery from household packaging waste cause an undeniable problem. Therefore, the development of new techniques for the manufacture of multi-layer materials suitable for material recovery has now become high-priority for the packaging industry. Some problems are well on the way to being solved. For example, there exists a functioning method for the separation of the polyethylene, aluminium and paper in milk and juice cartons.

It is also highly likely that it will be possible to material-recover plastic laminates. This will be enabled by the developmet of super-thin layers of newly developed barrier materials (barrier materials = materials that are impervious to gases, aromas and light). One such material is silicon oxide (in principle = glass) which is used as coating on plastic film in such thin layers that they can be disregarded when the packaging material is recovered.

If the recovery of multi-layer materials is aimed instead at energy recovery by incineration of the material in ovens where the generated heat is recovered, the multi-layer materials are an interesting resource, as they generally make splendid fuels with high energy content.

X  X  X

Alternatives on the way?

At present, interesting experiments are being conducted with multi-layer materials where one and the same plastic – but with different properties – is found in all layers. Such “mono-laminates” are easily re-cycled because, despite their many layers, they basically consist of one and the same kind of material. A good example is micro-flute corrugated board.

Other exciting trends concern wood fibre based barrier materials, similar to greaseproof paper which, in some cases, make it possible to substitute the aluminium foil in, for instance, dairy packages. Since both the basic cardboard and the barrier layer are made from cellulose, the material recovery is considerably simplified. Long-term, one can also see some development of plastic “alloys”, i.e. compounds of polymers instead of layers of different materials. Each such plastic alloy can be given desired characteristics and then be recovered as a specific material for a specific purpose. (Compare with the metal industry recovery of different metal alloys.)

There are many ideas about how problems with recovery can be solved technically. In Germany, for instance, chemical recovery to oil is one alternative.

X  X  X

Information obtained from Flexible Packaging Europe, as well as the aluminium and paper/pulp industries.

X  X  X

The 3 illustrations are randomly chosen for the following reasons:

  1. Danish Cookies: gold metal for long shelf life and to look precious, cardboard for easy handling, stockability/merchandising and appetite appeal;
  2. Fresh meat: wood for being a natural material, paper label for branding, appetite appeal, etc.
  3. Irish pork: rigid black plastic as the main tray sealed with a plastic film to be airtight for longer shelf life and cardboard wraparound label for branding and origin, as even the farmer is pictured.

LW/December 2017

Dec 11

One of the leading brands in the mineral waters category is no doubt S.Pellegrino thanks to an efficient communication translated in the slogan “Fine Dining Lovers” used for both S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna, i.e. great tables/restaurants serve S.Pellegrino!

I also like the French translation of the S.Pellegrino positioning: “synonyme de l’art de vivre à l’italienne dans le monde entier”, a bit long, but a very powerful statement.

More and more consumers prefer still water to their meal. Nestlé saw the potential of a brother/sister approach and, as far as I can see, they succeeded in so to speak replacing Vittel (Nestlé) with the brand that looks like a sister to S.Pellegrino. Acqua Panna, from the beginning quite a feminine positioning in Italy, is now standing in good restaurants next to her brother S.Pellegrino. Well done, Nestlé!

The reason why I’ve selected these two labels (the S.Pellegrino green bottle was initially a wine bottle), is that the design is at the same quality level as great wine labels, i.e. masterfully blended typography!

If I often teach simplicity (do it BIG or stay in bed), these two labels are exceptional masterpieces, like the first Julius Maggi Aroma bottle, with traditional typography that expresses QUALITY, ORIGIN and UNIQUENESS which is so important for brands for which one is ready to pay a premium price. Well, that is what I call great marketing!

X  X  X

I suggest that you visit the website of these two brands. Can layout and typography be done better? I doubt!


LW/November 2017

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