Oct 11

Surprise, or you will not be seen, i.e. bought

Posted by Packaging Sense in Advertising | Design | Uncategorized

In order to set the scene and emphasise why ‘surprising the consumer’ is so important, I have chosen a few quotations I’ve read during my 50 years in the business of designing packaging, POS material, advertising and other media:

  • If you don’t surprise, you do nothing (unknown);
  • Surprise is the greatest gift which life can grant us (Boris Pasternak);
  • When in doubt, surprise them (unknown);
  • To succeed you have to conform enough (Peter Brabeck);
  • To succeed we must stop being so goddamn normal (Funky Business by Nordström-Ridderstrale);
  • Being right can stop all the momentum of a very surprising idea (Robert Rauschenberg);
  • In order to create new products, jobs and wealth, you have to have the spirit of an artist. You have to accept fantasy and be open to all ideas. You have to be a little rebellious, but not an enemy to the society (Nicolas Hayek.

Well now, here are my 12 advice:

  • Be different
  • Embrace fantasy
  • Be emotional rather than rational
  • Allow humour
  • Amplify the icon
  • Favour a symbolic language
  • Underpromise – overdeliver!
  • Exaggerate appetite appeal/appearance
  • Include art in the design
  • Exaggerate the RTB/USP
  • Design a unique shape
  • Prioritise your website

1. Be different

My favourite is the Pentaward winner Kleenex Special Summer Edition from USA. Not only did they change the standard rectangular shape, but they also added illustrations which, at first sight, were totally unrelated to the product.

2. Embrace fantasy

What market does this better than the British? There are many examples from Tyrrell’s chips. My wife always drinks her coffee ‘naked’, i.e. without sugar nor cream… so the ‘naked chips’ are no doubt without salt. Bravo! What a daring illustration!

3. Be as emotional as possible

The Nivea brand does this in an excellent manner. The symbol they mostly use is the heart, and so do Milka and Mon Chéri!

4. Allow humour!

The British people are the masters and my choice is the thick Yorkie chocolate bar which increased in sales when the text “Not for girls” was added, as well as the traffic sign “forbidden”.

5. Amplify the icon

I have no idea how many times I have advised companies to amplify the icon/spokesman which is often more powerful than the logotype. We are living in a visual world so it only makes sense! Kellogg’s is working in this direction, amplifying the cockerel, Tony the Tiger, etc.

6. Favour a symbolic language

Symbols travel all over the world and are, if correctly used and not too ‘sophisticated’, the best communication tool in packaging, advertising and POS. The strength of Tabasco could not be expressed in a better way!

7. Underpromise – Overdeliver!

… is what Tom Peters taught me. What sample could I select if not the carton tub IKEA use for their meatballs in their food section? It just says Meatballs and shows the Swedish flag. And my gosh are they delicious!

8. Exaggerate appearance and/or appetite appeal

Don’t lie, but push it to the limit! Because if you don’t do it, your competitors will. I’m not sure the Ritter hazelnut bar has that many nuts, but does it matter? There are many enough inside. Cindy Crawford once said: “Even I don’t wake up looking like Cindy Crawford.” Yes, make up or food styling is a must today! The decoration on the McCafé cappuccino is another good example.

9. Include art

Whenever possible, add an artistic touch to surprise the consumer! You make your design more difficult to copy, different and thus unique (see below).

10. Exaggerate the RTB/USP

If you whisper, you do not surprise! You have to shout out the key word, be it natural, creamy or, as the illustration shows, “SORRY…”

11. Design a unique shape

Yes, it will most likely cost more. Yes, it will be a bit more ‘complicated’ both in the production, as well as on the shelf… but it surprises! Great package design will not happen on a Tetra Pak, but on a moulded glass bottle such as the Ragu!

11. Prioritise your website

Until the markets wake up and understand that most consumers, today, want to contact the brand for more information, highlight your site as does Nestlé Dessert, the most purchased chocolate on the French market. The QR code is today a must in markets with smartphones.


Hope these advice are useful!

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