Feb 18

If I were the owner of a food and beverage company

Posted by Packaging Sense in Featured | Uncategorized

I could most likely include non-food FMCG companies, but my experience being mostly within the food and drink segment, my comments will relate to these products.

Why write this article? Well, some frustration is no doubt the driving force, as I have seen some changes, unfortunately not to the better, during the last decades.

I will cover the following 8 areas which I believe need improvement:

  • • Education;
  • • Design as a selling tool;
  • • Structure within the organisation;
  • • Legislation, ie. what must be in relation to what could be;
  • • Purchasing of design/creative work;
  • • 360° communication, i.e. the coordination within all media;
  • • Testing;
  • • Appetite appeal. We eat with our eyes.

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If we wish to have more creative solutions, faster and more efficient, we have to start with education. Young brand managers coming out of business schools (e.g. MBA) have today very little, if any, training in design and communication.  I would therefore, as early as possible, have all my marketing people trained in

  • • how to make a difference between concept and execution. With today’s overuse of the design computer, it is clear that most agencies offer several executions before even thinking/agreeing upon a concept/big idea!
  • • how to brief an agency with stimulating information and not a lot of figures;
  • • working with a highly skilled design communicator (see later) who steers them in the right direction.

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Such training is not easy to obtain, but is essential to avoid too much testing and/or personal likes or dislikes.

The 2nd area, which is linked to the 3rd, has to do with the question of where, in an organisation, I should place my design manager or unit. I personally favour a solution where, depending on the size of the organisation, you have a few skilled designers inside who understand both the technical and the marketing side of packaging and instore POS material, as these two media go hand in hand. These designers should be the link between the brand managers and the outside agencies. They are trained to judge quality, costs, efficiency and should constantly look for improvements within the packaging world, a world that evolves so fast that a brand manager has no time to be up-to-date. This or these designers should preferably also be good teachers in order to pass on their knowledge both to the brand managers and the outside agencies.

It goes without saying that I here mainly deal with the marketing side of package design. On the technical side, there are plenty of packaging engineers who receive adequate training in technical highschools or universities.

Great design, visual and verbal, makes a product more valuable. In my opinion, the abovementioned designer should therefore be placed rather high up in the organisation, as assistant to the business director or marketing manager, i.e. above brand management. Brand management decides upon what to communicate, the designer knows how to do it.

The 4th area which I’d like to discuss is how to interpret legislation. It goes without saying that what is mandatory such as ingredients, weight, last day of consumption, etc. should not be put into question. There must be a real dialogue between the legal department/regulatory affairs and the brand management. If we are in Europe where, in my opinion, there is a good legislation, we do not need to print net weight on the front and GDA is not obligatory. A brand manager should always challenge his or her legal advisor if we wish to give clearer and common sense communication to our consumers!

My 5th point is the one where I should like to make a real change and that is WHO BUYS CREATIVE DESIGN WORK TODAY? The purchasing department can issue the purchase order, but it must be the abovementioned design manager who negotiates and agrees with the outside design agency about price and delivery date, leaving the door open to corrections which are unavoidable. It is practically impossible to fix a precise price on something which only exists in the mind of people when the job starts. There must obviously be a roof, a sum that can be fixed. But the way up to this roof, i.e. the costs of the various steps, must be flexible.

Now, if the supplier cannot meet the agreement, there are other agencies waiting for an opportunity. This being said, I’m totally against pitching and only believe in long term business relationship, especially nowadays, when brand managers change job quite often, more often it seems than designers in agencies…

My 6th advice is to always see package design in a larger context. It is surprising for me to learn that all the big companies I have worked for during the last 7-8 years deal with packaging separately from other media! For me, there is only one solution. The Big Idea, the concept, can come from almost anyone or any unit, but the development of this idea must be done in teamwork between the design agency, the POS agency, the advertising agency, etc. There must be synergy, meaning economy. Here again, I would like to see the design manager coordinate this to achieve a good result.

The 7th area is about testing? I would test concepts, I would test specific parts of a piece of communication, but I would never ask consumers what they think about my pack or my ad? How can they know? Research is necessary to find out pros and cons, likes or dislikes, but no consumer in the world can give a good answer about my pack design. The knowledge of how to design a pack, i.e. the structure and hierarchy, must be the role of the marketing manager to decide upon with the help of the designer.

Last, but not least, I would spend money in order to get all my illustrations more than outstanding! I would invest in seminars about food styling for those in my organisation who decide upon photography and design. Do not understimate the value of great appetite appeal… just look at the Magnum print ad or at a Mars TVC and you’ll understand what I mean! The right combination ‘photographer and food stylist’ (be it a drink or solid food), is among the best investment a marketeer can do. I don’t think you ever can over-pay an illustration that makes your mouth water!

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Good companies master many of the above advice, but I believe the role of a key design manager is more than ever essential and cannot be underestimated!

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