Feb 20

Can Sampling be better?

Posted by Wallentin in Advertising

A pack can be primary or secondary, but it can even be an advent calendar!

Before Christmas, I saw a lot of them, mostly containing chocolate and other sweets.

Now and then, in life, you fall on something exceptional and that’s what I did at the beginning of last December. My attention got caught by a fascinating calendar and I could’nt resist buying it. What did I find inside if not a collection of Sephora’s products for half the price, as it was December the 3rd. The more windows I opened together with my daughter, the more I was impressed by this type of sampling.

I will, of course, never know if this calendar was a success for Sephora, but one thing is sure, I can see the potential of ‘sampling advent calendars’ that offer a bit more than just molded chocolate pieces!


LW/February 2017

Oct 25

Is it your aim to sell?

Posted by Packaging Sense in Advertising | Uncategorized

Being a consultant is great. You learn to know new people every day and you have the chance to analyse how brand managers and designers ‘operate’ together. What strikes me most is their apparent lack of interest in making  the pack, the ad or the POS really SELLING the product!

I think that many brand managers are too company-centered and believe that just a big brand will do the job.

Many designers’ main interest is to design a ‘nice pack’ according to their own perception. So what I teach mostly these days is the copywriting part of efficient communication.

The other day, when looking for inspiration, I fell on a website called WordStream where I borrowed some ideas. Here are four examples:

  1. Give the consumer a reason why she should buy your product;
  2. Use words that provoke emotion or enthusiasm;
  3. Don’t be afraid to be more creative and, above all, surprise!
  4. Use numbers when possible, as they are instantly understood.

I’ll give here some examples in order to change information into communication:

  1. from “NEW” to “finally available”
  2. from “free” to FREEE!!
  3. from 38g to 10 pieces
  4. from “reduction” to “save now”
  5. from “offer” to “buy now”
  6. from “guarantee to

LW/October 2016

Sep 14

Brand vs. Company

Posted by Packaging Sense in Advertising | Uncategorized

Brand vs. Company in the food and drink world

I’ve had the great advantage and pleasure to work for almost 40 years for Nestlé. During that time, I have regularly been asked to explain the difference between a brand and a company or, in other words, between a product brand and a corporation.

As any marketeer well knows, brands in general can be classified in categories and companies use different terminologies such as

– sub brand
– product brand
– range brand
– corporate brand
– strategic brand
– descriptive brand
– endorsing brand, etc.
They appear on the front as logotypes and can be of various sizes or strength.

Any marketeer also knows the difference between the two brand approaches:

a) Nestlé or Unilever, for instance, often use a corporate and a product brand, ex. Mousline from Maggi (dual branding);
b) Mars never use a corporate brand (single branding).

The reason why I write this article is that I found, the other day, a very interesting example: Tetley tea from TATA GOBAL BEVERAGES with Tetley as a logotype on the front and TATA both as a corporate logotype and the product division “TATA GLOBAL BEVERAGES” on the back. This makes me believe that the management at TATA, as well as (to a certain extent) Nestlé and Unilever have not yet found the best balance between a product brand and the company behind it (see later).

I’d like to explain that a product brand which in the consumer’s eye is a creation to express a certain positioning stands, in this case, for taste, but it can also stand for other product experiences such as crunchy, salty, sweet, i.e. real values and perceived values like young (Coca-Cola) fashionable (Innocent) or extreme (Red Bull).

However, a corporate identity, showing the company behind a brand as for instance Nestlé with their nest symbol and TATA with their “T” symbol stand for values such as trust, quality, local, global, i.e. values which can be both real or perceived and different to the above product values.

In the years to come, I hope we will no doubt see a stronger and explanatory information of the company on the back panel (avoiding complicated dual or triple branding on the front), as consumers want to know who is behind a certain brand and which values this company has. No doubt Nestlé will increase their nest and explain what “nutrition, health and wellness” mean and Unilever their “U” also explaining to the consumers what their company believes in.


Aug 17

Be proud!

Posted by Packaging Sense in Advertising | Uncategorized

YES, be proud of your brand! Because without a brand, you don’t exist. So when you communicate, be it by advertising, packaging or in-store information, see to it that the consumer cannot avoid seeing your brand. Thus, in most cases, the brand must be a disturbing element.

Why do I say this today, when it is so obvious in modern marketing and brand building? Well, it looks as if many of my colleagues in marketing seem to have forgotten this element, especially in advertising, be it print, TV or even outdoor.

The reason I bring it up today is that Ford has recently had two campaigns for their GT and Mustang cars, creating two ads I just couldn’t miss, although I’m not a car aficionado.

In this context, it is worth questioning why so few advertisers use the full TV screen in their communication. That is why I give you here a Coca-Cola ad which, in its simplicity, communicates
– strong branding
– maximum appetite appeal and no other elements! In other words, back to basics.

As this site is mostly about packaging, I profit to mention the latest Schweppes ad which shows

a) only the interesting part of the pack, i.e. the bottle
b) the bottle open, i.e. the ‘taste’ is let out
c) very little text
d) a layout with a bull’s eye effect
e) highest contrasting colours, blue vs. yellow for maximal impact.


I’d like to sum up this article with an advice I got around 1970 at a design conference in London by the man who, at that time, was one of the world’s leading designers, Irv Koons. He said: “When you have finished your design, then make your brand 20% bigger!”

LW/August 2016

May 19

Henry went modern!

Posted by Packaging Sense in Advertising | Uncategorized

… was it a good decision? I’ll find out next time I am in Ireland!

Many of you have certainly read my article about Henry Keogh in Oughterard, the real salesman! I was back in Henry’s shop a couple of days ago and what did I find? Henry had changed his handwritten messages to nicely printed ones!

Yes, Henry was so pleased with my article and therefore thought he could do even better, but I believe Henry made two mistakes…

First, he doubled the number of signs which has the effect of diluting the most important messages. Learning: concentrate on a few, but make them even stronger! At least that is my experience.

Second, the messages are now all nicely printed, i.e. not produced in Henry’s own handwriting. Learning: a handwritten message is more personal, thus more convincing than a mass-produced printed one!

So next time I’m back in Connemara, Henry and I will have a discussion about communication, over a Guinness… or two, as I’d like to learn more from the salesman Henry!

LW/May 2015

Dec 03

The HaHaHa Pentaward

Posted by Packaging Sense in Advertising | Uncategorized

One day, I was sitting with my old friends Brigitte and Jean Jacques Evrard, chatting about humour, one of our favourite topics. I mentioned that humour seems to have no place in today’s business world. Digitalisation has made us so efficient that there is no time to lay back, think and smile. So Jean Jacques said: “Why don’t we give a special award for the most funny pack and you are the chief jury?” Said and done!

Here we are, a year later, with Springetts’ great creation “Just Laid”. For those who were not in Tokyo and don’t know the reasons why this design was chosen among several other funny packs, here they are in a nutshell:

  1. a great, very balanced calligraphic logotype;
  2. a funny word with two meanings;
  3. a well-chosen colour scheme;
  4. a simple layout with little text;
  5. a great technical solution: press behind to open;
  6. it’s not vulgar;
  7. This solution may not have been 100% according to briefing. An agency should always do better than a briefing;
  8. Yes, it is a concept only, but Pentawards are there to promote any creative pack design.

Today’s business world seems to me to have become less creative due to best practice, guidelines and the “middle management syndrome” (i.e. take no risks). It is therefore refreshing that a contest like the Pentawards can promote highly creative solutions such as “Just Laid”!


Mar 19

The origin of raw materials such as cacao or coffee is one way of promoting a country or region. This is done quite often, be it with or without quality seals as “Café de Colombia” or “Rainforest Alliance Certified”.

Packages which promote a city or a country do now and then appear as promotions during sports and other cultural events or for centenary celebrations.

This time I looked at packages both sold tax free in airports or in down town supermarkets. I’ve chosen 4 ‘destinations’: Dublin, Hong Kong, Thailand and Ansterdam.

As the design style for this type of packages needs art to heighten the value and hopefully make them to collectors’ items, I obviously like Bewley’s from Dublin least as it is a bit too ‘simple’.

So let us have a look at Neuhaus Amsterdam which takes you on a trip by boat or on a bicycle to see the famous tulips. It is interesting to notice that no product illustration appears on the front (but obviously on the back!). Same can be said in the case of the Hong Kong confectionary. This pack is today hanging on our wall in the living as we see it as a painting!

The collection of the 4 Thai Heart Made packs is a great example of storytelling packages. It can be noticed that these designs sell first the products, then the Thai landscapes and only in the third position the brand as it plays a minor role when packs are sold as memory gifts. I find the balance between food photography and illustration particularly good, seeing the product well placed in the foreground.

Package design is often referred to as folk art. These examples no doubt confirm this!

Jan 26

One of the most important activities for a marketing specialist is to learn what competitors are doing.

The curious marketing person thus constantly looks at what happens in the shops, be it supermarkets, kiosks or the “7-Eleven” types of corner shops.

We call this “store-checking”, quite a tiresome activity, as it demands a lot from your brain when analysing not only display activities, but equally look at back panels, secondary packaging or other product categories than food and drinks. Why other categories? Because that is where you pick up ideas! It’s called “cross-fertilisation”, i.e. enrichment of knowledge.

It is obviously important to know what the direct competitors are doing, but we are not in business to copy them, unless you are a Chinese company!

How do you discover for instance a trend? Well, we can take Innocent smoothies as a good example as their approach to communication on packaging proved that if you make your communication INTERESTING, the consumer will notice it and read it. What does this mean in marketing terms? … that the bond between the brand and the consumer has been strengthened, which in the long term is far more important than for instance advertising. Well, we obviously have to do it all if we wish to increase our business, i.e. advertising, POS, package communication, website, secondary packaging communication (e.g. shippers), etc.

It is a bit surprising to see how few companies have been inspired by Innocent, well even by ARLA in Sweden who have a similar contact with their consumers since some 20-30 years.

The French company Michel & Augustin was inspired, but unfortunately made the same mistake as most companies/brands do today, i.e. too much information, thus arriving at too small texts which do not invite to be read as today’s free dailies (e.g. Metro) which are the best examples of great communication.

When store checking, you furthermore have the possibility to put questions to consumers when they pick up a pack, be it your own brand or the competitor’s. The best market research at no extra cost! And then you yourself have the chance to taste or to use the products you pick up and learn from… Bon appétit!

Oct 29

Typographic pack design

Posted by Packaging Sense in Advertising | Design | Uncategorized

When art and the practice of typography joined forces with the invention of movable type and the printing press in the 15th centry, who could then foresee such a fantastic development, which was going to be amplified with the arrival of the digitalisation? Calligraphy, also used in pack design, is of course even older and if we go further back in time, we find the Chinese proverb “a picture is worth a thousand words”. And this is exactly what this article is about! Can typography ‘paint’ a picture on the front of the pack to tell a great story? Yes, in the manner of the “LOVE” art by Robert Indiana, first as a Christmas card in 1964 and then as a sculpture in 1970.

In my collection of interesting packages collected over some 50 years, I’ve selected a few samples which I appreciate for various reasons, be it readability, creativity, surprise, beauty, structure or elegance. My samples come mainly from the Latin alphabet, although similar designs may be found in other writing systems such as Arabic, Cyrillic, Hebrew, Indic script or East Asian signs.

Let it be said loud and clear: the words put together must have both a verbal and a visual story to tell in order to achieve impact!

Maggi Liquid Seasoning (1909)
This masterpiece should never have been tampered with and should have kept its original design following the example of S. Pellegrino, an icon within the world of label design. With each redesign, the Maggi label has become worse and worse and is today a bland copy of the original one. Here I would use the excellent German expression “Verschlimmbesserung”!

I profit to say that by using the three colours red, yellow and black, as well as different type faces, you can easily get the following information:

  • is unique
  • for every kitchen
  • is unbeatable
  • Nobile quia optimum (= known because the best), in Latin to underline the uniqueness
  • ingredients, etc.

(The illustration is a modernised special edition of the original label).

Savon de Marseille
Here is another iconic design which I hope will never be modernised! The soap is in a typical cubic shaped pack on which one can read the whole story of its production. Unique is the word I would use for this typographic design!

Diet Coca-Cola
Let us make a huge step forward in time and admire Turner Duckworth’s highly contemporary design which was foreseen as a special edition, but was so appreciated by the consumers that it became the new standard for Diet Coke in the U.S. The rest of the world is today leaning towards the black Coca-Cola Zero. Can typography be more dynamic, unique and contemporary? I doubt!

Michel & Augustin biscuit packs
In 2004, inspired by the innocent fruit drinks, Michel & Augustin, les trublions du goût (taste troublemakers) started a whole new style of communication by using neither typography, nor calligraphy, but simple clear handwriting on their packages. Call it what you want, but for me this is an excellent example of

  • breaking away and being different;
  • using a language which the young consumer target appreciates as it is non-industrial.

Right now, the Michel & Augustin products can be found from Russia to Singapore, including even yoghurts (Vache à boire, i.e. Cow to drink), desserts, etc. In 2010, Michel & Augustin obtained the Prix Phénix for good communication, ahead of both McDonald’s and Evian!

Let us stop here for a moment, as www.packagingsense.com is about packaging communication, more than package design. What conclusions can we draw before we continue? Well, there is a great future for those package designers who include copywriting and typography in their toolbox to design great packages. One day, they might even improve the back, i.e. service panels which are still disastrous when it comes to layout, amount of text, typography and comprehension! I’ll continue with 10 more interesting examples from my own toolbox:

The Hottest Fuckin’ Sauce (Figueroa Brothers)
Surprise! Surprise! … which makes the consumer read the whole text on the front that ends with the sentence “there is no better verbal therapy”. You may find the complete text if you go to their website, or buy the product!

Braised Pork (Russia)
I often go to Moscow to teach, as Russia seems to still be lagging behind the West when it comes to

  • the quality of the design;
  • the communication

I do not speak Russian and cannot read the text, but I have learned some of the cyrillic letters and am therefore of the opinion that to have all letters of equal height makes it less legible than the Latin alphabet with its ascending and descending letters. I may be wrong. Here is a label that says something like “great product”, “braised pork”, “extra”, “superior quality”… Unfortunately, the quality of this typography does not live up to these words.

Le Rustique
It is in fact quite easy to communicate tradition. First you just have to choose the right material(s) and then a typography that is hot stamped, i.e. burnt, together with a quality seal. Great simple design!

Petits-Beurre de Lorient
Yes, tradition is easy to represent as there are so many symbols to use in order to express a time passed. And isn’t food often something very traditional? I think this design has the right typefaces and decorative elements.

Domino’s Handmade PAN PIZZA
Certainly more than 50 years separate Albert Ménès’ Petits-Beurre and Domino’s Pizza pack, but what a difference in communication! Domino has always been creative with their packages. This one beats most of what I’ve seen until now! Full of fun facts and emphasis on the RTB as for instance “never-frozen dough”. Go to their website and learn more!

Compagnia dell’Arabica coffee
As a stamp collector, this design easily falls into my toolbox as the typography is so well chosen both on the stamp and on the pack. It is elegant design that expresses quality and it is timeless!

John & John No 1
Good choice of typogaphy (in a series of numbers). You may feel the pleasure the designer had when he carefully ‘filled the surface’ with the typography he liked. Congratulations!

McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes
An article such as this one would not be complete if I didn’t mention the revolutionary design, some years ago, by Williams Murray Hamm which, I believe, has been redesigned since. Can typography be used more effectively? I say “NO”!

MIGROS Budget Range
Typography can be used to express many things, from quality to tradition. These designs caught my attention as they cleverly combine the oblique quality pattern with a simple product denomination in a sans-serif typeface. Budget is furthermore designed in a cheap manner. Great communication!

Adams’ Infinity Chiclets chewing-gum
This is great design to express an ‘endless – eternal – perpetual TASTE’! When I write about typography, i.e. letters, I obviously include figures as well as signs. These small packs are real masterpieces! It is surprising to analyse this product category and see how creative the design agencies are, because the space is limited…

Zoega’s Forza!
Last, but not least, here is another of my favourits from which we have a lot to learn. Not only the concentration on one letter as done by McDonald’s or Kellogg’s (Special K), it is the way the letter has been designed to express something – and this is what this article is all about! The flames, together with the word “Forza!” and the Swedish words “eldig och kraftfull, extra mörkrost” (fiery and powerful, extra dark roasted) are telling a great story. Congratulations to Nestlé Sweden who did not ‘spoil’ this front with unnecessary information such as net weight, GDA, etc. which belong to the back panel!

I hope you’ve had some pleasure and learning from these examples chosen at random. I’m sure there are many more packs out there on the supermarket shelves. Just go and have a look!

Oct 11

The killing of 7 myths

Posted by Packaging Sense in Advertising | Design | Uncategorized

First: you have to show your pack in your ad…

No! It’s not necessary, as most consumers are not interested in what your pack looks like. An ad has to show your brand identity and tell what you are selling; all additional elements are just overloading the message. Advertising is about convincing who you are, what you do and where to find you.

Second: There is only one way to show the GDA…

No! First of all, there is no legislation about GDA, so you do not necessarily have to show it either on the front or the back. This being said, I am positive to the GDA for certain products. The illustration shows how Jordans do it on their cereal pack.

Three: Recycle whenever you can!

We have only one Earth, so we better take care of it. Recycling material is one of many disciplines we should all learn at school as early as possible. However, recycling for instance small coffee capsules or plastic bags/tubs in a country like Switzerland does not really make sense as we have a very efficient incineration system which, in addition, produces energy.

Ecology is mostly about energy and here the coin has many sides, depending upon where you live. It’s about transport which is energy consuming and about the separation or different materials.

Fourth: The corporate (or product) brand must be in the upper left hand corner, on the front of a pack.

I don’t know who first stated this. Yes, we start reading a book up left, but a pack is something different. It’s about selling, convincing and interest. Here the rules are different. If you have a so-called corporate brand, it must be in close proximity to the product brand and as disturbing as possible, so it can be below, above, on top, etc.

Fifth: People do not read back panels or people do read back panels.

Both statements are basically wrong! Pretending that nearly all consumers read the nutritional information is, in my opinion, based on market research where most likely the consumers, when questioned whether they read this information, will answer yes, they do. But they will most certainly only read what they understand, like for instance calories or ‘gluten free’.

The fact is that most people do not read back panels because they are boring! It is a pity that most designers and  brand managers are satisfied with the designing of the front and little attention is given to the other sides.

Sixth: You need the logotype and the product name on the back.

Why? When you have picked up the pack, you know what you have in your hands and, during my regular store checks, I see no packs that are placed the wrong way round.

Seventh: There is a standard size for the barcode.

Yes and no. There is a minimal size in relation to print quality, contrast, etc. but the code, if it answers the above criteria, can be as big as you like. I personally like the Kellogg’s barcode that can be read on several sides of the pack, or the Mackmyra Whisky from Sweden made from barley.

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