Nov 28

How to reduce frustration

Posted by Packaging Sense in Advertising | Design | Uncategorized

Is there anything more frustrating than when your (great) design is turned down because it is not liked? In fact, this is one of many reasons why so few great, surprising and memorable designs see the light!

There are basically two culprits:

  1. the designer himself is not a sufficiently good salesman;
  2. the responsible person did, for whatever reason, not participate in the creative development or is not a visual person.

I here take the pen to try to give some advice, especially as I myself have been frustrated several times, seeing so many great ideas being eliminated.

Let us start with the designer. Most of them are highly visual, but little verbal. If on top of that the designer does not realize that the person in front does not see the same thing, we will surely have a delicate situation! I therefore suggest that all package and graphic designers learn the basics of verbal communication by studying ads, reading books (a good book to read is Carmine Gallo’s “The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs”), writing prose or just ‘doodling with words’. You must learn how to explain in simple words why you did what when you present your designs.

This has to be done stepwise. Do not present the final design without having first ‘sold’ the various elements, be it

  • • brand identity:
  • • RTB;
  • • illustration:
  • • backpanel story, etc.

Now over to the ‘judge’, the person who will take the final decision, hopefully on the basis of previous marketing experience and not on a package test with consumers. The consumers will never know what is best for your company or your company’s future! If you are not a highly visual manager, I suggest you refrain from taking a decision without consulting an expert in the matter. I recognize this is difficult as we all believe to be experts in communication and design!

Here is my advice: The person who takes the final decision should do this together with the designer who actually did the job. This is seldom the case today in big companies with many management layers. If the decision maker is not in complete agreement with the outcome, the designer can most likely instantly do the correction. If the designer is not present, there is a risk that comments will be distorted on the way.

Let’s hope the above can be of some interest!

Oct 31

Do you have a pattern?

Posted by Packaging Sense in Advertising | Trends | Uncategorized

I have always found that an icon is superior to a logotype as the icon is usually more emotional. An icon can be an animal (e.g. a Tiger), a graphical device (e.g. the Swoosh), a person (e.g. Uncle Bens), etc. The icon which I’d like to promote today is ‘the pattern’.

The reason for promoting the pattern is that it is probably the most efficient communication tool through all media. I thought of it the other day in Malmö, Sweden, when I saw the shipping cartons for Cloetta KEX, the wafer chocolate which, in my opinion, is less good than KitKat, but which has an identity far superior to KitKat as it explains the product. If only KitKat could better exploit their unique break idea!

The brand in Europe that best employs a pattern, in fact a very simple one, is certainly Bonne Maman. You find it to the right, to the left, on top, etc. The efficiency lies in the fact that the pattern is the brand and can therefore be used even on the lids.

A pattern I like is the repetition of the brand logotype. I call it “Gucci Gucci Gucci” and one who

uses it to the maximum is the Swiss retailer Migros for their Budget range. Not bad to use a symbol you usually find for super-premium brands on a low-price range. Chapeau!

Speaking of using the brand as a pattern, why not use your product? IKEA’s biscuit pack is a wonderful example!

Mars has recently added stripes in order to highten interest and make their flat-coloured background more attractive. Well done!

The most recent examples of using a pattern to increase visibility in print media are no doubt the Nespresso Pixie and Schweppes’ fruit (Agrum’) soft drinks. But why not exploit these two pattern better on the machine vs. the label?
Synergy effect is Economy!

Oct 03

Be top-of-mind

Posted by Packaging Sense in Advertising | Bottles | Trends | Uncategorized

… thanks to creative package design.

Let it be said straight from the beginning: Don’t play around with your identity, nor with your package design! You will only water down your identity, tamper upon brand image and maybe even destroy your price policy.

By changing a part of your pack design in order to increase the attraction of your product, you may achieve any of these improvements:

  • • strengthening the brand
  • • perceived added value
  • • reinforcement of the positioning
  • • seen as more contemporary
  • • better communication

This can also be achieved with promotional activities as done in a category like breakfast cereals. But a promotion can be a risky business if you don’t coordinate it properly.

To do something with your package design is not risky and costs you only new artwork, new printing plates or cylinders. Why do I say that it is less risky… because if you have found out how your present design is perceived, seen and appreciated, you will know which part of it is untouchable and which one you can vary. If the design is changed in the right direction as is often the case with the Toblerone triangular pack or the round Nivea cream tin, then you are strengthening your brand in the consumer’s mind. You may call what you do “a special edition” to increase the perceived value, but this is not necessary. What is important is that the consumer gets a feeling for a certain urgency, i.e. if she doesn’t buy the product now, it will be too late when she visits the shop next time.

What you do to your design must also be seen as an improvement or as added value. This is why ‘playing around’ is strictly forbidden!

Having followed some companies over the years, I have come to the conclusion that they must have found out that such controlled changes must be profitable!

As I write these lines in June 2011 the Cannes film festival has just ended, but I am reminded of its importance as I drink my S. Pellegrino “Hommage à la dolce vita”. I thought it would be impossible to do such a thing to an iconic label as S. Pellegrino, but no, it was a success! As was last year’s version with the Missoni labels. These two examples show that if you have a clear and simple positioning as S. Pellegrino has, such changes will enhance the brand and make it even more appreciated, and valuable!

Apart from Toblerone, Nivea or Kinder who in principle don’t change their product, I should like to mention here the Ritter seasonal designs. I recently bought a “Summer Delight 2011” Stracciatella, unfortunately not an attractive label design, but clearly a special edition they did to make the Ritter brand stay top-of-mind during the Summer season when less chocolate is purchased.

To those who will have a try at changing their design, I can give the following advice:

  • • Find out the consumer’s view on the design which may be very different to your own view as to identity and communication.
  • • Make the change so big that it is immediately noticed.
  • • Focus on the brand’s positioning!
  • • Try to add humour. If the consumer smiles when she sees your pack, you have a winner!
  • • Don’t be afraid to overlap even your logotype. See what TIME, ELLE, etc. do every week.
  • • Stay within the colour-scheme you have. Don’t add new colours!
  • • Make it unique. Surprise!
  • • Plan it well in advance so you have time to check if you are within the positioning limits.

Now, just do it!

Aug 16

Many products have reached their maturity and cannot really be improved upon. Examples of such products in the food and drink business are

Toblerone
S. Pellegrino
Coca Cola
KitKat, etc.

In order to increase sales, brand managers love to develop line extensions, i.e. mostly new flavours.

If not well done, meaning that the so-called line extension cannot have a life of its own such as for instance Coca Cola Zero, this line extension waters down the main product and is costly as it means one more SKU to deal with, i.e. spending time and money to achieve volume.

Coca Cola learned the expensive lesson when they changed their recipe some decades ago. Luckily they did not follow up outside USA. Well, as the attentive reader has already understood, it is with creative and interesting package design changes that a product can become top-of-mind and thus continue its market positioning and maybe even improve market share, volume and or profitability.

I haved already, in different articles, spoken of Toblerone and how they constantly create special package editions to stimulate sales and so does Coca Cola. The illustrations speak for themselves. The Breakfast cereals category is also very dynamic, but here it is a matter of promotions and not package design changes of the standard product. Evian has constantly special editions and so has Perrier. Other big brands who work like this are NIVEA, not to forget Kleenex with its now famous triangular pack that was elected the pack of the year 2010 by Pentawards. The latest edition, i.e. the cake pack in the serie “Divine Desserts” is shown below.

In my opinion it is not good marketing to do simultaneously line-extensions and new pack designs as ABSOLUT has been doing for a time. I was totally lost last time I looked at the display in the Copenhagen Airport. In my opinion this does not strengthen a brand.

As brand and product managers will most likely work on the product and the communication, it is our job in the package design world to be more proactive and suggest to our clients (without waiting for a briefing) new creative ideas for the package design. To do this you need a lot of lateral thinking which is our strength as we are likely to look at all product categories in the supermarket. Salvador Dali said that “those who do not want to imitate anything produce nothing”. That is why it is so important to ‘steal ideas’ from other product categories!

Jul 08

Know your media!

Posted by Packaging Sense in Advertising | Design | Uncategorized


You can never do everything in life, you have to choose! Life is about constantly deciding where to go and how to go about it. From my article “Total Communication” you have already learned that in packaging you must be best in category, while in outdoor advertising you have to basically only do branding.

The other day when passing by the billboard next to my home I could take the following photo:

Well, it speaks for itself. Congratulations to the Kraft people who have fully understood how to maximize communication in this, I should say, fascinating media. For the non-French readers, it says: “turn, lick, dip… only OREO”, i.e. key words, simple, big enough and the brand only once, but big! Furthermore, maximal contrast and obviously the blue brand colour.

The ad next to inviting to visit the museums in the region by night have all the mistakes you can make in this media.

This site is about packaging, so what can we then maximize in this media? Well, it depends on the category, but what I wish to express here is that 90% of packages have too much information! Quite a high figure. By reading the other articles on this site you will find out how to do it. Good luck!

Jul 06

Some advice to agencies

Posted by Packaging Sense in Advertising | Design | Uncategorized

Some advice to agencies how to sell package design ideas

  1. Surprise from the beginning with a small part of your study to whet the appetite.
  2. Repeat the main objectives one by one.
  3. Show the key visuals and verbals one by one and explain how and why they meet the objectives.
  4. Then show the design you want to sell before other alternatives, if you have any. Do not let the client choose.
  5. Always show a carton pack in volume, i.e. front plus the two side panels as this is the way it will be seen in reality.
  6. Then show your design in other media, i.e. total communication.
  7. Use interesting typography and short big texts.
  8. Use a flipchart to draw and underline key issues as you go along. It is more involving than power-point.
  9. Choose the key words you will use and take time to prepare your presentation in order to make it as short as possible. Did not Pascal say: “If I had more time I would have written you a short letter.”
  10. Thank your client for the time he has given you.
May 30

Advertising Advice

  • • Typography in advertising:
  • – avoid reverse type
  • – avoid script
  • – avoid too long lines
  • – avoid trendy typefaces
  • – avoid fat typo if message is light
  • • Most of the consumers will only see picture + headline + brand and do not read body copy.
  • • A poster should have maximum 3 elements (2 would be even better).
  • • Important: word and picture should not say the same, but achieve interest thanks to tension/intrigue/surprise, i.e. a dynamic situation.
  • • Don’t do the expected!
  • • Advertising only works when the consumer discovers something relevant.
  • • Say the same thing over and over again… just in a different way.
  • • In an advertisement always show the package with imagination.
  • • A poster has no time to explain itself.
  • • If you establish a strong emotional link between the brand and the consumer:
  • • you’re increasing the brand loyalty;
  • • the consumer is willing to pay a premium price.
  • • Advertising style is an essential element of brand personality. It has to be consistent.
  • • Advertising has to be ‘entertaining’ because the public expects it to be.
  • • Advertising is not about ‘sending messages’, but ‘establishing contacts’.
  • • No two markets are the same, but lifestyles are the same in all markets.
  • • Pauses are illusions… it makes your mind imagine things that give you a fuller/richer message.
  • • Big ideas are born as good ideas and then grown into big ideas by working on and nurturing them over a period of time.
  • • A brand manager should not be judged on how much he changes advertising or packaging, but on how much he improves and develops the existing ones!
  • • True originality is a risk… take it!
  • • A strong brand can make a product literally taste better than another.
  • • A strong brand carries with it added values in the consumer’s mind.


Packaging Advice

  • • Consider packaging as the best communication medium.
  • • Design for the consumer first, for the legal, technical and other people second.
  • • Watch out for wrong savings! A white shipper is great, selling graphics (2-4 colours) cost very little more than a one-colour brown box.
  • • Don’t forget the tactile role of packaging.
  • • Think total packaging, i.e. retail package plus display and shipper.
  • • Big branding is a must. It is important to be seen.
  • • Reduce the amount of text!
  • • Always question if you have the best solution. What was best yesterday may not be good enough today.
  • • Update continuously.
  • • Packaging is teamwork (designer, product manager, copywriter, purchasing, production/technical/legal people).
  • • The cheapest solution seldom adds value.
  • • Exploit modern technical possibilities and print in seams, under seams, close to photocells, etc. Don’t take a ‘no’ for a ‘no’ from your technical advisor; there is a difference between what a package engineer wants and what a consumer would like to see or not.
  • • Strive for less colours. Practically everything can be printed in 4 colours.
  • • Try to switch from rotogravure to flexography to save money.
  • • Improve the intensity/strength of the inks used for brand colours. It increases impact. The Pantone number should be considered as the reference, not necessarily the ultimate.
  • • Interpret the legislation more creatively. We are often more driven by what we can’t do rather than what could be done. Bring technical and marketing people together at the conceptual stage of a project in order to avoid a “no, it can’t be done” later on.
  • • Use only the best opening device (tearstrip or thumb-press). Always indicate how to easily open/cut a sachet.
  • • Start with the ‘big one’ on the front panel and then design the rest in order of importance (information hierarchy is a must).
  • • Analyze if a ‘portrait’ design would not be better than a ‘landscape’ or the opposite.
  • • Embossing of brands or illustrations are today achieved without extra costs on cardboard.
  • • Trays and shippers are today too technically- and cost-driven. Make them advertising-driven.
  • • We do not work enough with ‘loaded words’, i.e. action oriented texts. Don’t just print statements! Think communication, not just information.
  • • The tactile role of packaging materials is important. Does your package ‘feel’ good?
  • • We must be more pro-active in package development to avoid the need for more than 4 approval visas (marketing, trademark, legal, technical) before a package goes to print.
  • • Collect ‘best in category’ packages as inspiration. You learn from the masters (bench-marking).


The 5 myths in Advertising and Packaging

1st myth The eye pattern from top left to low right. It’s the IDEA that decides the layout

2nd myth Visual impact should be EMOTIONAL impact. The IDEA will dictate the impact. Headline must intrigue and captivate

3rd myth Mnemonics or mnemonic devices. A gimmick is not a true memory trigger. True ones are Ronald McDonald, the Lilac Cow, etc. The mnemonic must involve you. Quality of message is superior to frequency.

4th myth Don’t print your copy strategy like a book title. A headline must be an intrigue between text and picture. A headline should invite the reader to draw his own conclusion.

5th myth Don’t let typography be a design tool. It is a communication tool. Always columns. Avoid trendy typefaces. NEVER negative copy!


A small comparison

Always set out to reduce the word count in any commercial presented to you; The copy on the front panel should only have key words!
Be an absolute maniac about imaginative and inspired casting; Food styling is like God, in the details;
If you have something you can dramatically demonstrate, use it to its full effect; Exaggerate and highlight product taste, structure or advantage
Never allow a slice-of-life commercial to become a slice-of-non-life; Copy on back: consumer language is superior to producer language!
Make each commercial in a campaign be an evolution of it, not just a mirror image of the last commercial. Rejuvenate your pack design constantly!
May 16

Stamps in packaging

Posted by Packaging Sense in Advertising | Bottles | Design | Uncategorized

No doubt my main hobby became my profession when I selected packaging way back in the 1950ies! My other hobbies are:

  • table tennis
  • jazz
  • calligraphy
  • stamps
  • photography

Collecting stamps is an obvious hobby as I love to write and thus need stamps to send off my letters from wherever I am on this earth. By buying stamps in various post offices (there are not many left!) it struck me how related stamp design is a reflection of the general design level of a country.

It is not by chance that the most attractive stamps come from countries in which one can find a high design level. Those countries are for instance Canada, USA, UK, Sweden, Australia. There are of course countries which have specialized themselves on issuing stamps as a business. Such a country is Liechtenstein, but the design, although of high quality, is very traditional.

I am looking for stamps that inspire and here Germany and the Netherlands come quite high up on my list, as well as an ‘emerging market’ as China. Hong Kong having been a British colony has obviously been inspired by the high British level with the gold embossed queen to give it a very special look. My native Sweden is especially great with highly stylized, refined engravings which please a calligrapher as me.

May be I should add that, as a stamp collector, one has a tendency to choose a special theme in order to reduce and focus on one’s passion. In my case I have collected all table tennis and most jazz stamps.

Do stamps appear on packages? Yes, especially in two product categories: tea and coffee, as well as wines (Australia). One of the most interesting wine labels I ever came across is a Portuguese Douro wine sold in Germany which has a label divided into 13 ‘stamps’ all highly interesting to read.

It is surprising to note that when people write fewer letters and post offices close down, postal services in many countries continue to issue great stamps. I am happy to see this as one of the most difficult jobs a graphic designer has is to develop a great idea on a small surface… well, in a similar way to package design!

May 02

A strong brand identity is always built through proper use of the brand logotype and graphics, the colour or colour scheme and/or the brand spokesman, icon or symbol.

A disciplined, but at the same time creative use of these elements over a long period of time leads to unique identities such as MARLBORO, AMERICAN EXPRESS, NESQUIK and, not to be forgotten, COCA COLA.

Today more than ever it is important to be creative with an identity in order to not only be contemporary, but stay ahead and awake interest as Google is doing so well. One ingredient in an identity which plays an important role is the style which in most cases is the sum of logotype, colour, graphics and symbol.

The master in doing this was by far MARLBORO as was seen in the advertising during the Winter months when the warm red-white colour scheme was even changed to snow-white without loosing its impact.

A brand which today is doing an excellent job using a style is Apple with its products. Can anything be done simpler and still leave freedom to choose different colours?

Another good example is H&M which has created its own style (copied by several other fashion brands) thanks to simplicity, i.e. only three messages: a beautiful mannequin, a clear price and the brand logotype H& M.

Two other styles that have struck in my mind:

  • Lacoste with people jumping in the air
  • San Pellegrino’s label pattern that was temporarily changed last year into a Missoni pattern without loosing its identity

As brand strengthening is one of our ‘weapons’ to increase the bond with consumers we must constantly team-work on building more unique styles for our brands. This can only be done if there is a strong link between those who design our communication, i.e. the design company (mainly packaging), the POP company, the advertising agency and the brand manager with the help of a communication manager when available.

Total communication has been a buzz word for decades. However, really great total communication is still in its infancy and money invested in communication wasted.

Apr 26

Well, I think it started with ‘innocent’, maybe even earlier as Arla in Sweden has used this approach for several decades. Did you know that 90% of all back panels on food packages are boring, difficult to read and tell you too much! Yes, it is that bad.

But there are exceptions and, as you may see from the illustrations, they are ‘innocent’, Michel & Augustin, Fleury Michon and Arla. There are others like for instance Ben & Jerry, but I have decided to only use these examples in this article. This doesn’t mean that there are not even better ones on the world market, but I believe that by analysing and learning from these four, the above 90% may go down to let’s say 70-80%!


Why do you read Metro,  20 Minutes or any other free journal in the morning when you commute? Well, for the simple reason that

    the texts are short
    all texts have headlines
    they are easy to ‘digest’
    they are new every day

Why not talk to the consumer in a similar style? Yes, we have a few information which are obligatory and certainly useful, but not as many as you believe! The brands mentioned above have understood that if you ‘talk to the reader’ in a language he or she uses and if you speak about issues he or she believes in like health, origin of raw materials or advice how to live, then it will be read. On the Michel & Augustin you can for instance read ‘our big secret how to live well’:

    eat little
    … and of all
    drink water
    and

that’s all!
So much more useful than GDAs or to be told that there are 0 calories in water!




My own favourite has always been Arla in Sweden who, on all 1-liter milk cartons, tell me about other life styles and cultures (also yoghurt!) or anything which is educational.
So next time you design a back panel call it Service panel, amplify your website for further information and give your reader something she or he would like to READ!

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