Jul 05

Brand Leverage

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

Some brands are for ever linked to one and the same product and it is unthinkable to use it for another product, even in the same category. Other brands have the capacity to be stretched. One can also speak of brand extension, but I prefer the term “leverage”.

The brands which have the capacity to be used for a range of products are most often brands which

  • have a unique positioning;
  • have been properly managed during many years to become very strong in the consumers’ mind;
  • have a strong, i.e. unique personality (icon, colour scheme, style, etc.);

As brand leverage is a far cheaper way to introduce new products than developping a new brand it is quite natural to ‘leverage’ a brand as new products are invented thanks to new technology, new raw material or new distribution channels.

However, as we all know, in marketing it is difficult to be two things at the same time without watering down or weakening one or the other. Great care must therefore be taken to not use the same brand for a new product too far away from the brand’s positioning. It is difficult to sell orange juice if your brand is Chiquita and equally difficult to sell a cheese cake under the brand Campbell which stands for soups!

A good case of brand leverage is Nestlé’s Nesquik who’s positioning until recently was “irresistible fun”. The Quicky rabbit who is more powerful and interesting than the word Nesquik is being used for many chocolate products for children. As the illustrations show it is possible to use this brand identity for products as different as chocolate drinks (powder, semi-liquid or liquid), chocolate spread, chocolate bars, chocolate cereals, chocolate desserts, etc.

By leveraging the Nesquik identity which from the beginning was a product brand (chocolate powder to mix with milk) to a range brand (many different products) the brand has grown tremendously and is no doubt one of Nestlé’s most successful and profitable brands although all of the above products can easily be copied and have indeed!

We can here see the importance of strong brand identity as Quicky the rabbit is trademarked and well protected and thus impossible to be copied!
The lesson to be learned is the following: Never ever leverage (or if you so wish stretch) a brand outside its core positioning. You will, in the long run, weaken it as consumers only pay the right price (i.e. the one which makes you earn money) for a product which has either a very special taste or feature, or a strong,  iconic brand.

We can here see the importance of strong brand identity as Quicky the rabbit is trademarked and well protected and thus impossible to be copied!The lesson to be learned is the following: Never ever leverage (or if you so wish stretch) a brand outside its core positioning. You will, in the long run, weaken it as consumers only pay the right price (i.e. the one which makes you earn money) for a product which has either a very special taste or feature, or a strong,  iconic brand.

Jun 29

The shipper is advertising

Posted by Packaging Sense in Advertising | Uncategorized

When the first corrugated box was developped hundred years ago, its only function was to group together a number of smaller units, be they prepacked or loose products. The function has not changed over the years, but a second equally important one is that of being a support of brands as well as product information and last, but not least, a message. Thus the heading: “The Shipper is Advertising”.

The technical/purchasing department is highly skilled in

  • choosing the right board (relation strength/price);
  • choosing the most economical construction;
  • reducing the costs (printing, gram weight, etc.);
  • providing the necessary information for the trade, i.e. article number and bar-code.

The marketing department is skilled in

  • maximizing the brand (shippers are often seen at a distance);
  • choosing attractive graphics;
  • communicating the USP or product denomination/advantage.

It is thus very important that the responsible technical/production person sits together with the marketing person and together they decide upon the hierarchy that the designer should follow when he lays out the various information on the 6 sides. This in order to avoid the common mistake of repeating the same information on every side which automatically will lead to a crowded design with very little impact and interest.

How then is the shipper designed? Here are some principles to follow bearing in mind that a rule will never solve all issues. A guideline is always right in average, but often not in specific situations. Common sense must prevail!

The brand must be the main element unless a unique brand identifier, i.e. an icon, is more powerful (the Nesquik QUICKY rabbit or Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger). The order-picker needs a clear bar-code, but never forget that even for him a strong visual is a faster way of identifying a carton than an article number!

The brand colours. It is bad economy to save on identifying colours when today flexographic printing machines handle up to 6 colours.

The product denomination which, depending upon legislation, can be turned into a USP or slogan which has a stronger impact.

As the title says – “The Shipper is Advertising” – it is possible to turn the main panels of a shipper into advertising. Therefore, it is suggested to rearrange the design elements in such a way that they constitute an interesting advertisement instead of pure information of brand, denomination, etc. Nobody has ever decided nor said that a corporate brand has to be in the upper left-hand corner, nor that a product denomination is necessary. Strong brands like KitKat don’t even need a product denomination. A big appetizing ‘product break’ illustration bescomes an important ‘call-to-action’.

Bar-code, storage and other legal texts should be on the end panels.

As most shippers have two larger sides, it is suggested to increase the brand as much as possible on these sides. The storage text goes on the top and as most shippers are stacked alternatively with the short and long side outwards it is sufficient to have the bar-code and other legal texts only twice.

The bottom should be used for text which is of no communication value, but need to be there for legal reasons.

For a promotion, make the promotion message ‘violate’ as much as possible and if the brand logotype is wellknown it can even partly cover it. As shippers do end up in certain supermarkets, in cash & carry stores, outside the shop (unloading) on open trucks, etc. never loose this opportunity to reinforce branding. There is no extra cost involved in visually strengthening brands in this way. Chiquita knows it very well!

Jun 23

I have lately been involved in some ‘special edition’ package designs which, unfortunately, did not become the masterpieces I had hoped. The reason is very simple. Very few brand managers dare to ‘do it fully’ and therefore end up with half-way solutions which will never have an impact upon the buyer.

Comparing the promotional tictac pack which today is sold in Switzerland with my counter-proposal (which can still be improved) the reader will hopefully understand why.

You can, temporarily, change the logotype as long as you maintain the key visual identity. Mars did it very well two years ago with Hopp. Toblerone does it very often.

Other sales arguments do have to disappear (at least from the front). The promotion ‘Hopp Suisse’ is very powerful with the red and white mints and should not be disturbed by a mention as to calories.

Reduce the number of elements and texts in order to make the promotional message stand out.

Give a RTB, if possible with the product. It is impossible to see on the front that this is a cherry/orange variety because the designer filled the surface with unnecessary elements as the football ground, the football, the calories and ‘special edition’.

Surprise! To see the tictac identity with the word ‘hopp’ catches the eye and that is the most important thing for a special edition.

It goes without saying that if one temporarily changes the visual identity the proper registered one has to appear somewhere in a smaller size to give trust and  authenticity to the brand.

There was recently an article about IBM, AOL and Pepsi in the French journal “Stratégies” which showed various executions of these brands. In my opinion, they are all wrong, i.e. not brand-building as the designer plays around with the identity without a very specific purpose. Toblerone has always a reason to changing the logotype. The St.Valentine’s Day version “TO MY LOVE” is a good example.

A strong brand has a unique identity. In the case of tictac, it is the physical shape of the transparent and white plastic dispenser, as well as the leaf shape on the label with the lower case tictac logotype.

The proposed promotional version maintains these two properties, but changes temporarily the logotype and the colour.

Jun 14

When reading about the introduction of the iPad in the TIME magazine I fell upon a few words about Steve Jobs which gave me the answer to the above question. It read as follows: “Apple’s success is mainly due to Steve Jobs’ insistence upon design, detail, finish, quality, ease of use and reliability”.

I seldom find this insistence in the companies I have worked for the last 5 years, nor in the design agencies. No brand manager I have met (yes, that is the person who orders package design) understands that in order to reach the simplicity of an iPad you have to take care of all the above issues, not just one or two of them. That is why it is so difficult.

  • Design is the way you think and work;
  • God is in the detail;
  • Finish is when it looks and actually is simple;
  • Quality is something emotional rather than rational, it is communication and not just information;
  • Ease of use is the way you lay out texts and pictures on the service panel;
  • Reliability is that you trust the brand and always return.

Shall we thus blame the brand manager, or is it more complex? Well, it is. The brand manager is only one of those involved who need more knowledge, training and common sense to reach simplicity. In a world which tends to overprotect the consumer by constantly increasing the amount of information on the pack, I claim that it is not necessary to put all this on the package. Rather, the consumer needs access to information via other media as website (make it big!) POS, advertising, brochures, etc.

The technical side of packaging is today not a problem as there seems to be great knowledge among packaging engineers, converters, suppliers of material, etc.

The weakness lies on the communication side, i.e. with the packaging designers and the brand managers who believe rather than know what

  • is legal
  • is understood
  • is actually seen
  • is necessary to know to enjoy the product
  • is strengthening the brand
  • is of interest
  • is the hierarchical order
  • increases appetite appeal, etc.

i.e. quite a list of key issues that today are dealt with in an amateur way (my personal opinion).

To help those involved to get it right, here is my advice:

First of all it is a matter of layout which is most likely a matter of priority. The priority is totally different on a single serve stick of instant coffee to a cake mix carton!

Secondly, do not call it ‘back panel’, but ‘service panel’ as it is all about giving information about preparation, nutrition, quality, ingredients, storage or further information as website, telephone, address.

Thirdly and last, but not least – it is a question of constant change. The daily newspaper is different each day, so is the weekly paper and we therefore read them. If we do not constantly update the service panel, nobody will look at it more than once! However, if we constantly give new tips, advice or recipes we achieve a stronger link with our cosumers. This is very important to build brand loyalty and consumer satisfaction.

This constant update is not a matter of pack size (e.g. cereal cartons) as most marketing people believe. It is a matter of hard work and professional copywriting (as is the case with dailys and weeklys). The surface can be small or big – it is just a question of priority and interest. Simplify and amplify are the key words in today’s marketing!

Today texts on the back of the packages are, apart from the breakfast cereal category, presented in such a manner that we are not really invited to read them. What a pity!

The other day I read in the Danish retailer’s IRMA brochure a text that translated would give something like this: “Read yourself hungry”. The text said, so rightly, that reading certain foody and tasty words (e.g. mango fruit, blueberry jam or chestnut cream) produces pictures in our brain which influence our taste buds and are mouthwatering.

I believe it is high time to approach the service panel in a more serious way and give a better balance between the legal text and the text that strenghtens brand image, simplifies nutritional information or increases curiosity about the product and its virtues. The preparation instructions can be both instructive, i.e. clear and simple and at the same time foody and tasty if we for instance use 3D photography instead of simple cartoon drawings.

In order to render the service panel more attractive we need to learn a lot from the weekly or daily press, i.e. use stimulating headlines, shortest possible texts and highlight key words.

If the role of the front panel design is to stimulate purchase, either through strong branding, appetite appeal, special offer or product advantage, the role of the back panel is re-purchase, i.e. strengthen the bond between the consumer and the brand/producer. If this is the case, why are so many back panels totally uninteresting, to such a degree that the consumer does not even look at them?

There are mainly five reasons for this:

  1. The responsible person does not believe in the above statement, i.e. that back panels are uninteresting;
  2. The responsible person does not understand what design can do to make things attractive, clear, simple and interesting;
  3. The responsible person does not have a knowledge of hierarchy, i.e. what is of primary and secondary importance to the consumer;
  4. The responsible person has chosen a design agency which has no or little knowledge of communication;
  5. The responsible person does not care!

It is not difficult to design a good service panel if the designer approaches this task as an editor of a daily or weekly paper/journal approaches his or her readers… with words, pictures and layout that invite reading. This is unfortunatley seldom the case today as the responsible person tries, above all, to please the legal advisors, the boss, guidelines, rules or best practices and thus complicate communication.

Furthermore, there is a misunderstanding about what has to appear, what can appear, should appear, may appear, etc. Here are 3 basic rules to follow when designing the service panel:

  1. How to best enjoy the product, which means how to prepare and consume it;
  2. How to contact the company for more information (recipes, tips, etc.) or comments, i.e. big website, a telephone number, an e-mail and postal address;
  3. How to best explain nutrition, i.e. simple and understandable data related to the product in question.

Only when these three criteria have been fully taken care of come texts such as ingredients, net weight, bar code, date marking, etc.

Jun 11

I am often asked the question: “from where do you get your creativity?” The answer is: “mostly in keeping my eyes open, from storechecking, and being curious. That is what I would call the visual input to my brain. However, these images need stimuli to be of value and this stimulation comes from my verbal memory, from books I have read.

In the communication business the visual and the verbal go hand in hand. I therefore take all opportunities to learn from the masters. Masters in typography, design, management, marketing, etc.

I have noticed that most schools do not offer a ‘good list of books to read’ and this is why I will here give a list of those books which have made an impact on me and helped me go further designwise as well as in respect to human relations. In fact, you always have to deal with people before you deal with a design project.

If the reader has other proposals, please inform me and I will include them in a possible future edition!

Now, how do I find the time to read? Well, as everything in life, it is a matter of priority – how you travel, how much time you spend with yourself. I prefer to take the train where I can read calmly instead of rushing through airports. I prefer to lie on my bed in a hotelroom in the evening with a good beer instead of going out eating and drinking. I love to roam around in bookstores!

So, now to my proposals. I have divided my list into the following chapters:

  1. General knowledge for a richer life
  2. Books on Design
  3. Books on Marketing
  4. Business books
  5. Typography
  6. Brand identity
  7. Art
  8. Creativity

l. General Knowledge
The first book to read (or at least skim through) is Richard D. Lewis’  “When Cultures Collide” (Nicolas Brealey International), right now in its 3rd edition. Great reading to understand the various cultures on this earth.

Two books which tell us what work is all about: “Winners never cheat” by Jon M. Huntsman (Wharton School Publishing) and “It’s called work for a reason” by Larry Winget (Gotham Books). These books are a must! They are highly inspiring as they deal with honesty, generosity and everyday values.

If you wish to know how to overcome your shyness and learn “how to talk to anyone, any time, anywhere”, read Larry King’s book with the same title.

It is probably unnecessary to mention here, but “The Peter Principle” by Laurence J. Peter  & Raymond Hull (Bantam) back in 1969 is more valid than ever.

“Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” by Richard Carlson (Hyperion) is easy reading and so is any book by my favourite business writer Charles Handy. I like “The new Alchimists”, but “The Empty Railncoat” and “The Elepant and the Flea”, as well as his autobiography “MYSELF & other more important matters” are more than worth reading.

The book I open most often is no doubt Roget’s Thesaurus with some 250’000 words, phrases and synonyms.
So much about the general stuff.

2. Design
The main editor in this area is no doubt Phaidon and a must for anyone in the design business are the 3 volumes “Phaidon Design Classics” from 1 to 1’000”!

Terence Conran’s “Terence Conran on Design” has a great selection of designs. For the reader interested in graphic design Beryl McAlhone & David Stuart’s “A Smile in the Mind” (Phaidon) takes us on a very creative trip and so does Bob Gill’s “Forget all the rules you ever learned about graphic design, including the ones in this book”.

Two books by Paul Rand, “From Lascaux to Brooklyn” and “Design, Form and Chaos” show what an outstanding man Paul Rand was.

3. Marketing
Jack Trout and Al Ries “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing” is the first book to read, as well as David Ogilvy’s “Confessions of an Advertising man” and “Ogilvy on Advertising”. Marc Gobé’s “Emotional Branding (Allworth Press) and Sergio Zyman’s (ex CocaCola) “The End of Marketing as we know it” are interesting and so is “Cutting Edge Advertising” by Jim Aitchison (Prentice Hall). There are many more books on marketing worth reading – it is just that I have not focused on this category as the marketing I have learned has been ‘on the task’, solving communication issues at Nestlé.

Having said this I cannot avoid mentioning Jack Trout’s “In search of the obvious” and Martin Lindström’s “buy.ology”.

4. Business
My favourite business author is Anita Roddick. Her “Business as unusual” is a real gem! Lee Iacocca’s “Talking Straight” may be a bit outdated and so is most likely also Jan Carlzon’s “Moments of truth” (Ballinger). A more recent book is “The Big Moo” edited by Seth Godin (Penguin) with articles by a.o. Malcolm Gladwell, Tom Kelley and Tom Peters.

Jonas Ridderstrahle and Kjell A. Nordstroem’s two books “Funky Business” and “Karaoke Capitalism” are interesting and so is Jeffrey J. Fox’s book “How to become CEO”. David Firth’s “How to make Work Fun” is a much needed book, especially nowadays!

If you need quotations for a speech Charles Robert Lightfoot has written “Handbook of Business Quotations”.

The book one cannot miss is from Tom Peters and is called “Re-imagine”. It is so complete (layout, content, etc.) that I could mention it in all eight categories!

Two books I do not know where to put as they deal with design as well as marketing are Paul Arden’s “It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be” and “Whatever you think, think the opposite” (both Phaidon). As I prefer small books to big heavy ones, these have become my favourites!

5. Typography
Most of the books I have studied to learn more about typography or calligraphy are in Swedish, French or German. They will not fit into this list as I have decided to only mention books in English. However, there is one book in English I suggest to read and that is “The Alphabet” by David Sacks (Hutchinson) as it gives a fascinating insight into the archaeology of language and the mystery behind the 26 letters which make up the English alphabet.

6. Brand Identity
Corporate identity and brand identity is one of the richest section in any library. It seems that everybody wants to write about all these popular world brands as CocaCola, Nike, IKEA or Apple. I have skimmed through dozens of books, but only two ended up in my library: Kevin Robert’s “Lovemarks, the future beyond brands” (Power House Book) and Per Mollerup’s “Marks of Excellence” (Phaidon) – a Dane who is very knowledgable within the design community.

7. Art Books
There are thousands of them … it is just a matter of what painter, architect or sculptor you prefer. However, there is a book which has fascinated many readers (although it has very few illustrations) and that is “COLOUR” by Victoria Finlay which can be summarized as “Travels through the Paintbox”.

8. Creativity

One thing is for sure, you cannot become creative just by reading books on creativity. It is more difficult than that! However, reading anything by Edward de Bono helps to ‘think creatively’. His books on lateral thinking are sold in millions of copies. His latest is called “Think! Before It’s Too Late”. My favourite books are Alan Fletcher’s “The art of looking sideways” and Herb Meyers/Richard Gerstman’s “Creativity (Unconventional wisdom from 20 accomplished minds)”.

Now, do I only read business books? Of course not! Here are my favourite five: Nelson Mandela “Long walk to Freedom”, Bryce Courtney “The Power of One”, Jack Kerouac “On the Road”, Paul Theroux “The Great Railway Bazaar” and Astrid Lindgren “Fifi Longstockings”.

9. Presentation skills
I love to teach and to present new designs in a convincing way. A recent book which may help the reader to sell ideas is no doubt “The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs” by Carmine Gallo (McGraw-Hill).



Well … now to you the reader, build up your own library! It will most likely be different, but maybe you have found inspiration from the above.


May 20

What happened to print?

Posted by Packaging Sense in Advertising | Trends | Uncategorized

What happened to print advertising, but also to packaging, TV, POS and other media?

Those of us who are over fifty or sixty, i.e. who have been around for some decades and can thus compare how it was “in the good old days”… will certainly question why so much communication has become so complicated and overloaded. This, in a world which today has more media, more products and brands than 20-30 years ago. Logically, we should communicate simpler and with more creativity and uniqueness/surprise in order to be noticed in such a crowded market place.

If we look at the outdoor media I claim that 80% is a total waste of money as the ads have too much information to stand out, as well as too small texts, often even negative. Among the good 20% we have, in Switzerland where I live, a few masters like Easyjet, McDonald and H&M. For this article, I have chosen 3 excellent ads from a wine dealer in the region.

The question is why is it not better? The reasons, as I see it, are the following:

  • The computer! He doesn’t think, he executes. So, before even opening the computer the ‘Big Idea’ has to be found in somebody’s head. Without a big, campaignable idea which is remembered, no good communication.
  • The computer! Most designers of outdoor ads sit in their studio and work two-dimensionally on a screen about 30x40cm. The reality is outside in the real world with trees and people walking around and hopefully the message clear on a 30 meter distance when you drive 50 km/h.
  • The computer! It’s such a cool tool that everybody, even the most amateur designer or employee feels that what they do looks good on the screen.
  • The computer! Thanks to the computer we can work fast today and we can, by ‘stealing’ images (it’s called download), put something together quite fast without real thinking and thorough analysis of what was done.
  • The computer! Well, when we have done the job, it’s so easy to send it as a ‘jpg’ to the client. We thus forget that any creative job has to be sold, i.e. explained to the client as she or he doesn’t necessarily see the same as we. Especially as the client today is very often an ‘unschooled buyer’ of artistic creative communication. So the client then asks to do this and that and finally arrives at the point where she or he actually designed the piece of communication instead of the professional designer.

Now, you might believe that I do not like the computer. Not at all! It is just that

  • there are other tools as well;
  • the computer may be in the wrong hands;
  • the computer makes many things look attractive.

I love the computer when I know it is in the right hands. I stick to my magic markers which are my tools and the knowledge I have in my head. And if I do not have enough knowledge I ask a friend specialist for help before I ‘google’ it. Yes, I also get information from the net – very useful information indeed, but I also get information from seminars, journals, TV, storechecking, books, etc., knowledge which is both verbal and visual, but, most of all, it is a matter of dialogue and that is difficult through the computer! To create great communication, teamwork between the designer, the copywriter and the client is no doubt the best solution.

May 20

First of all improve your product, secondly improve your communication and that is what this article is about.

Human beings are basically the same all over the world and will therefore buy the products which have the very best reputation. A reputation is built first of all thanks to an excellent product, but as there are many excellent products today we have to add great design and communication. This will, so to speak, be the cream on the cake! Communication and design should be as the cream highly emotional. There is of course always a rational background as we cannot build any communication on air or just on a statement, or even worse on a lie. You can lie once, never twice and repeat purchase and satisfied consumers is what counts.

Everything starts with what ou want to be which we could call product or brand positioning. If this is not crystal clear there is no future. This “want to be” can be anything from security (Volvo) to surprise (Kinder).

Why is this “want to be” so important? Because it decides not only what you are going to communicate, but also how. In order to maximize the impact (see below) it is not possible to do everything in each media as the consumer, being today bombarded with brands and products, can only take in few and simple messages at a time.

As you need a synergy effect to maximize your communication it is important to decide what to communicate in each medium. Here is an example for a food product.

  • Retail packaging: l. Appetite appeal, 2. Brand, 3. RTB;
  • Point-of-sale: l. Appetite appeal, 2. RTB;
  • Weekly press: l. RTB, 2. Brand, 3. Appetite appeal;
  • Outdoor: l. Brand, 2. Appetite appeal;
  • Website: l. RTB;
  • Transport & display packaging: 1. Brand, 2. Appetite appeal, etc.

As you may see, the order of importance changes from one medium to another as it depends upon the time (distance) between the message and the purchasing situation.

In order to strengthen the brand, here are a few advice:

  1. Decide what the consumer should first of all remember, i.e. logotype, icon or shape;
  2. Distribute a one-page document that freezes the various parts of the identity in order of importance. Those who should have a copy of this document are, internally: brand manager, sales dept., purchasing, legal, board, etc. and externally: agencies, printers, trade and retailers.
  3. Once the above document has been issued it is time to interpret it in a CREATIVE manner in order for the brand to become top-of-mind among the consumers. Maybe  you need not go as far as Google and constantly redesign the logotype, but it is very healthy for a brand to not always appear in an identical execution. The icon or the logotype can be partly covered to show another maybe more interesting object. The colour can never be changed. It is sacred and so is the eventual shape which obviously can also be partly covered. Why do I promote temporary changes to the icon or logotype? Because, in order to best express for instance a special edition for Christmas/New Year/Halloween/Easter, etc. it is important to relate to this event. As an example your icon can wear a Santa Claus cap on the Christmas communication. You have here the possibility to be very creative in order to make your brand more interesting. Good examples are Absolut and Toblerone.

In order to strengthen a brand it is necessary to make it stand out and be different. It is therefore important to understand the power of exaggeration! When you stress too little there is no effect; if you exaggerate too much you loose credibility. To exaggerate just right is an art and cannot be taught. It is a matter of the right gut-feel which you achieve if you know your brand, if you love and cherish it and if you are constantly looking at the environment in which the brand appears. It is also a matter of being up to date with technology. An example of this is that many two-dimensional logotypes can today also appear in 3D without loosing their identities.

Why is it so important to understand how much you can temporarily alter an identity? For the same reason that you dress differently on a Sunday than on a Wednesday. Would you like to see your wife constantly in the same clothes? … and I am sure you also like her make-up which is what ‘slight exaggeration’ or embellishment is all about.

Good luck!

May 19

Brand identity…

Posted by Packaging Sense in Advertising | Design | Featured | Logotypes | Uncategorized

…creativity, style and strengthening

Brands are in a sense virtual, helping to make products real. Products will always be more important than brands as they fill the latter with real substance. However, what we buy is more often a brand than a product as the brand has a superior emotional content. We buy Nescafé rather than freezedried soluble coffee and Red Bull rather than an energy drink.

So how is a brand’s identity built or made and what can this identity consist of? Before enumerating the various parts of the brand, may I state that identity is what we as consumers see (or hear) of the brand while image is the emotional idea we individually perceive.

The main ‘ingredients’ of the brand’s visual identity are:

  • • logotype
  • • colour or colour scheme
  • • shape/form
  • • style
  • • icon/spokesman
  • • slogan

To this we can now and then add sound, i.e. a jingle or a noise as the Harley Davidson engine!  A brand identity cannot be democratic, i.e. different people cannot have a say. It needs a guardian and that is the marketing manager (or CEO) of a company, not the legal department as often believed. Why marketing? Because a brand has to constantly adapt to the market situation in order to survive.

Having exercised my profession in the food and drink business I soon learned that a strong brand tastes better. If it tastes right and is constantly supported in all media it tastes best of all.

As we recognise rather than read brand names it is important that a brand be as simple to understand as a road sign, i.e. quickly recognized and remembered. Furthermore, it should have a unique personality.

This being said, is a brand’s identity untouchable once it has been fixed? It was believed so ‘in the old days’. What we have learned now is that in order to remain top-of-mind a brand can in fact evolve, temporarily change or even be cut off or partly hidden behind another design element.

However, the main key visual(s) of a brand cannot be changed. There are exceptions to this rule. The other day I saw Manchester United in their red outfit with a Carlsberg logotype although the house colour for Carlsberg is green! The main rule in branding is to be present rather than 100% correct. How about the Maggi logotypes outside the airport of Cusco?

By changing something to a brand’s visual identity for a short period makes it more interesting as we react to changes. The master in doing this is Toblerone, but also Mars and Nivea use this marketing technique to remain top-of-mind.

The logotype should, if possible, express the value(s) of a brand and have a strong personality. Also here there are exceptions. One that I haved experienced myself was at Nestlé. The basic Nestlé logotype was, on purpose, made neutral and uncharacteristic to be relevant to a multitude of product categories from medium quality to very high, from liquid to solid, from chocolate to baby food, etc.

However, some twenty years later the CEO, Mr. Peter Brabeck, a man of vision decided that Nestlé should look like a specialist in each category. The following designs were therefore developped. One so to speak ‘dressed up’ the neutral Nestlé logotype to express e.g.

passion for chocolate or

naturalness for milk

fresh water

This approach is of great value in markets where Nestlé is very big as for instance France, Brazil or Spain, but more questionable for smaller markets.

Needless to say a very characteristic logotype is of high value. Just ask CocaCola, Kellogg’s or Perrier. Pages could be written about colours and colour schemes to identify brands. As our brain remembers colour(s) better than shapes, forms or words a characteristic logotype combined with a colour or colours is obviously the best solution. My favourite colours and colour combinations are for instance

  • • Milka or Cadbury violet
  • • Uncle Ben’s or Ovaltine orange
  • • Nivea blue
  • • Maggi red and yellow

The great advantage of house colours is that it creates a block effect on point-of-sale and the brand appears bigger and thus stronger. Didn’t I say that strong brands taste better?

Among brand shapes in the food and drink category the most successful are no doubt

  • • Kinder egg
  • • ABSOLUT
  • • Marmite
  • • Toblerone
  • • CocaCola
  • • Maggi Aroma
  • • Perrier
  • • Ritter chocolate

To give an idea of the strength of an icon/spokesman I rember that some 20 years ago the Maggi Blue Chicken (Gallina Azul) in Brazil became so popular (she appeared everywhere from Rio’s Carneval to Play Boy) that she became stronger than the Maggi brand logotype and consumers  thought that all Maggi products were chicken-based. There was only one longterm solution and that was to ‘kill’ the blue chicken to have the Maggi brand survive.

So much about icons. They can be very powerful if properly used as Johnnie Walker’s man who ‘keeps on walking’, the Green Giant, Uncle Ben’s sympathetic face, the Nesquik Quiky Rabbit or Tony the Tiger.

I obviously know that descriptive brand names are difficult to register and protect. This being said, I am a big believer in this kind of branding. There are many good examples in various languages from“I can’t believe it is not butter” in USA to “Nimm 2” in Germany or “The Decadent” in Canada. When we changed Nestlé cooking chocolate in New Zealand to “Easy to melt” we had an instant increase in sales.

Brand extensions is what brand managers dream of as it means little marketing investment. This is not the place to discuss the validity, but as a general comment: it can be very dangerous to extend a brand beyond its core value(s). This is equally valid for co-branding exercises:

A brand is like a ‘living person’ as we constantly add values to it in the same way as we human beings develop. The best example of how a brand identity can evolve, still maintaining its core visual identity is the UK Kellogg’s Corn Flakes package which got one of the best face-lifts in packaging history in order to

  • • have stronger shelf impact
  • • behave as the big leader it is in the category
  • • become even more iconic

In order to strengthen a brand in the consumer’s mind the brand’s identity can be ‘fortified’ by using a very unique design style. The best example is no doubt iPod and iPod + tunes’ outdoor and press campaigns which reinforced the simplicity of the Apple identity. The brand’s identity is furthermore strengthened by a constant improvement of the product(s). This makes it more attractive. The improvements can be in the packaging as well as in the product itself. We hope this article will help the reader to take packaging even more seriously.

This chapter can only best be finalized with the now famous saying

we make products
we sell brands,

but the consumer buys satisfaction which brings us to the quotation by P. Brabeck at Nestlé “The strength of a brand is only as strong as the product behind it..”  just as what the introduction of this chapter told us.

Apr 23

The pack in advertising

Posted by Packaging Sense in Advertising | Uncategorized

Great advertising, being it outdoor, weekly print or TV commercials, may  contain the pack or may not. The following advice will only deal with two aspects: the package in print advertising and the unnecessary repetition of the brand. It gives the reader a few advices of what to do and what not to do and claims in no way to cover all the various aspects of packaging in advertising.

THE 10 DO’S
Make your package the star in the advertisement. If your package is interesting, i.e. highly appetising, or if it has a special feature or gives a new/key message, then present the pack in an interesting, if possible surprising way.

Bring the interest to the product inside the package. People are seldom interested in a package, always in how the product tastes or what good it does to you or for instance your cat or dog. The illustrations chosen are also great examples of the importance of SURPRISING the viewer. If you do not surprise, intrigue or awake expectations nobody will remember your advertisement, nor the brand.

Change the size relations in order to surprise and, as mentioned above, make the package the key design element in the advertisement.

If the package has no reason to be in the advertisement do not show it, but if the package participates in telling a story, it has to have a prominent place in the advertisement.


Change the package to make it more interesting. The famous series of HEINZ advertisements in the UK several years ago are excellent examples of powerful copy, surprising design and strong branding. Can a package really be better in an advertisement?

Show what the consumer is interested in. How the BACI are packed (in cartons or tubes) is of little interest when looking at an advertisement, but the aluminium-foil wrapping certainly is. Therefore, show the wrapped product, not the whole carton, sachet, etc. This advertising is also a good example of showing the actual product without wrapper. People eat products, not packages!

If your package design is unique, surprising, interesting or has a call-to-action message, show only the package in the advertisement. The HEINZ squeeze bottle does not need any more text and can be shown as such in an ad. Here, as in the preceeding examples, the strong branding is not “disturbed”. See under “don’ts”.

Show the product in the most attractive manner which the package design not always can. Present it in an attractive light to create an atmosphere. What the consumer wants to take away from an advertisement of food or drink is not the package, but the taste, the lightness, etc. The viewer of the ad must remember either the name (St. Pauli), the colour (Veuve Cliquot), or the icon (Nescafé Red mug).

Show the package OPEN whenever possible if you are in the TASTE business and always  show the “end result” if it is a product which has to be prepared.

As consumers are not interested in the type of package, show a typical detail of it with the brand clearly visible as that is why we adertise. The master in having you remember the package and the brand is by far ABSOLUT with a campaigngoing on for more than 25 years.

Last, but not least, never show the actual package as it is in an advertisement. To make the communication simpler and clearer, delete from the front panel all unnecessary texts, as e.g. net weight, product denomination, other legal texts, price (unless this is the main message in the advertisement in which case amplify it), etc.

THE 5 DONT’S
Why two when one is enough ! One of the first advice young brand managers are given at business schools or by their bosses is :  strong branding is a must. Yes, strong branding is a must. It is essential for a company to sell products or services with a profit. But it should never be forgotten that what counts even more for the consumer/customer/buyer is what the product in question does or tastes or offers. So the balance between branding and product must be optimal in all media. Optimal means that the communication of both, brand and product, must be simple, convincing and one should not disturb the other.

However, most marketing people believe that strong branding means repetition of a brand. So on a print add, a second logotype is added somewhere, although there is one already on the pack shown in the advertisement !

If a second (or third, or fourth) brand logotype appears on the advertisement it has a tendency to distract from the main message, be it the ‘first’ logotype, the product or the RTB (reason-to-buy) which can be price, product advantage, New, etc. The two illustrations prove this point and the illustration of the cat in the forest underlines that we are only interested in the main message and do not even see duplications … so why have them ?

Do not believe consumers are interested in packaging. They buy products !

Do not show many packages. Very often the supermarket does not carry the whole range anyhow. Concentrate on one package, but tell the story that there is a range of other flavours or varieties.

Do not believe that the package necessarily has to be in the advertisement. What the consumer can remember is anyhow very little. It must be the brand or brand icon along with the USP or the price (reason for purchase), flavour, taste, etc.

Do not believe that there is a formula for the ‘package in the advertisement’. The above are just a few advices. There are always exceptions to any rule. Common sense must prevail and that is to develop an advertisement that remains clear in the consumer’s mind. Therefore, some of the advertisements in this article can still be improved.




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