Jul 19

Many years ago, Nestlé tried to launch KitKat in China, with little success, as the recipe was wrong (for the Chinese), i.e. too much chocolate, two little biscuit and too expensive.

With a different recipe, “Nestlé Shark” was launched at the correct price and recipe. The shark was not there from the beginning, but as Nestlé had learned from Nesquik and Milo, they added a spokesman, an icon, i.e. something emotionally stronger than a logotype. Why? Because the product can be copied, but never a strong, memorable and unique icon! Nestlé’s cheaper version of KitKat was indeed quickly copied and, as can be seen from the illustration, there are many similar products on the market by now.

So what is the learning? It’s very simple: An icon, a spokesman, is much stronger than  a logotype and does a better job, but it has to be big and placed in a prominent place on the package. Just ask Kellogg’s – they know this!

Jul 08

Our brain functions in such a way that it concentrates on max 3-4 parts of an illustration. Therefore you don’t see, nor read, the second ”the”.

The question to which we have no real answer, although many studies and research at POS have been conducted, is the following:

Why don’t we buy certain things or why do we buy mostly what we already know?

At a conference in Stockholm some years ago, I learned from a Swedish researcher that there are 5 reasons why we do not buy certain things – a real challenge for a package designer to do something about it! Here are the reasons:

  • We don’t see everything we are looking at! Our capacity to take in information is very limited, in most cases as few as 3 data, in extreme cases up to 7. And in most package designs, we give up to 10 information on a front panel, often just to please a product manager’s ego.
  • The brain is constantly trained for things we do not wish to remember. Well, if our brain should take in all we see and store it, we would just ‘go crazy’. So the brain, on purpose, does not wish to see certain things and we can do nothing to change that.
  • We ‘see’ with our memory. We see faster certain things as our memory remembers certain shapes, colours and signs faster than others.
  • In the subconscious, there is a constant fight between what we are used to and the influence of the environment, and who do you think wins? What we are used to. Therefore, in order to stand out, we have to surprise to awake interest in our subconscious!
  • We need help to understand what we think we understand. Maybe we understand, but do we act from this understanding? We need help for this to happen.

As you may see from these 5 points, it is very important that we design with

  • as few elements as possible
  • as interesting elements as possible
  • as clearly understood elements as possible
  • as common elements as possible

Do we do this? Unfortunately seldom, as we often wish to please a marketing person’s view and not what the consumer really can take in! … makes you think, doesn’it?

Jul 08

Do you know the clue…

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

… it’s orange and blue!

I am often asked the question: which are the best colours for my pack so it is seen on the shelves?

The answer is of course: any! … it all depends on what you are selling, what the competitors’ packages look like or what you wish the consumers to retain from your pack design.

Some of my students insist and go on asking, “but which are the best colours for you personally?” Here I have a more precise answer: orange (different shades) and dark blue! Why? First of all because I happen to like these colours, but also because:

  • they are almost opposite to each other on the colour circle, i.e. they have a contrasting effect;
  • they express taste (orange) and freshness (blue), as I mostly deal with food and drinks packages;
  • the first brand I came in contact with out of school in 1962 was the P&G Tide as my company was the main supplier of these cartons.

During my regular store checkings, I learned more and more about shelf impact and retail communication and I noticed that quite a number of brands use orange as their main colour (Uncle Ben’s, Ovomaltine, or Ritz) combined with blue as for instance YORKIE.

For this short article I’ve selected brands from different parts of the world like Tiger (Asia/Pacific), Terry’s Chocolate Orange (UK), McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes (UK) and the Norwegian pizza BigOne.

There are numerous other packages around the world. As this colour combination is so strong, it is important to also think how to present an orange or a blue pack to achieve impact… obviously with the contrasting colours as the LC1 illustration shows!

May 31

Key visuals, are they sacred?

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

The answer to this question is both yes and no. Yes, as you do not play around with a logotype, a colour scheme or an icon! No, as you can easily adapt to local conditions if you understand a visual identity and how, within a given framework, you can be creative without the consumer noticing deviations.

An excellent example of the above are Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. As breakfast is eaten and perceived differently in the various cultures where Kellogg’s are selling their original product, Corn Flakes, the design has to be adapted every time. Here are my findings:

Corn flakes in Britain

Every Brit knows the product and understands the word corn, etc., but as the product has been copied by many retailers, Kellogg’s design must look like the leader it is. This is done in making the design/the pack

  • simple (shelf impact)
  • unique (a big cockerel/rooster)
  • look big (value for money and again, shelf impact)

No need for appetite appeal or milk in this great design. Please notice that the bigger and more famous a brand becomes, the simpler it is. See for instance the design for the MARS bar – no illustration, no product name, etc. on the front.

Corn flakes in Italy

As we all know, the Italians are not particularly good at serving a big healthy meal to start the day… They are happy with their espresso. So the Italian design shows a bowl with the product and a corn-on-the-cob. It furthermore tells you that it is the original and that it is a natural product. As to the layout and colours, see later.

Corn flakes in Sweden

The Swedes, commonsensical, pragmatic and understanding efficient marketing, have designed their corn flakes differently. They insist that there is only one original and the cockerel seems to sing as in the TVCs which were aired when this redesign hit the market.

Corn flakes in China

Another layout, another design, as this product is totally unknown to most Chinese. Here, the milk is important to show how to eat it. The denomination is big, showing 3 Chinese characters and the origin, i.e. the corn is highlighted as the Chinese are mostly used to rice and noodles!

Corn flakes in France

The French understood that the UK design is good and could have copied it, but the not invented here syndrome made them change the English design in adding sunshine, etc. Not a bad design, but not the impact of the British!

Corn flakes in Turkey

Yet another design, more busy and dynamic, as the Turks want to be seen.

Furthermore, the Kellogg’s brand is represented by the huge Turkish food company Ülker!

As the attentive reader may have seen, each pack design was different, but

  • CORN FLAKES in bold black letters basically does not change;
  • the background is white (with yellow creeping in);
  • the Kellogg’s logotype is red (in the UK design, it is perceived as red);
  • the cockerel/rooster is green with a red crest.

It goes without saying that if I had not pointed out the above, the reader would undoubtedly have said: “they are all the same”!

The learning is that as long as you understand what a visual identity is, i.e. a colour scheme, an icon, a logotype, etc. you may be creative in using these parts of the identity to adapt to local market conditions in order to attract consumers. And if you attract consumers, you will SELL and that’s what package design is all about!

May 06

When packaging becomes art

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

(or is it the opposite?)

During my recent travel to Asia to teach communication, I obviously passed through a number of airports, most of them having the same tax-free business offering universal brands from Toblerone to Hermès, from Rolex to Johnnie Walker.

However, if you take the time to look ‘behind’ these mass-market outlets, you may find local products, be it souvenirs or chocolates. It is here you can discover some unique packages you will never find at the Zurich airport, nor at Heathrow.

This time I concentrated on biscuits, snacks and chocolate produced by local manufacturers and I was fully rewarded with outstanding designs. I was once more reminded that if the client has vision and the designer artistic creativity, packaging can be, as I have always wished, folk art! I have already written about  this and my friend Fabrice Peltier in Paris has even issued a book on the subject, so why bring it up again? Well, because I strongly believe that, if well done, such unique designs will stand out and increase sales!

Today we promote ecological thinking, i.e. recycling and waste reduction, Fair trade supply, etc. which is fine to me, but would it not be in a brand’s interest to also be seen as something cultural!

Such a design has also the advantage of looking different, which means that pricing is more flexible, as the consumer sees the pack as ‘something more’ than just the product. The Japanese discovered this many years ago with their handcrafted gift packaging. The packages shown here are as well gift/souvenir, as art packages. In my opinion, the role of a designer in our society is to make this world a more beautiful place through aesthetically pleasing objects. That’s what I learned in my youth, growing up in a Scandinavian environment. Enjoy these designs!

May 06

It’s about selling

Posted by Packaging Sense in Advertising | Design | Uncategorized

As far as I see it, package design is all about selling a product to a new consumer who will hopefully be satisfied and come back! As I have no real influence on the product itself, it is my job to stimulate purchase through exciting package design. To do this, here are the ten points which all play a role and which have to be optimised in one way or another:

1. The Reason-to-buy (RTB)

If the package design does not clearly inform why the product is great tasting, convenient, practical, etc. I have missed out on the main point. Well, in certain cases, information about the product is not necessary as, for instance, if millions are spent in other media as for a Mars bar or a Coca-Cola can. However, there are very few such products in the food and drinks category.

2. You have to convince

It is not enough to have a clear RTB if it is not communicated in a convincing way. It is surprising to see the hours designers spend to optimise the logotype or the product illustration, forgetting that the RTB has also to be designed to convince.

3. Concentrate on ONE message!

I once read that inexperienced communicators believe more is better. That is why the front of most packages which are often ‘designed’ by young brand managers are too crowded. If you have more than one strong message, I suggest you print ½ of the print run with one and the other ½ with the other message. This is more efficient than to let the one message compete with the other one on the same surface!

4. If you are not seen, you cannot be bought

Simplify in order to amplify! If you can amplify your RTB, your appetite appeal, the convenience (e.g. only 3min. cooking time!), then it must be presented in a clear and convincing manner (see above). Too busy designs do not stand out and become un-noticed!

5. The pack design cannot do all

When a client asks me to design a pack, I always start to define a concept, i.e. a big idea thanks to which the package becomes the main media. I show what the POS material can do, what an outdoor poster has to do, or what a print ad in a weekly journal can achieve. It is the sum total which means synergy; 1+1 suddenly become 3! If you repeat the same message in the same execution on all media, 1+1 becomes 1! It is the role of the designer to explain this to the brand manager.

6. Make the back, or service panel interesting!

90% of all back panels are totally non-interesting. To use the word ‘design’ would be wrong, as the meaning of the word ‘design’ is about interest, simplicity, harmony, clarity, efficiency, etc. and I see nothing of this, unless the pack is from Special K, Innocent or Arla. I always say that the back of a pack should be as interesting and easy to read as a freer journal like Metro, 20 minutes, etc.

7. You must be ecological

No doubt consumers in the Western worlds are, by now, aware of the fact that we have to take care of our planet. It is therefore important to tell the consumer how to get rid of the pack once it has done its job. Here we are dealing with two different worlds, the one that has adopted the incineration as part of the solution and the world that still ‘hides it in the Earth’! Whichever world you live in, you should be taught on the pack how to deal with it!

8. Surprise!

Yes, surprise! Because if you do not surprise, you do next to nothing. When I say surprise, I mean ‘within the product category’, as you must follow the rules of the product category in question. Any good pack designer knows these rules, i.e. how to achievde freshness, how to amplify taste, etc. Consumers see differences, not always what is better. Design helps to differentiate.

9. Instill trust!

How do you do this? Best is to constantly work on the image of your brand and its identity. I believe in strong branding which means a powerful brand logotype, brand icon or brand message. When during your shopping you are constantly reminded of a brand identity as for instance Kellogg’s, it means: strong brand = trust! As a young designer, I participated in a workshop in London given by Irv Koons, a famous pack designer from U.S. He said that when you are happy with your job, increase the brand by 20%. How right he was!

10. Be available!

It is the job of a brand manager and the sales people and obviously not the designer to see to it that the pack be available, i.e. well placed in the shop. However, what a designer can suggest is to suggest POS material to help the consumer discover the pack in the shop. A pack design is so to speak backed up with hard-selling trays or shelf-ready corrugated boxes, etc.

However great your pack design is and you have only one facing among 5-6 other brands, you will have difficulties to stand out. So do your best in applying the above advice!

Apr 24

Creativity in the thirties

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

Between the two World Wars, the Swedish businessman Ivar Kreuger built an emporium with safety matches. They were no doubt of the highest quality, but so was the marketing of these matches, marketing built upon design! Fascinating designs by acknowledged artists, as the profession ‘package designer’ was not yet established. The very diverse designs were not built on today’s positioning, nor on target thinking, but according to the clients’ taste. Unfortunately, Mr Kreuger’s ‘empire’ broke down with his sudden death in 1932.

At the time, each design was a small masterpiece of simplicity and creativity, imagined by artists, crafted in a way to express a unique illustration. Today, we leave out too often the artistic side and we design packages with just a trite photo, typeface and logotype.

Elsewhere on this site, I have written about my wish to see more art in package design and in order to stimulate young designers, I give here a collection of safety match designs from the last century.

But before analysing the 8 basic groups of designs, we should not forget “Solstickan” (meaning sun-stick) which survived both competition and today’s cricket lighter, remaining the only brand (design) on the Swedish home market.

It was designed by Einar Nerman, one of the three very wellknown and respected brothers in Sweden.

In the twenties, the business world had already discovered sponsoring and part of the sales of these safety matches went to charity. The Solstickan Foundation still exists today; the text on the pack says “sold in favour of children and the elderly”.

So here are the 8 design groups/styles/categories that I found, looking at some hundred match boxes. Some 9’000 brands were used since their introduction in the 1880ies.

A brand with an icon that amplifies the brand

A special situation or emotional story

The magic of the figure 3

In this collection, we find the most famous design on the world market: three stars. This design, referred to as “the Mona Lisa of labels”, was designed as early as 1887! Please note that, with the exception of this label, the text “Made in Sweden” appears on most designs – what a publicity for a country!

The strength or personality of a special animal

A real character

As the attentive reader may realise, some of these designs would most likely not be possible today!

An object typical of the 1920ies-30ies

Whereas in some countries the telegraph wires are still above the earth, the phonograph is long gone and the Fire Engine is more modern. As Swedish Match did not only produce in Sweden, the text on the Fire Engint says “British made”.

A special edition

The “Sudoku” of the 30ies

As each match box contained about 60 matches, The Magic Square told this in a very creative way. Note that however you add it up, whether vertically, horizontally or diagonally, you arrive at 60!

If you wish to learn more about this very special collection of designs, I suggest you go to Tidaholm in Sweden where this business originated. I got my collection from the Tidaholm Museum. Most of these designs were printed at the Vulcan Lithography Company in Tidaholm who also designed those labels which were not conceived by recognized artists. There is also a book on this subject: “Matchbox Cover Design” by Ben Jones.

Apr 17

Forever recycled

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Trends | Typography | Uncategorized

I have already written about cardboard and aluminium as packaging material. This time it is steel. Plastic and glass are still on my list, as all materials have a role to play in the world of package design. I like them all, but when it comes to longevity and protection, steel is a clear favourite.

Steel is the most recycled mono material; it lends itself to a very fast and efficient filling process for cans and is so strong that it requires virtually no outer (secondary) packaging. It is the most tamper-evident material and offers 100% protection against light, water and air. Food packaged in steel has equivalent vitamin content compared with freshly prepared products and requires no refrigeration during transport and storage.

So much for the technical side of steel packaging. Now, as www.packagingsense.com is about communication and design, here are some of my favourite steel packages:

Steel is by far the best material for special edition packages we wish to keep and re-use for maybe other products. My preferred ones are the Kambly and Oreo biscuit tins which have been embossed to amplify the structure of the two products. I specially like the attractive surface which furthermore does not need any label!

Second on my list of preferred steel packaging are all NIVEA tins, be it the standard small size (see special article about the NIVEA identity), or a special edition such as “SWEET moments”.

Great timeless steel packages are Jean-Paul Gaultier’s products such as perfumes, aftershaves, etc. They are excellent examples of how to stand out in one product category by choosing a can typical for another product category (preserved food).

What I specially appreciate with steel packaging is the simplicity achieved when a label does not cover up the surface as on many preserves. I love the Amici tin from Illy, the Standard Vodka (there are also many whiskies packed like this), the beautiful Japanese Sapporo beer.

A package communicates through shape, illustrations and texts, but the most memorable property is no doubt the touch, specially the combination of structure and temperature. The steel pack gives a chilled touch that communicates freshness.

Long live steel packaging!

Apr 17

Consumer in Sight!

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

One of the many buzzwords used by marketing people is no doubt ‘consumer insight’. What does it mean? Well, basically to know what consumers are interested in. So you ask them and you obtain answers that are categorised, turned into figures which FMCG companies use as a base for decision-making.

So far, so good! But isn’t marketing something much wider? It is all very nice to have consumer insight and know their behaviour, but you have to give equal attention to the products’ communication! And as www.packagingsense.com is about packaging communication, my preoccupation is to not only have consumer insight, but to also have the consumers in sight!

As I do my store checking practically every day (I’m mainly dealing with FMCG companies), I have the possibility to analyse the market situation. And what do I find? That the FMCG companies are giving a lot of information on the front (which could be on the back) and very little communication, which means that products are just presented to the consumer in what the brand manager finds an attractive manner.

But the consumer will only buy a product if

  • it is seen in the store;
  • it has a convincing message which should be the RTB and here I mean ‘reason-to-buy’ and not ‘reason to believe’.

So next time you design a pack, think how to put the product ‘in sight’ and do not follow too closely the results of ‘consumer insight’…

In my opinion, marketing people are today much more interested in having their packs as informative as possible, with the result that they become crowded and do not stand out on the shelves any longer. They often just stick logotypes and add information which is not always well structured for the buyer to understand. They forget that if you are not seen, you cannot be bought!

Mar 28

The future of the service panel

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

Some six years ago. I wrote an article called “Count the pastilles and divide them by 4”, explaining how difficult it is for a consumer to calculate the calories in a bag of Rowntree Fruit Pastilles (with 25% more fruit juice). I thought that in 2007 we had reached the maximum of what I call ‘foolish nutritional information’, i.e. information which

  • most consumers do not understand;
  • 99% of consumers do not need as nobody is looking for calories, etc. when eating confectionary/sweet products;
  • is duplicated, i.e. appear on both the front and the back panels (GDA)!

How wrong I was! Since 2007, it has become even worse. If you look at the Cadbury Dairy Milk wrapper illustration (and I could find numerous other examples from other companies), I give you here my findings:

  1. Net weight appears 3 times when nobody is interested in the weight of a standard bar of chocolate. It is like printing 1 litre on the standard Tetra Brik (Combibloc, Pure-Pak, etc.). Once is enough to cover legal requirements and in Europe it can be on the back panel;
  2. 90% of the texts are below 2 points/1mm, i.e. practically illegible, especially as the contrast gold/violet is not very big.
  3. Twice the information about the new “peel-me” opening device. Why twice?
  4. Nutritional information for 3 chunks, i.e. 4% of what is called your ‘daily amount’ (incidentally, most of us do not stop at 3 chunks…). And this figure of 4% (80 cal.) appears 3 times?
  5. I could criticise other texts like Joyville, Fairtrade, websites, storage, etc. which could be better or different, but that would of course anger the regulatory affairs’ people as they certainly have made research that says that consumers are interested in all this information…

    I am so naive that I still believe there is a company out there who is interested in giving its consumers information that really matters! I’ve found one in the UK and that is Innocent. In France, there is Michel & Augustin, although the size of their messages could still be improved to be more readable.

    Now here is, in a nutshell, what I would do:

    1. decide which information belongs to which media in order to each time be printed big and legible. I do not think, for instance, that the Fairtrade belongs to the pack, at least not on the front.
    2. I believe the ingredients list should be printed considerably bigger for easy reading. I wish the consumer would put more importance in reading this list before the nutritional information. Imagine the importance of the ingredients declaration at the time of the last horsemeat scandal…
    3. I think the “be treatwise” is an interesting story, but in my opinion, it belongs to the website.
    4. I believe we eat chocolate for the taste and not for the nutrition. Where on the Cadbury Dairy Milk label is there any mention to this?
    5. I do not believe that the barcode must be 40x28mm, when it is not even half the size on a chewing gum!
    6. I believe a more attractive illustration of the chocolate would have an influence on sales,


      My advice to a brand manager would be to

      First: study the legislation! 50-70% of the information is legally not necessary (in Europe) and can thus appear elsewhere.

      Second: My hierarchy for the commuication on the back, or rather service panel, would be

      1. how to best enjoy the product;
      2. how to best establish contact between brand and consumer, i.e. through website, apps, phone, QR Code, etc.
      3. how to make the ingredients list easily readable;
      4. how to educate and explain nutrition in an understandable manner;
      5. increase the ‘word-of-mouth’ communication by printing a text like: “We are very happy you have chosen our product. We do hope you don’t keep your satisfaction just for yourself. Thank you!” or “We hope you will like this chocolate and be encouraged to tell your friends about it. Thank you!”

        This article would not be complete without some words about ‘designing the information’. A service panel should be as interesting as the popular free journals as Metro, 20 Minutes, etc. Remember that readability has to do with

        1. where I give the information
        2. how I design the layout of the nutritional table or GDA
        3. typefaces chosen
        4. contrast
        5. interest of the various information
        6. the amount of words

          May I underline that I am a strong believer in clear information about ingredients, servings, recycling symbols, opening instructions, mentions as to suitability for vegetarians, etc., but mentioned only once on a pack, at the right place and in the right size!

          Packaging Sense by  wordpress themes