Sep 23

Twenty years ago, in the UK (of course!), a brave brand manager at Kraft Foods (as it was called at that time) accepted a proposal from the Design Bridge Packaging Agency to temporarily change TOBLERONE to “TO.MY.LOVE” for St. Valentine’s day! The rest is history. The whole production was sold out in about a week!

Kraft learned something and has since produced all kinds of alternatives to the original TOBLERONE logotype. Many other brands have followed and Mars has become both Refuel and Hopp (in Switzerland at the last European Football Cup).

NIVEA use their typical white typeface on the blue background to announce both Christmas, birthdays or special promotions with words like MERCI or LOVE.

Thus the question, why do they do this and does it strengthen or weaken their brand identity? It obviously strengthens it, as they do not change the visual identity, i.e. typeface (font), colours, style or basic layout.

Furthermore, it does not cost anything more than a small change to the artwork, the printing plate, the cylinder, etc.

The effect is the following:

–          as the consumer recognises the brand, it obviously strengthens it (by repetition), but, most of all

–          the consumer reacts as something has changed. Our brain registers the brand and understands that something has been changed without changing the basics. It signals that it is contemporary, up-to-date. And, of course, there is some fun in doing this so it makes you smile, a reaction that proves you have noticed the brand!

I often get the comment that only well known brands can do this to which I answer “yes, but…” Obviously, it does not make sense to do this with a new brand. However, the sooner one does something, the faster the brand will be noticed.

In my packaging collection, I have some outstanding examples such as Pringles’ “Pringoooals” or Branston Pickle with their famous slogan “Bring out” (the Branston). Marmite does it as well. If someone still has doubts about the success of such changes, ask Coca-Cola when they altered their logotype into names like “Lars”, “Valentine”, etc.

Being an avid jazz fan, I particularly like Evian’s latest version of its brand “swing” (play young), in this case referring to a golf player at the Evian tournament which is mainly sponsored by the water brand.

Jan 26

I am aware that I’m going to annoy some of my fellow designers with this idea, but, as someone said, if you have no enemies, you have no character!

I have been trying for about 20 years to tell companies that if you need more than 3-4 pages for your design manual, you are reducing creativity, i.e. you handcuff your designers. What does this mean? It means that the times of producing packaging manuals with 10, 20 or even 30 pages are gone, as we live in an ever-changing world and need to constantly update designs to remain top-of-mind.

Design manuals with many pages do often contain what not to do (is it really necessary?), as well as too many package designs which, if not constantly updated, loose their attraction.

Back to the title and the logotype. How many logotypes need to be updated? Very few, unless you wish your brand/logotype to express something special.

The Pepsi logotype did not really need to be changed. That is the case with most brand logotypes, as we get used to them, even when they are not top. What we do not like at first, we start liking with the time!

However, the ‘visual language’ has to be constantly updated, especially for brands that want to be seen as contemporary. The master here is obviously the  Coca-Cola company that has not touched its iconic logotype for decades. Neither did they change the red, nor the iconic shape of the bottle.

Here comes my advice to my marketing friends. Please do not spend money on standardisation, controlling or redesigning logotypes. You will not sell a kilo/liter more, but have enormous costs changing signage, printing plates, packages, etc. Spend the money more creatively, i.e. on updating your designs to attract new consumers and occupy bigger space in consumes’ brains (see latest Heineken: same logo, same green, same star, but a very contemporary design!)

Do spend more money on design that communicates better, attracts new consumers, improves product value, becomes a talking point and increases shelf impact, etc. Do not forget that 70-80% of your consumers most likely do not have aesthetical considerations when they buy a product!

Jan 16

… for better communication and stronger branding!

To have a colour (or colour scheme) as key visual is good. To have a colour and a shape or icon is even better. To have a colour, a shape/icon and a type style, preferably in the logotype, is the best of all! Why? Because it gives you more freedom to be creative around the visuals, still amplifying your identity and not watering it down.

There are a few good examples as for example Toblerone (triangle, orange/yellow colour, typography) or Nesquik (yellow, Quiky and typography), but the one I’ve decided to analyse today is Beiersdorf’s NIVEA.

When I did my last weekly store-check, I saw a special Winter promotion called “SWEET moments” which reminded me of last year’s promotion “WINTER Dreams”, in both cases a big tin containing various NIVEA products.

I had a great collection of NIVEA creams (which hascrumbled down since I have the habit to leave behind great designs when I teach) with hearts, landscapes, people, etc. These designs don’t go as far as the new “WINTER Dreams” or the “SWEET moments”, but I have my favourites such as the brilliant heart in the snow or the highly emotional ‘mother and son’ dressed in blue.

As may be seen from these examples which all amplify the basic blue NIVEA identity, the freedom does not only come from the different backgrounds, but also from different words as WINTER, SWEET or LOVE.

I have no examples here, but I am sure that Beiersdorf use other words with “NIVEA typography” for POS material as for instance “NEW”, “FREE”, “OFFER”.

In today’s crowded market place, the winners are those brands that reduce words to a minimum (which can be done when the words are in a logotype style), stick to their house colour(s) and use the icon/shape in a creative manner. This will strengthen the brand identity at the same time as it will communicate something that can lead to SALES!

P.S.: Even NIVEA is today the victim of young brand managers who want to change package design when not necessary. The two NIVEA Soft designs are a good example. Believe it or not, the one to the right is the new design!

Oct 17

Learning to write, forming the various letters like the teacher writing on the blackboard, is also learning to read. The same, unique movement of his hand, is equally the main tool for the graphic designer.

Gutenberg, Didot, Garamond, as well as Albert Boton have all transformed their rigid typographical movements into wood, lead and lately, digits. We owe them a lot!

This article is about those designers who create logotypes which are aesthetically pleasing, even beautiful, thanks to their special artistic vein and craft.

What is a brand if not a harmonious original form of typography that is for ever etched in our memory? Here we do not refer to sloppy logotypes (of which there are many) which have been hastily put together with the help of the computer, just deforming some letters, often in an erroneous manner. No, let us pay tribute to those logotypes which are well thought out, designed, worked out over and over again. Those logotypes that have stood the test of time and survived fashion and marketing directors! Let us honour some of them and you’ll understand:
Kleenex, Walt Disney, Ford, Virgin, General Electric, New York Yankees, Vespa, Thierry Mugler, etc.

But first comes Coca-Cola which logotype was designed around 1900, which has been very little retouched over the years and is today the most well known brand on Earth, even translated into Thai, Chinese, Arab, etc.

In the 80ies, they tried to replace Coca-Cola by Coke (as that is what the Americans say), but they quickly understood that the handwritten special logotype with ‘movement’ was superior and thus maintained.

If you compare the Coca-Cola development or evolution with Pepsi’s new soulless shape and banal letters you will understand that, in this article, we want to praise the movement when the designer forms a logotype.

Have a close look at General Electric and how it has withstood the test of time, how New York Yankees still please the young and how Harrods is the archetype of department stores brands.

To those who have been given the task of designing tomorrow’s logotypes, I say: don’t satisfy yourselves with some typefaces which you can ‘play around with’ on your computer; design in the real sense of designing which is to create! Be inspired by the brands mentioned above. Let your hand move over the paper or the screen until your logotype is aesthetically pleasing and respects the beauty of our Roman letters!

The above is the translation of a French article written by my friend Jean-Jacques “Pentawards” Evrard. For the very interested reader, I may also refer to the excellent Penguin book “The Craftsman” by Richard Sennett.

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.

Jul 19

There is a saying within the Nestlé world that goes something like this: “Nescafé is always Nescafé because Nescafé is not Nescafé any more…!”

That constant change is a must in today’s world is not questioned any longer. It is how and what we change that matters. As we all strive for the BEST, the MOST, the TASTIEST, etc. we have to follow a saying by Winston Churchill who stated that “to improve is to change… to be perfect is to change often.”

Many years ago I wrote an article which became my most requested speech. I took the title from David Ogilvy and it reads “Not rules, you fools, tools”. I explained that as long as you don’t change the most vital part of a brand’s identity you can constantly update the rest. Why? For the simple reason that if you wish to stay ‘top of mind’ you must do something that the consumer notices, consciously or unconsciously.

CEOs and marketing directors with a visual mind have no problem to understand this. The problem for us who are in the design business is that there are very few of these people. At Nestlé I was very lucky to work during the Peter Brabeck reign as he is a very visual man. However, as we all know, the problem in most organisations is the ‘middle management’. A great change to revitalise a brand is quite often stuck somewhere in this part of the organisation.

My advice to overcome this can be summarized as follows:

Use research to find out what is the most emotional part of your identity. This part, be it a colour, a colour scheme, logotype, style, slogan or shape… handle it with care! Let it evolve rather than make a ‘visual jump’;

Never ever change all the parts of an identity at the same time. You then make a new brand;

As long as you know what are the key visuals you may change the layout as a consumer does not see design the way we see it and neither dissicates it. She or he sees the whole and not parts of it, so keep the parts, but optimise the layout constantly;

Forget Pantone numbers. Stick to your colour(s), but don’t ever believe that they always will turn out the same. I have at least 20-25 various shades of red in my collection of Coke cans;

Watch out for fads! Try to stay ahead by constant analysis of where you want to go with a brand. Strategy means designing the future. That includes the brand’s identity;

Always, always go back to the brand’s positioning and ask yourself “If I do this change, will it affect the way the consumer perceives my brand?” Ask yourself what can be changed. There is no need to change iconic brand identities as San Pellegrino or Coca Cola, but the way they communicate has to constantly be updated as technology and fashion influence the consumer;

Make a clear distinction between B2B brands and consumer brands as the first can be handled ‘with less care’ without jeopardising the business;

No art for art’s sake. Any change must have a reason, be it as simple as wanting to increase impact or as sophisticated or difficult as a repositioning.

Good luck, folks… it’s not easy, but great fun!

With this article we would like to wish you all a great summer and we hope to see you in august.

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 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 17

Great Learnings

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

Guinness just redesigned their 50cl draught can. Did you notice it? Maybe, maybe not. Doesn’t matter. What matters is that they did it right. This is unusual as today we mostly see up-datings or modernisations without real logic or common sense thinking – just playing around with different elements. Here are seven learnings:

An icon is more involving, more emotional and has a stronger visual impact than a logotype;

A brand logotype does not necessarily have to be on top of the front panel;

An RTB, i.e. reason-to-buy or call it USP, Unique Selling Proposition, is needed to position the product in the consumer’s mind. The one on the new design is “Brewed in Dublin”.. where else? This is the real stuff, not something brewed in your local Carlsberg or Heineken brewery;

A signature as in this case “Arthur Guinness” always adds tradition, thus quality;

Don’t change for the sake of change! Neither the harp, nor the Guinness logotype have been touched. There was no need for it as both are already well balanced designs;

Combine if you can in order to reduce the number of design elements. The “Est. 1759” is now part of the harp. Great thinking!

Better use of space. On the previous design there was a lot of empty space, not on the new one.

Whoever did this, congratulations!

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.


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