Jun 09

Packaging – Unravelling the Value of
the Silent Salesman

Simplify your message in order to amplify what you have to sell, advises Lars Wallentin, a Packaging Communication Specialist. Part of what the product does and stands for is getting lost through unclear and complicated communication, when in fact simplicity is the key. As a speaker at the marcus evans EuroPack Summit 2010 taking place in Monaco, 23 – 25 June 2010, Wallentin shares his solutions to some of the challenges facing packaging directors in Europe today.

What are some of the challenges facing packaging directors in Europe at the moment and what solutions would you recommend?

Lars Wallentin: The problem today is that purchasing and marketing executives are looking for different things – one wants to cut costs whilst the other wants quality. The industry is constantly creating more efficient packaging materials and production methods, thus it is not so difficult to find what I call the technically best package for a product. But a package is a silent salesman and must help in selling the product and that is where the problem starts; the product should be understood through its package and that is not being communicated so well today. The dialogue between agencies and brand managers is not at the level it should be. They often communicate through emails, which is not the same as sitting together and discussing ideas. Part of the message is getting lost.

Brand and product managers need more education and training, which is one of the reasons why I started a blog. We still have a lot to learn. There is a gap between each generation, because of technological advances; the younger generation thinks they can get everything done over the internet, but they can get information, not knowledge. It is not a matter of having nice packaging – it is a matter of getting to the essence of the product. We like Apple products because of their simplicity. There is legislation on everything, and we have a tendency to believe that all legislation is good, but common sense must prevail. Sometimes we need to do things differently in order to be clearer. We give out a lot of information on product packaging, but we do not explain.

Julius Maggi is known as one of the best marketing experts ever. At the back of his “Aroma” bottle in 1917, Maggi added a message for consumers not to use too much of the product as it would overpower the taste of the food product. He spoke in a language that consumers understood. Today, people would like consumers to use as much of the product as possible. This is another area where the information we add on packaging can improve.

How can similar products be differentiated?

Lars Wallentin: We must clearly communicate to consumers why our products are better, superior or different. Brand managers must have clear and simple positioning of products and what the brand stands for. A detergent cannot be both smooth and fresh. The manager must decide whether to go with either one or the other. If they pick freshness, they can use blue packaging and so on; if they decide on smoothness, silk can be used to indicate that quality. Brand managers today try to do everything at once, when they should be simplifying the message.

How can an unforgettable brand experience be created?

Lars Wallentin: An unforgettable brand experience can only be created through the product. A brand alone has no meaning. We do not buy brands, we buy products. The adventure or feeling must come through the product. If it is a food product, the taste experience is the most important. Companies must constantly update or improve their products, and communicate that through the packaging and branding. The brand must constantly evolve; it cannot remain static.

Very often we modernise brands, but that is useless if the product itself has not been modified. Consumers are not interested in the logo of the product but what it does to them. Cosmetic product changes do not change purchasing habits. Only people in the trade care about logos.

How can senses be used to improve packaging?

Lars Wallentin: Packaging designers do not make the most of people’s senses, instead focusing on the graphical aspect of packaging. They hardly use the sense of smell or sound in packaging. They have become dependent on their computers. They should start sketching, touching the product and thinking conceptually of how the product should sound. Packaging has a tactile aspect, and whether it opens and closes easily is important. If packaging were an Olympic sport, it would be a decathlon as it is a combination of so many different things. Nevertheless, most packaging executives have a tendency to only concentrate on logos.

People do not buy rational, they buy emotional. The “Big Idea” is something that is instantly perceived, verbally or visually or by sound and requires no explanation. When you hear the sound of a Harley Davidson, you immediately know what it is. The product comes first. If Harleys were not beautiful motorbikes, their sound would mean nothing. Their sound is a translation of what they stand for.

In a nutshell, what advice would you give to packaging directors?

Lars Wallentin: Simplify your message in order to amplify what you have to sell. Simplification is the key. There is so much information out there, that if you do not have the capacity for simplifying, you are not able to amplify the real reason for your product or your brand. Packaging executives must judge what is a “Big Idea” because only the biggest ideas survive over time. That is what we are all looking for.

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

Looking at package design from a graphical point-of-view in general and from a typographical (i.e. lettering) point-of-view in particular the question no doubt arises of whether typography communicates or whether it is just letters put together. To answer this question let us look at the 10 ways letters can be ‘put together’ and what they can express.

Here are 10 groups to give an idea of the potential there is in using letters and typographic style to communicate:

1. Quality
The most common use of typography is to let the letters express a product quality, be it low (Migros Budget), high (calligraphy GRAND CRU) or a specific style. In product categories like wine, spirits or chocolate there are numerous examples.


2. Elegance/Sophistication
Most sophisticated products have script typography. A chocolate product from one of the leading European producers this time from Geneva rather than from Bruxelles.


3. Tradition
To express tradition is very common in categories like beer, biscuits, chocolate or coffee. The calligraphic style of “La Laitière” in France is an excellent example and also a success story of the right combination of an emotional word expressed in an emotional typography. The Nestlé brand “La Laitière” is today used in several product categories from ice cream to desserts.

To express tradition one chooses a typeface which is

  • • not used today
  • • slightly difficult to read
  • • not too perfect
  • • most likely in italic

Amaretti di Matilde is no doubt a good example.

4. Brand identity (Letter)
To own a word is great (ABSOLUT), to own a letter is even better. Kelloggs has no doubt a success story with its low-cal cereal “Special K”. My favourite is, however, the Norwegian Brewery Hansa who uses the letter “H” in a very powerful and decorative manner. Nespresso’s double “N” is also a great example.

5. Brand identity (personalized alphabet)
Not long ago a logotype was sacred and there was no way to use it in a creative manner. Luckily these times are gone and the brand that has best strengthened its identity by constantly changing something in its identity is no doubt TOBLERONE. By doing so the brand is better noticed and thus stays top-of-mind.

6. Taste & structure
A typography can express many things from creaminess to elegance, from childish to exotic, from simplicity to quality.

A very successful brand from York (like KITKAT, although another company) is ORANGE where the whole typography smells and tastes of orange. Another good example, although a bit dated today, is the Australian cooking chocolate “Easy to Melt” from Nestlé with its “melted” letters.

7. Product personality
To underline the strength and freshness of the Russian Stimorol ICE Cadbury did not only use an exaggeration for the strongest flavour, i.e. -70°, but the typography of ICE was given a very icy character. Cadbury’s Fingers literally show the product. Müller’s square cereal yoghurt pot with the product brand CORNER (a word difficult to register) has been given a very unique personality thanks to the letter “O” turned into the shape of the tub. Great thinking !

8. Onomatopoeia
A brand can express itself in an onomatopoeic manner and those who match the letters with the word are no doubt the best. Since many years the favourite among Swedes is the “mums-mums”, a light foamy chocolate with a typography that has no doubt been well chosen for this type of product.

9. 3D
Although designers have the possibility to make typography three-dimensional with the help of modern technology (design computers) it is surprising how little this technology is used in package design. Compared to the 3D style coming from Pixar (Ratatouille, Toy Story, etc.) one realizes that package design has still a long way to go. A good example of what can be achieved is the TOGO chocolate.

10. Letter turned into a symbol
Last but not least in this analysis of typography and calligraphy in package design is the not so common, but very effective way of turning a letter into a symbol. The symbol mostly used is no doubt the heart. The Nutrisoy Soya milk package design is one great example.
What conclusion can we draw from the above? No doubt that there is a great possibility to make typography and calligraphy render package designs more characteristic, interesting and protectable. Hopefully these examples will stimulate designers to do so.

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