Oct 25

Looking into Google, one of many definitions of brand management read like this:

“The process of maintaining, improving and upholding a brand so that the name is associated with positive results. Brand management involves a number of important aspects such as cost, customer satisfaction, in-store presentation and competition. Brand management is built on a marketing foundation, but focuses directly on the brand and how that brand can remain favourable to customers. Proper brand management can result in higher sales of not only one product, but on other products associated with that brand. For example, if a customer loves a special biscuit brand and trusts it, he or she is more likely to try other products offered by the same brand, such as cookies.”

I’ve been told that the title “Brand Manager” first appeared at Procter & Gamble around 1990, i.e. not so long ago.

Reading the above text, it does not say “stick as many logotypes as you can, i.e. on all sides of a pack, in an advertisement or on POS material…” Well, I am of course exaggerating, but the reader knows what I am after and that is

a)     to use common sense and

b)     to activate sales through great communication.

I know why we often see so many logotypes when, in principle, one would be enough: because the guidelines of the company say so!

If you read some of the articles here on www.packagingsense.com, you must have noted that I like the products of “Bonne Maman” and especially their IDENTITY. However, in my opinion, the brand manager got it wrong this time: 4 times “Bonne Maman” is three too many, especially as you can use the tartan pattern in a very effective way!

The messages the consumer wants to read are, in order of importance,

  1. crème brûlée
  2. pour ces moments de gourmandise and
  3. (maybe rather on the back of the pack) “C’est toi que j’aime tant”.

On this ad, these texts have been disturbed by the “Bonne Maman” logotypes!

Marketing is to communicate with the consumers in such a way that they learn first about the products and then about the brand, or am I wrong?

LW/October 2016

Jul 26

Go “mini”!

Posted by Packaging Sense in Trends | Uncategorized

I grew up on a farm on the west coast of Sweden and my father who was an agronomist used to say: you can eat and drink a little of everything and you’ll be fine. How right he was! He even said a little bit of dirt won’t harm you, it will produce antibodies! That is why small packs are so interesting!

Back in my head, I always hear his words about “a little” and I think that it is only now we, in the western world, have understood that we have to consume less. Thus the present trend for mini packages.

I love Coca-Cola and used to drink the 330ml can a bit too often, but nowadays, I realise that I’m perfectly happy with a small 150ml can, turning to water for bigger thirsts.

As I can see, I’m not the only one who prefers small portions, as the industry seems to take this consumer group seriously, offering a lot of single serve packs.

A couple of years ago, I was quoted in an article where I said “we don’t need less, we need more packaging” for which I was criticized, but I think time has proven I was right. When I said “more”, I obviously thought of small, good packages, from a material, ergonomic and communication point of view. Not more bad packages!

Here are my advice when you develop smaller units which, in most cases, are sold as multi packs:

1. The smaller the pack, the bigger the brand.

2. You have to be ruthless when it comes to the quantity of information and move to the back (or the sides) information of lesser value to the consumer.
3. In my opinion, the addition of the word “mini” is  questionable, unless it has a positive connotation as for instance less calories. The consumer sees that it is a smaller version!

4. When designing the multi pack, forget the (total) net weight and concentrate on the number of small units.

5. Try to develop an RTB for this smaller size pack, as the word “mini” says nothing about the product. A well understood message would be: “Big taste, but fewer calories” or “Fits your pocket and your stomach”.
6. Avoid a too elaborate product denomination and just have the above RTB.
7. Design a special and unique multi pack and, if possible, with a secondary use as the Mars tray that turns into a serving plate.

8. Find a good balance between making your multi pack as small as possible (less material, more ecological, etc.) and looking as big as possible to be seen on the shelf.

9. Never ever design the small version looking different from the original pack!

10.  Try to sell this smaller version through other distribution channels!

LW/July 2016

Apr 20

Marketeers like to divide the market into categories like premium, superpremium, etc. I have nothing against this, as it is a language understood by those involved in marketing.

However, the fact that each of these categories have to have a visual language that informs the consumer about the quality and price level is not always obvious to the marketing people. Here is where the designers come into the picture, as they are familiar with these visual languages.

John Cleese says something very true in his autobiography “So, Anyway…”, stating “unfortunately, you have to have some creative ability before you recognize it in others” which is what design mostly is about.

Here are some of the typical visual traits for a premium product:

– very few design elements
– no New flash
– no promotional texts or symbols
– small product illustration, if any
– delicate choice of typeface(s)
– no net weight, etc.
– gold, visibly embossed (too often, the gold used does not add the premium touch it is supposed to do)

Why do I say all this? Because the other day, I found a Mondelez product in Sweden that missed out on most of the above. Most likely, the brand manager wanted to show everything about the product on the front panel. So the space is filled with no less than 10 different messages! Imagine how these delicious thin chocolate discs could have been put in evidence if the designer had approached his work differently. Here are my suggestions:

Marketeers like to divide the market into categories like premium, superpremium, etc. I have nothing against this, as it is a language understood by those involved in marketing.

However, the fact that each of these categories have to have a visual language that informs the consumer about the quality and price level is not always obvious to the marketing people. Here is where the designers come into the picture, as they are familiar with these visual languages.

John Cleese says something very true in his autobiography “So, Anyway…”, stating “unfortunately, you have to have some creative ability before you recognize it in others” which is what design mostly is about.

Here are some of the typical visual traits for a premium product:

very few design elements

no New flash

no promotional texts or symbols

small product illustration, if any

delicate choice of typeface(s)

no net weight, etc.

gold, visibly embossed (too often, the gold used does not add the premium touch it is supposed to do)

Why do I say all this? Because the other day, I found a Mondelez product in Sweden that missed out on most of the above. Most likely, the brand manager wanted to show everything about the product on the front panel. So the space is filled with no less than 10 different messages! Imagine how these delicious thin chocolate discs could have been put in evidence if the designer had approached his work differently. Here are my suggestions:

– if it’s premium, you just can’t have a bold 70%
– a cheap looking “NEW” in the corner lowers the quality level
– does the consumer really care that 5 (why 5?) thin chocolate discs give 7% of the daily need of calories and that at least 30% of the cocoa comes from certified rainforest areas…?

Great package design only give key information on the front in order to optimise the layout. Other information belong to the rear panel for those who have the time and interest to read all the information before buying!

LW/March 2016

Feb 09

Aluminium, the modern material

Posted by Packaging Sense in Trends | Uncategorized

Time has come to write about a material that I especially like at this time of the year, just before Christmas, because it glitters! It can even have a bling-bling effect when mixed with plastic, as for instance the Coca-Cola Christmas edition.

Before writing about branding and communication, which is the purpose of this site, here come some information for the technically interested reader about recycling, footprint and bauxite.

Aluminium became an industrial product at the end of the 19th century. It is a silvery-white, soft, non-magnetic and ductile metal. It is the 3rd most abundant element after oxygen and silicon that can be found in the crust of the Earth. The chief ore of aluminium is bauxite. Here is quite an amazing figure: 75% of all aluminium ever produced is currently still in productive use. Why? Because we recycle it. Brazil, for example, recycles 98% of its aluminium can production and Japan 83%. When recycled, 95% less energy is needed in comparison with the extraction from bauxite. Recycling rates in Europe vary from 30% to 80%, so the average figure is about 50%.

The European Aluminium Foil Association (EAFA) uses the terminology “the smart packaging choice” in their communication to the trade. So why do I, as a marketing and packaging communicator, like this material? And the answer is: aluminium has a very clear ‘language’ because the consumers trust the protection quality of a foil. Glass and stainless steel give, of course, also confidence, but plastic and cardbord much less. If stainless steel is considered a bit old fashioned (we have less and less tins today), aluminium is seen as a modern material.

When choosing a new pack for a product, it is important to know what the material ‘expresses’. We communicate with shapes and graphic design, texts or pictures, but prior to these decisions, we have to choose the adequate material. Take for instance your medical pills, a product you must trust. It is obviously aluminium that will give you that feeling.

I had the pleasure to participate in the graphic design of the first Nespresso capsules. What a success story! Not only because it is obviously a good product – here again we have aluminium which gives it an airtight protection, not to forget an attractive look!

As aluminium is a ductile material, we see today specific shapes such as the Heineken ‘barrels’, but above all the bottle which is in alumunium. The two Coca-Cola illustrations show what can be done today to make a pack unique!

The thin aluminium foil or the foil based laminate has the great advantage that it accentuates the shape of the product in question. The fantastic success of Lindt’s bears or rabbits are convincing examples of how the aluminium material not only reflects the light in the supermarket, but also accentuates certain irregularities in the chocolate which give a more lively appearance of the animals.

The most remarkable example of how to render a pack unique is the latest Coca-Cola metalised film label that becomes a Christmas decoration when pulled from the bottle. Congratulations Coca-Cola – real creativity!

With these examples, I hope to have convinced the reader why aluminium and especially the foil,  have a great future.

LW/January 2016

Feb 09

My advice “simplify, amplify and repeat” has never been more actual than today when young marketeers believe that everything has to appear on the front of the pack.

To help these young marketeers, here are examples of great communicating packages which show that in order to stand out and be seen, we have to exaggerate something in the design. This can obviously only be done if we at the same time reduce or simplify other messages by relegating them to the back panel.

There are basically 6 ways of doing this. Here they are:

  1. Dare to be different!
  2. Optical size impression
  3. Make it big!
  4. Real exaggeration
  5. lots/much/many
  6. Use more than one side

Let us for once start with the sixth advice and look at the outstanding, brilliant corrugated banana box from Chiquita. Can it be done better? Please also notice that the product denomination is only PREMIUM as it is superfluous to say bananas.

The 5th category shows packages with lots/much/many… this can either be done by enlarging considerably the illustration as on the Kleenex tissues (a Pentaward winner) and the wheat on Tesco’s Biscuits pack, or by reducing texts to allow lots of product which is translated into lots of taste. This is the case for the two Marks & Spencer orange and clementines packages.

Package design is about SELLING PRODUCTS and can it be done better than shouting out “HALF PRICE” (Yoplait) or “NEW” (Nescafé)… I don’t think so! Unfortunately, we see very little of this approach in today’s supermarkets.

A very similar approach is to make the pack look optically big by enlarging something. The Fazer brand in Finland has gone very far. To explain what I mean, I have, for my own pleasure, re-designed the Special K bar pack, but I doubt a brand manager would go as far, although this design

  • looks bigger (i.e. more product);
  • has more taste (bigger fruits);
  • doesn’t have GDA on the front;
  • has only a small corporate brand Kellogg’s at the bottom.

You can also just ‘play it big’ as the Finnish “Bear Beer” or the 6 pack for one-and-a half litre S. Pellegrino. Personally, I like the quality stamp as a branding device which you can see on Stroeget in Copenhagen if you pass the Royal Danish shop.

Last, but not least, you achieve impact and interest if you dare to be different! Here are a few great examples for inspiration:

Tango handle with care


REAL handcooked crisps


Tyrrell’s black pepper crisps

and two designs that use a person’s head: Barilla pasta promotion a few years ago with those wonderful children’s faces and the take home Pizza Pronto with outstanding drawings by the artist Thomas Ott. This article is about thinking outside the box and the pizza cartons from Pizza Pronto certainly do this!

LW/January 2016

Oct 26

It’s local!

Posted by Packaging Sense in Trends | Uncategorized

… and it’s in your big supermarket! One of the most visible trends in today’s fast moving consumer goods markets is no doubt the arrival of small local producers in the big supermarket chains.

How refreshing! … to now have the choice between buying from and supporting a local business or getting ‘factory-made’ products which sometimes come from the other side of the world.

I saw many examples of such locally produced products during my last holiday in Ireland and when I was in Zurich last week, I discovered new local Swiss products in Globus’ department store.

When I go to my local supermarket, I’m now even told where my apples, my salad, my strawberries or my eggs come from! These local products are of course often a bit more expensive than the big brands, but I believe that most consumers, at least in Switzerland, have been well informed how important it is to support local producers.

Some years ago, local products were often quite badly designed, as it was most likely done by the owner. I am happy to see that today’s local products have package illustrations that

–          are designed

–          are very emotional

–          have quite a good hierarchy

–          are often transparent

–          are using attractive materials.

I’m sure that the readers will find equally good examples in their local supermarkets. Buy them! Go local! It’s good for yourself, the environment and the producer or farmer!

Jun 08

Listen to me, please!

Posted by Packaging Sense in Trends | Uncategorized

The other day, I went to our family doctor for a check-up. Well, all was fine, I just needed to lower my blood pressure a little, so he prescribed a new medicine for me which I fetched at the pharmacy.

At no moment did I question my doctor’s advice, although he is quite young. I see him as a specialist and I believe that it is good to listen and to follow the advice from specialists, in whatever profession.

Well, is it so? Unfortunately not. I’ve been involved in the design of some 50’000 packages after my 50 years as a specialist with an extensive education in graphic design, typography, printing, knowledge of materials, etc. So why do so many young brand managers believe they know better and tell me what size and position the logotype should have, what typography should be used, when it is my job to propose, in full knowledge, the best way to achieve shelf impact, brand building and clarity of communication?

Here I have to add that when I work with mature marketing entrepreneurs, they do not question my advice, whereas too many young brand managers at multinational or retail companies seem to know better.

Why is this so? May I give my version? I believe that marketing education is lacking one potential subject and that is to explain what DESIGN can do to achieve optimal communication, avoiding personal comments as “I like” or “I don’t like” which are totally subjective.

May I give you a recent example?

A brand manager received 3 design proposals from his agency. He liked one of the designs very much, but he knew that it was not in the target group, so he used the grid below in order to judge the 3 designs objectively. And he came to a different conclusion!

The lesson to be learned for unexperienced marketing people is to either trust the specialist or use an objective judgement system, be it the one I use or any other one.

This being said, I still think that great, powerful, creative design work cannot be measured. I believe the solution is to listen to great communicators and design masters. Just ask for instance Philippe Starck or Dieter Rams what they think. Steve Jobs and Jacob Jensen would certainly be of the same opinion if they were still of this world!

LW/3.6.2015

May 19

This site dealing with communication is, or should be, non-political. However, let me make a small exception… My latest two jobs before going on holiday to my beloved Ireland were in Russia (Moscow) and Ukraine (Odessa), so I have learned quite a lot about what ‘closed societies’ lead to.

I’m writing these lines after my visit to Tallinn (Estonia) which started listenig to a jazz concert with the saxophonist David Sandborn. I did a great sightseeing tour before my usual 2-3 hours’ store checking, in local supermarkets. What did I see? Great local products and local designs, as well as practically all the interesting products (with mostly great designs) from Europe, Japan and US. Such a situation would of course not be possible in for instance Russia, even before the import of EU products were stopped. If you look on a map, Russia is the so-called ‘big brother’ next to this 1.3 million Estonian population.

I’m not surprised now why Estonia has such a quality of life. As the Estonians are surrounded mostly by quality designs, their taste is formed (as for instance in Denmark) by what they see.

Now back to the sightseeing. The streets are as clean as in Singapore, Switzerland or Japan, the potholes from the Winter frost are repaired. In Ukraine,  two weeks earlier, I rode on a highway where the driver had to swing from left to right in order to avoid them. As competition leads to quality, Tallinn is a heaven for gourmets thanks to sushi bars, French cafés, Irish pubs, German Bierstuben, etc.

Back to my pack designs, as I was there to teach marketing communication (I don’t really know why, as they are already so good!) I am now more convinced than ever that an open society where competition between brands will sort out the bad or weak ones will lead to better taste. Like the Scandinavian countries, Estonia has obviously a large middle class. The quality of the typography on signs is very high and so is signage in general. Here I see another similarity with the Swedes: Estonians are very practical, which means efficiency. This is not a surprise, as they had strong ties with Sweden in the old days.

In a modern society, which Estonia cerainly is, you see people well dressed. Although some of the handicraft (for tourists) was not so ‘designed’, the woodwork handicraft was of a very high level. This is not surprising, knowing that IKEA has production sites in Estonia.

Yes, this is a site about communication and not about politics, but on a day like this, I really came to understand the importance of an open society when it comes to people’s taste. Free import (and export), as well as freedom of press (Estonia is 3rd in the world) obviously play a big role.

A business trip I will never forget!

LW/May 2015

Oct 22

The ultimate information panel

Posted by Packaging Sense in Trends | Uncategorized

This panel should on purpose not be called the “back panel” as the word “back” immediately leads us to believe that something is less important. Another possible word could be “communication panel”, as the main purpose of this panel (be it side, top, bottom or back) is to achieve a dialogue with the consumer.

It is difficult to make a checklist of what has to be communicated and in which order (hierarchy) as it all depends on

–          if the package has one or several languages;
–          if it is a high involvement product, as for instance prepared fish;
–          if it is a low involvement product such as a soft drink or a snack bar;
–          if the package is a carton, a label or a bottle, etc.

However, there are a few suggestions that can be useful to any designer or marketing person when designing this panel.

First, delete what is not necessary! The fewer elements/information we have, the bigger, i.e. clearer we can make those which the consumer really needs. Therefore, it is suggested to

–          not repeat the brand, as the consumer has picked up the product and knows what brand it is;
–          not repeat the product denomination for the same reason.

If the product is one which needs preparation, this is the most important information and should therefore have the biggest type size in order to easily be read, even in the supermarket’s busy environment. The position can be anywhere, if highlighted, but obviously the preferred position is on top.

Each producer or brand should personalise the back panel by adding, even before the preparation, an introduction text such as “Hello! welcome to a tasty experience!” or “Thank you for having chosen our product!” or “To enjoy this soup, take your time!” in order to open a kind of dialogue to strengthen the emotional bond with the buyer.

Why then should the preparation text be first or biggest? For the simple reason that, if not properly prepared, there will be no repurchase!

In a world where prepared or ready to consume products can be considered as too industrial, it is important to install a dialogue with the consumer to overcome a possible negative opinion. This is done by highlighting as much as possible the consumer service address (telephone, snail-mail, e-mail or website). This is best done by using symbols such as a mobile phone or, why not, a smiling face?

Some products need big and clear nutritional information, be it an explanation, the product’s key nutrients or just the nutritional values in table form. On other products, this information can be small and just next to the ingredients list (obligatory), as very few consumers do need this information on products such as sweets, desserts or softdrinks. Let common sense prevail!

Very appreciated on certain products are tips of how to combine with other products or how to add further pleasure by adding cream, a drop of olive oil or a touch of wine.

As prepacked food and drinks in their packages are often seen as polluting the environment, it is essential to somewhere give clear instructions how to best get rid of the package, be it for recycling or just in the garbage. As each region, city or country have different legislation or collecting systems, it is difficult to give specific advice, but a sentence like “be a good citizen, dispose of thoughtfully” is no doubt of value.

It goes without saying that there are various legal symbols or texts that have to be added to the above, but as they do not interest the consumer, make it small, but legally correct. I’d like to see on all packages a kind of quality seal which tells the consumer that packaging is not something negative (ill.).

As word of mouth advertising is considered the most convincing method of reaching new consumers, it is suggested to sign off the panel with something like “if you like this product, tell your friends, if not, tell us… thank you!”

In fact, the best service panel for a food pack is a panel that communicates

  1. how to best enjoy the product;
  2. how to best establish a contact with the consumer;
  3. how to best explain nutrition;
  4. how to best group less interesting information;
  5. how to best dispose of the package.

    September 2014

    Jul 16

    The living brand

    Posted by Packaging Sense in Trends | Uncategorized

    In teaching Marketing, one often compares a brand to a living person. Why do we do this? Because a great brand must be ‘living’, either through new product developments or through constant change of its visual appearance. When I say “change of appearance”, it does not mean a change in any direction. A great strong brand has always a clear positioning and that’s what decides what can be done to continuously stay top of mind.

    Some brands do this very well, as for instance Coca-Cola with their special editions or Toblerone who play with their specific typography.

    As we are in the middle of the World Cup when I’m writing this article, I would like to ‘promote’ a great design and that is the World Cup’s special edition of “Pringoooals”. If you wish to always be top of mind, you have to do something to your pack. Toblerone and Caprice des Dieux are good exampes.

    A few weeks ago, the well-known French cheese Caprice des Dieux has, as almost every year, a special edition where the word ‘Dieux’ has been changed into ‘Mamans’ (mothers). I have no figures on what extra sales such temporary changes do to sales, but as Toblerone does it since at least 10-15 years, it must pay off!

    July 2014

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