Jul 09

What Lindt has learnt

Posted by Packaging Sense in Trends | Uncategorized

I constantly repeat: “if you are not seen, you cannot be bought”. Lindt discovered, probably a bit later than Ferrero, that surprising, highly visible POS material, i.e. shelf-ready corrugated displays, sell more. So they now use their Easter Bunny in a prominent way to promote this product. Here the product and the pack are basically the same. Not only is the aluminium foil speaking the language of protection, but the icon, i.e. the rabbit, is far more important than the brand. As you know, animals are emotional which brands are usually not.

After the Easter Bunny came the Christmas bear which, at least here in Switzerland, was the most visible display at the end of last year. So Lindt probably said to themselves “how can we have a Summer animal?” and here we go again, not yet with the product in the shape of the animal, but at least with yet another idea: a duck!

And what a duck! Easy to memorize thanks to its shape/form and the yellow colour. If the product lives up to the design, Lindt has once more hit the jackpot!

June 2014

Jun 11

Everything is possible

Posted by Packaging Sense in Trends | Uncategorized

Marketing communication follows a few basic rules such as

–          make it simple

–          be bold

–          awake interest

–          don’t just inform… communicate!

but the best of them all is no doubt “be different”.

I remember that once the then CEO of Nestlé, Mr P. Brabeck, told us that packaging is the most economical advertising medium, enormously underutilised, with virtually no wastage and almost cost free. How right he was! If we design the pack and the communication with a big idea in mind or a clear concept, we do very efficient marketing.

To achieve this, we cannot be a me-too product, just follow best practice or guidelines. We have to constantly reinvent ourselves! That is why the above title is so important. Yes, everything is possible if we embrace creativity in the fields of material, form, convenience, layout, copy, etc.

And this is why package design is so fascinating! As my friend Robert Monaghan said, “it is like a decathlon”. There is so much to learn that you’ll never be really skilled.

Now why are there so many bad package designs when everything is possible? Well, because the team designer-client, although supposed to be professionals, are in fact lacking the required skill when it comes to efficient communication and attractive design. That is why teaching communication design is so important, both in the business and the design world. I hope that the articles on www.packagingsense.com are of some help!

Back to the title “everything is possible”… if we have learned the basic rules, but also know how to apply them with creativity.

Can you, for instance, sell the pack with small salamis in a supermarket without a brand, product information, etc.?  Yes you can… it’s all on the back!

Can you change your brand as much as you wish? Yes you can, if you stick to your positioning and your key visuals (evian).

Do you need to repeat the brand, etc. on all sides of the pack? Of course not, especially if your pack is interesting and has a clear concept (clever little bag).

Is the product denomination important on a label? Well, not if the pack type tells you what is inside. The text “Grow your own” is far more interesting, intriguing and calling for attention (Heinz). So is the text “Don’t bring home the bacon without it” (HP).

You are advised to never show any hands/fingers with food. No doubt this is true, but what about Burts chips? The two hands focus on the text inbetween that says “go on, turn over and find out what it’s all about”. You can’t communicate better!

So what’s the learning from the above examples? It is that, in fact, you can do anything if:

–          it’s really interesting;

–          the design has a good layout, i.e. there is an aesthetical side to the design;

–          it increases sales (all the above products sell very well);

–          it creates longterm interest and amplifies/reinforces the identity;

–          the reaction to the pack/design is positive (brand building).

So next time you design, try something out of the ordinary!

December 2013

May 19

From global to local

Posted by Packaging Sense in Trends | Uncategorized

Having had the pleasure to design packages since 1962 when I left the Graphic Institute in Stockholm, I’ve experienced several trends, from the Carrefour white (so-called non-branded) products to the retailers’ brands, from bio-designs to super premium designs, etc.

This article is about the latest trend which is to go back in time and offer consumers products from very local producers, be it a farm, a small factory with handpacked products or multinationals’ offers from a local producer. It goes without saying that the designs are created accordingly.

What I specially like in today’s supermarkets is the variety of designs, i.e. the vast choice for the consumer. That makes shopping interesting and stimulating!

The first design I fell on straight out of school was the global TIDE bull’s eye effect package, still going strong today as it is an example of impact package design. Impact because it remains very simple, following my advice “do it BIG or stay in bed”. As this brand, i.e. global pack design, profits from millions of dollars of advertising, it can stay fairly simple.

Now, when we come to local designs, the problem is quite different as such designs, i.e. products, are not supported by any other media. Thus the pack must tell the whole story. So how do I then attract the consumer, making my design unique? There are many ways. Here they are, not necessarily in order of importance:

Oldfashioned ‘containers’ as for instance the bag/pouch/sack closed with a string or a cord, or a glass jar with a special lid.

Please note that a ‘local design’ is very often a combination of several materials which amplifies the homemade touch. This is typical for all those local Italian pasta makers.

The addition of a label, a tag or anything which is added by hand as on this mushroom salami.

A very special typography, often handwritten. Please note that when I speak of ‘local’, it can be a region as big as New Zealand or as small as your local dairy.




Most local designs show only the product, as the obligatory text can easily be added on a label or a tag!

Even national brands such as Michel et Augustin in France (or Innocent in the UK) add the local touch through typography or a specific ‘homemade style’. These packs are of course not local, but play on this emotional ground. The Innocent yearly promotion with the small knitted hats on the lid is an excellent example.


This Yorkshire product is not only using the term “locally sourced” as a sales argument, but even the farmer’s name “Anna Longthorp” to amplify the origin.

Local is a sales argument McDonald discovered many years ago. They clearly indicate on packages, as well as in their brochures, that the raw material (meat, vegetables, etc.) is local, in this case 100% Swiss.

Conclusion: The more we learn about ecology and a sustainable society, the more we look for local products. As can be seen from the above, with just a few examples, it is possible to communicate the localness, be it from the local farmer or your own country.

April 2014

Jan 26

One of the most important activities for a marketing specialist is to learn what competitors are doing.

The curious marketing person thus constantly looks at what happens in the shops, be it supermarkets, kiosks or the “7-Eleven” types of corner shops.

We call this “store-checking”, quite a tiresome activity, as it demands a lot from your brain when analysing not only display activities, but equally look at back panels, secondary packaging or other product categories than food and drinks. Why other categories? Because that is where you pick up ideas! It’s called “cross-fertilisation”, i.e. enrichment of knowledge.

It is obviously important to know what the direct competitors are doing, but we are not in business to copy them, unless you are a Chinese company!

How do you discover for instance a trend? Well, we can take Innocent smoothies as a good example as their approach to communication on packaging proved that if you make your communication INTERESTING, the consumer will notice it and read it. What does this mean in marketing terms? … that the bond between the brand and the consumer has been strengthened, which in the long term is far more important than for instance advertising. Well, we obviously have to do it all if we wish to increase our business, i.e. advertising, POS, package communication, website, secondary packaging communication (e.g. shippers), etc.

It is a bit surprising to see how few companies have been inspired by Innocent, well even by ARLA in Sweden who have a similar contact with their consumers since some 20-30 years.

The French company Michel & Augustin was inspired, but unfortunately made the same mistake as most companies/brands do today, i.e. too much information, thus arriving at too small texts which do not invite to be read as today’s free dailies (e.g. Metro) which are the best examples of great communication.

When store checking, you furthermore have the possibility to put questions to consumers when they pick up a pack, be it your own brand or the competitor’s. The best market research at no extra cost! And then you yourself have the chance to taste or to use the products you pick up and learn from… Bon appétit!

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!

Feb 18


One of my favourite books is by Fabrice Peltier, edited by Pyramyd and entitled “Art, échanges créatifs”. Why do I refer to this book? Because it deals precisely with the subject I wish to write about, i.e. can a pack be art? In this connection, I picked out the great French verb “emballer” which means to pack or to wrap, as well as to be carried away by enthusiasm.

Here I should like to make a small digression: In Montreux, back in 1970, when I went to register the birth of my daughter Jessica, I was asked about my profession. I answered that I was a “spécialiste emballages” at Nestlé, whereupon the lady behind the counter wrote “emballeur” on the birth certificate… and indeed, I am still passionate about my job!

This question of wrapping/packing and art leads me to a visit I made recently to Mrs Ulla Ahrenberg, the fascinating widow of the Swedish art collector Theodor (“Teto”) Ahrenberg (✝1989) who was a fervent supporter of young emerging, as well as established artists. Some of them came and worked and/or lived with the Ahrenbergs in their house in Chexbres, a village next to where I live. A fascinating list of artists such as Picasso, Matisse, Le Corbusier, Arman, Chagall, Niki de Saint Phalle, Tinguely, Sam Francis, Kantor, Christo, etc.

When I met with Ulla, it is these last two artists which drew my attention as they are real “emballeurs”! Christo of course, more well known for his large environmental works together with his wife Jeanne-Claude and Tadeusz Kantor, a Polish artist, mostly known for his theatre plays. Both have written manifestos on “wrapping”, Kantor wrote his while visiting the Ahrenbergs in Chexbres.

It would be too long to quote the manifestos, but one could say that the act of wrapping something up is an artistic process. Art critic David Bourdon has described Christo’s wrappings as a “revelation through concealment”. To his critics Christo replies, “I am an artist and I have to have courage… Do you know that I don’t have any artworks that exist? They all go away when they’re finished. Only the prepartory drawings and collages are left, giving my works an almost legendary character. I think it takes much greater courage to create things to be gone than to create things that will remain”.

I know this is a bit far-fetched, but is it not what pack designers do… wrap something up that goes down the bin after use? Nothing remains.

Coming back to my visit to Mrs Ulla Ahrenberg and looking at the art which she showed me, two things caught my attention. The first was a page in a Kantor brochure for an exhibition in Krakow where texts are printed perpendicular to each other, thus doubling the space available for information. I have ‘preached’ this since many years for brand managers who think that there is not enough space on a back panel for all information.
The other fascinating discovery was a book wrapper by Christo with the followig text: “Please do not unwrap the inner parcel, which is an authentic work of art conceived and executed by the artist Christo in the form of a ‘package’. Christo’s art form consists of wrapping objects, and the shape, binding and various attachments of these packages should not be altered”.

And finally there is this chamber pot containing ‘something wrapped’… not even Ulla Ahrenberg knows what is in this piece of art by Christo!

As the reader may have understood, I am in favour of a more artistic touch in package design. And why couldn’t one mention the designers’ names on a package today? They would certainly merit to be known!

Oct 22

“Rules can be broken, but never ignored”.

Yes, we need rules and guidelines to avoid mistakes, but also to move in the right direction.

Having designed several guidelines myself and seen some from leading FMCG companies, I am convinced today that ¾ of them are useful, but not excellent.

Why so? Because they do not leave the door open for constant improvements. In other words, they are too restrictive. They are most often right in general, but wrong in particular and as most situations are ‘particular’, we need guidelines (or rules) that allow us to move in the direction where we find the optimal solution. Furthermore, as many young brand and product managers are risk-averse and interpret the word “guide” as “have to”, we end up with little innovation! This could easily be avoided if we designed guidelines (rules) in a different manner. Instead of producing 30-50 pages, nailing down every corner of the identity or particularity we wish to protect, we should design a manual of 5-6 pages, open-ended, allowing for constant improvements. Why do I say this? Because I profoundly believe that

  • • real creativity, the kind that is responsible for break-through changes in our society, always violates rules;
  • • most artists break rules as the memorable never emerges from a formula.

We therefore need rules or guidelines that are not too restrictive and leave the door open for the above ‘memorable’ and break-through changes.

Yes, it is possible to design such short manuals if the 2-3 key parts of an identity are clearly fixed such as for instance the colour(s), the logotype or the icon. But do not forget that even these elements can be temporarily tampered with for special editions such as for instance Easter, Halloween or New Year! All other elements of the design (pack, product, communication, etc.) should be based upon words as

  • • maximise (e.g. appetite appeal);
  • • reduce (e.g. complexity);
  • • optimise (e.g. consumer contact);
  • • simplify (e.g. the layout);
  • • prioritise (e.g. the information which is common sense);
  • • emphasise (e.g. the reason-to-believe);
  • • amplify (e.g. the taste or the effect);
  • • remove (e.g. useless information).

It is important that the basic identity of a brand or a product be intact, be it in a market or over the whole world. A good example is Kellogg’s Corn Flakes that have a slightly different execution, depending upon the local market, but give a uniform identity seen worldwide.

Sep 26

The perfect marriage

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

Surprising title when it comes to packaging communication? The title could also have been“Don’t change a winning formula”.

Bonne Maman from Andros has become one of my favourite brands since its very beginning in 1971. A simple and unique identity which you find both on the pack, on point-of-sale material, as well as in advertising.

This brings me to the perfect marriage, i.e. the way the pack design is shown in another media, in this case print advertising which has not changed for years. It is simple, emotional, it is telling a story, has little text (consumers do not read texts on ads unless they are highly surprising) and last, but not least, the jar looks as if placed on the ad and gives, thanks to elegant shadows, a 3-dimensional effect, especially with the lid leaning against the jar. Thus the jar is open, suggesting the aroma of the product. Compare this with the number of closed packs one sees in advertising!

The apricots in the foreground amplify taste as the label has no illustration. Handwritten (i.e. script) labels communicate ‘housemade’ and if you add to this the RTB or slogan “C’est toi que j’aime tant”, you have first-class communication. Well done, Bonne Maman!

P.S.: As I travel quite a lot, I often find the Bonne Maman mini-jars at the breakfast table. Can sampling be done in a more efficient way? I doubt

Jul 18

Most consumers know that wood fibers come from trees, steel from iron ore and aluminium from bauxite. Most of us may also know that, with 8%, aluminium is the most abundant metal in the Earth’s crust. We also know that, when recycled, it uses much less energy than when extracted from bauxite. 75% of all aluminium produced is still in use, as short life products such as packaging and as long life goods for buildings, automobiles, etc.

So we know quite a lot about aluminium from a technical point-of-view. But how about another area, such as communication, as this site mainly deals with that part of package design? Well, I believe we have more to learn…

We know that aluminium has a quite positive image among consumers as they understand that it protects foodstuff extremely well. Think of the aluminium foil you use in the kitchen! I just wonder why we so often hide it with illustrations, text, etc. so the consumer hardly sees that the material used for the pouch or the can is aluminium? You may say “it’s the same for steel”. Yes, it is. Steel has equally a good image as protection, although a more old-fashioned one.

Some of today’s products packed in alufoil could never have been such a success without the shiny thin alufoil. Just think of Ferrero Rocher and all those chocolate marshmallows that you find in Scandinavia and Germanic countries!

Why is Nespresso not really worried, seeing all the copies that are coming on the market? Well, because those plastic variants are perceived as offering less good protection compared with aluminium foil.

That’s one of the many reasons why I should like to see this shiny material, as on the Camembert pack, the Zweifel ‘Big Pack XXL’, the Coop chewing gum or the Capri-Sun, not to forget a quality bar of chocolate. When will we see the foil on Maggi or Knorr soup sachets as we do on the Maggi cubes?

I believe that there are great opportunities for pack designers to let the material “speak” more prominently thanks to aluminium packages, although I have little hope, as today’s designers often realize their packs looking at a computer screen, forgetting the touch element…

Jun 28

Packaging is great!

Posted by Packaging Sense in Trends | Uncategorized

How can it be that although

  • packaging and everything related to it is one of the biggest industries in the world;
  • that thanks to packaging billions of tons of food and drinks are not wasted;
  • that the packaging industry constantly improves the efficiency, be it in using less material, in recycling more and more, in having better logistics, etc.

and yet, the opinion about packaging  of the ‘man in the street’ is mostly negative? This is sad for us who constantly try to improve package design and communication and bring more convenience and pleasure to the consumer. Of course, some packages are still difficult to open, empty packs take a lot of space in the garbage bin and unfortunately, one still finds empty bottles and tins, etc. in the nature…

We who are in this industry know that the positive aspects of packaging outweigh by far the negative sides.

Now, how can we change people’s opinion? We can print ads in the newspapers, we can do TV advertising and we can, as we do, teach the “greatness of packaging” in the schools!

However, there is one thing we have forgotten to do and that is to inform on the package the virtues of packaging. In this respect, the best solution will obviously come from a teamwork between the industry, the consumer organisations and using common sense!

The progressive Tetra Pak company prints their slogan “protects what is good” at the bottom of their packages. My Norwegian friend, Ragnvald Johansen, has started a debate on this subject in his native Norway and has thus inspired me to take it up on a world level, as I hope this website is read from US to Japan, from Brazil to Russia!

Here is what I suggest: The industry should develop a quality seal which can be put anywhere on the back of packages. Now I can hear a distant cry: there are already too many signs, logotypes, bar codes, etc. Right you are! But should we not use a little common sense and ask ourselves what is of real importance to the consumer? Do we really need GDA on a bar of chocolate or, even worse, do we need nutritional information on a bottle of Tabasco? Do we have to repeat the brand on the back panel? Do we need a recycling symbol today in Europe when we all bring our bottles to the recycling station?

I am sure that if we analyze each pack and ask ourselves “do we really need this or that? we can delete quite a lot (at least in Europe) to make space for something like this:

Well, if we do not try new ideas, we do not advance.

Comments are most welcome!

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