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.

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 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 20

What happened to print?

Posted by Packaging Sense in Advertising | Trends | Uncategorized

What happened to print advertising, but also to packaging, TV, POS and other media?

Those of us who are over fifty or sixty, i.e. who have been around for some decades and can thus compare how it was “in the good old days”… will certainly question why so much communication has become so complicated and overloaded. This, in a world which today has more media, more products and brands than 20-30 years ago. Logically, we should communicate simpler and with more creativity and uniqueness/surprise in order to be noticed in such a crowded market place.

If we look at the outdoor media I claim that 80% is a total waste of money as the ads have too much information to stand out, as well as too small texts, often even negative. Among the good 20% we have, in Switzerland where I live, a few masters like Easyjet, McDonald and H&M. For this article, I have chosen 3 excellent ads from a wine dealer in the region.

The question is why is it not better? The reasons, as I see it, are the following:

  • The computer! He doesn’t think, he executes. So, before even opening the computer the ‘Big Idea’ has to be found in somebody’s head. Without a big, campaignable idea which is remembered, no good communication.
  • The computer! Most designers of outdoor ads sit in their studio and work two-dimensionally on a screen about 30x40cm. The reality is outside in the real world with trees and people walking around and hopefully the message clear on a 30 meter distance when you drive 50 km/h.
  • The computer! It’s such a cool tool that everybody, even the most amateur designer or employee feels that what they do looks good on the screen.
  • The computer! Thanks to the computer we can work fast today and we can, by ‘stealing’ images (it’s called download), put something together quite fast without real thinking and thorough analysis of what was done.
  • The computer! Well, when we have done the job, it’s so easy to send it as a ‘jpg’ to the client. We thus forget that any creative job has to be sold, i.e. explained to the client as she or he doesn’t necessarily see the same as we. Especially as the client today is very often an ‘unschooled buyer’ of artistic creative communication. So the client then asks to do this and that and finally arrives at the point where she or he actually designed the piece of communication instead of the professional designer.

Now, you might believe that I do not like the computer. Not at all! It is just that

  • there are other tools as well;
  • the computer may be in the wrong hands;
  • the computer makes many things look attractive.

I love the computer when I know it is in the right hands. I stick to my magic markers which are my tools and the knowledge I have in my head. And if I do not have enough knowledge I ask a friend specialist for help before I ‘google’ it. Yes, I also get information from the net – very useful information indeed, but I also get information from seminars, journals, TV, storechecking, books, etc., knowledge which is both verbal and visual, but, most of all, it is a matter of dialogue and that is difficult through the computer! To create great communication, teamwork between the designer, the copywriter and the client is no doubt the best solution.

May 19

If I’m not wrong, there are mainly three markets which use the plastic or aluminium tube for food packaging: Scandinavia, Germany and Switzerland. Strange, when it is such a practical package for products like bread spread, mustard, honey, mayonnaise, etc.

As I live in Switzerland and being of Swedish origin, there are three tubes I just cannot live without

my toothpaste (the brand may change);

my Thomy mustard;

my Swedish “Kalles Kaviar” (creamed smoked roe).

The world of products related to foods and drinks is probably the most traditional one. If a sweet food like ice cream is no doubt global, the main flavours do not change over the years. Vanilla, strawberry and chocolate make up at least 80% of the sales. We have very much the same situation as regards to different types of packaging. We want our milk in a carton (Tetrapak, Purepack, Combibloc, etc.) and our jam or instant coffee in a glass jar, our cornflakes in a cardboard box and our wine in a glass bottle.

To promote food in tubes is therefore quite a challenge. You need money for advertising or sampling, the two media if you wish to change behaviour.

The very best way to promote a new package or product is at the point-of-sale and it is here the tube has a great advantage. To put tubes up-side-down in a tray so they are easy to grab and then print a convincing call-to-action text on the tray is no doubt a very effective way of selling. But it is here we once more discover ‘the packaging dilemma’, which is to reduce costs instead of increasing them and make the package, i.e. the product more attractive at the point-of-sale.

Improving total packaging, i.e. retail pack, display tray pack and finally shipper is the key to a successful product launch. However, this is seldom done as each type of package is treated separately.

During my 40 years at Nestlé I don’t think it ever happened that the responsible person, i.e. the brand manager, was ever interested in the tray or the shipper. So the designs for these were done by the purchasing, logistics or production department. The trays or the shippers were not considered as selling surfaces. Strange, as the costs are the same when printing a selling message or a brand logotype!

The two illustrations for Thomy mustard show clearly the importance of  taking the tray seriously and print sales messages that stimulate to purchase.

If your sales team is very good, these trays can then be placed in the meat and sauce sections, maybe also next to sandwich bread.
Food packaging is today a matter of seeing the whole picture, i.e. take every opportunity to be seen, be it inside the store or outside. The tube with its very special shape has here a great advantage over other types of food packaging.
Apr 09

Trends on the supermarket shelves

Posted by Packaging Sense in Trends | Uncategorized

Packages in the shelves

Most design trends are obviously the result of product trends, i.e. drinking and eating habits evolve. This is also valid for non-food products such as household- beauty- and petfood products.

Trends in design also emanate from technology as the design computer is, unfortunately often, the only tool young designers use to develop new ideas. I say unfortunately as the computer is the culprit if in the wrong hands for the following five reasons:

He doesn’t think, he executes. So, before even opening the computer the ‘Big Idea’ has to be found in somebody’s head. Without a big, campaignable idea which is remembered, no good communication.

Most package designers sit in their studio and work two-dimensionally on a screen about 30×40 cm. The reality is outside in the real world with hundreds of different packages around and not against a white background as on the computer screen.
It’s such a cool tool that everybody, even the most amateur designer or employee feels that what they do looks good on the screen.

Thanks to the computer we can work fast today and we can, by ‘stealing’ images (it’s called downloading), put something together quite fast without real thinking and thorough analysis of what was done.

When we have done the job, it’s so easy to send it as a ‘jpg’ to the client. We thus forget that any creative job has to be sold, i.e. explained to the client as she or he doesn’t necessarily see the same as we. Especially as the client today is very often an ‘unschooled buyer’ of artistic creative communication. So the client then asks to do this and that and one finally arrives at the point where she or he actually designed the pack instead of the professional designer.

This being said, we progress both on the technical side with materials and CO2-reductions and on the marketing side with layout and shapes. I can count to about eight clear trends and these are:

  • The brand logotype in the middle (layout)
  • Windows, i.e. see-through packaging
  • Mat plastics for a more agreable touch
  • Smaller packsizes and multipacks. Yes, many consumers do not want quantity today, but quality in small doses
  • Shaped cartons
  • “The 3 price levels”
  • Plastic and glass bottles with a structured surface (touch)
  • Considerably more attractive POS material, freestanding or on pallets.

The brand logotype in the middle
Last time there was a real change in layout was some 15-20 years ago when Parmalat put their logotype vertically which then was copied by several other brands. I myself put VITTEL vertically at that time: The trick was to make the pack look optically larger as a big brand no doubt looks bigger than a small one (Ribena).

Some 5-6 years ago Danone moved the brand to the middle and little by little brand owners haved found out that it is a far bettter position than putting it on the top. Why? Because what interests the consumer most on a pack is not the brand, but the product illustration which on these packages has moved on top in a prominent position. Strangely enough this layout also strengthens the brand. The Royco, Nestlé, Knorr packages are some recent examples.

The consumer wants to see what she buys. In the cheese and sliced meat sections of the store this type of plastic film packaging is well known since long, but the transparent window on cardboard packaging is a rather new trend. This window can be with or without transparent plastic film depending upon the structure of the pack. If all the text on the Knorr Vie sleeve is, in my opinion, useless as half of it is almost illegible, it is refreshing to see the clean simple design of the label on the bottle!

I could show numerous other examples, but I suggest the curious reader goes to the supermarket to have this trend confirmed. My own favourit is the bread sachets at Coop.

Mat plastic films
This trend, as so many other trends, comes from the most sophisticated packaging market, i.e. Japan. If, some years ago, we were impressed to see crystal-clear plastic films, really transparent and not as the milky polythelene, today’s consumers appreciate the mat surface. It is nice to touch and also gives an impression of tradition and non-industrial. To further communicate this sense of home-made, we see more and more the combination with kraft paper (real or fake as on the GLOBUS pack).

Smaller packsizes/multipacks
Be it small Mars or Bounty bars, salami sticks from Citterio or Piccolinis from Buitoni, individual portions have come here to stay. Yes, some of us are getting fatter, but many of us are  going in the other direction and choose small sizes (Ragusa). We have understood that, as we move less, i.e. burn less calories, we also have to take in less calories. Multipacks for Babybel cheeses or two-finger Kitkats are today available in any shop. We can even find mini-Tabasco or small shots of Red Bull. As mentioned above, this is more a product trend than a design trend.

Shaped cartons
Cardboard quality and technology as well as sophisticated machinery has today made it possible to do almost any shape in cardboard. It is no surprise that last year’s Pentaward went to a new shape of Kleenex tissue packs which no doubt created some problem on the production line, but was such an outstanding design that it sold out in two weeks! The Baci carton is a further example of how we can today develop even roundish shapes in cardboard.

The three price levels
Any big supermarket chain will today offer three levels of quality or price… superpremium, standard and economy. I don’t know who started it, most likely Tesco, but you will find today simple white designs as well as goldembossed sophisticated solutions from the leading retailers. As I live in Switzerland I have chosen to show the economy designs for Coop and Migros as well as their superpremium packages. Here one can really speak of design trends as the symbolism used is similar in all markets (white-gold-embossing, etc.)

Structured plastic and glass bottles
One again, technology has facilitated the work for the designer to add structure to the bottles as well as interesting designs thanks to plastic film shrink wrapping. The tactile role of package design is no doubt the most significant improvement or trend during the last years.

As this no doubt means a slight cost increase I find it gratifying that the retailers and brand owners are accepting this to make packaging more interesting.

Point-of-sale activities
Once again, thanks to technology, i.e. first-class flexographic printing on various ‘flute-materials’ we see, mainly from Ferrero, very attractive sales-stimulating material (pallets, free-standing corrugated displays, etc.).

However strangely enough, it is in this world that far more can be done to render shopping more attractive. Trays still mostly carry logotypes and not sales-stimulating texts and the shippers, which often end up inside the store, are still designed for logistic, and not for marketing thinking.

This leads me to the great weakness in today’s marketing youth. They do not think holistically. Neither do they see the total packaging picture (primary ‘retail’, secondary ‘display’ and tertiary ‘shipper’ packaging), nor do they reach out for the synergy effect you can achieve between packaging, POS, advertising, website and other marketing activities. What a pity!

An article like this would not be complete without mentioning where we stand still or even go backwards. I see no progress in easy-open packaging. I still believe that micro-well is a material that can be used far more and last, but not least, the GDA-information on packages is no doubt a step backwards as it is not giving understandable information on how to eat and drink with moderation.

A trend which needs a special article is the considerable increase in special editions where creativity is far superior. The masters are Toblerone and Kinder.

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