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Brand vs. Company

Brand vs. Company

Brand vs. Company in the food and drink world I’ve had the great advantage and pleasure to work for almost 40 years for Nestlé. During that time, I have regularly been asked to explain the difference between a brand and a company or, in other words, between a product brand and a corporation. As any […]

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YES, it’s possible

YES, it’s possible

We all know that one of several reasons why consumers often have an aversion to packages is that so many of them are difficult to open, or reclose. That’s a pity, as many packages are in fact very good from a practical (handling), as well as from an aesthetical and informative point of view. Why […]

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It’s local!

It’s local!

… 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 […]

Nov 24

Do you develop the briefing together with your client?

Do you look for the big idea before you design the pack?

Do you design the brand’s key visual(s) before you design the pack?

Do you give your client the one solution which you believe in as an expert and then max. 2-3 alternatives, or do you design 8 alternatives to choose from?

Do you constantly, on your own initiative, suggest improvements to your clients to designs you or other agencies have done for them?

Do you stimulate creative thinking by constantly ‘educating’ your client with articles, books, seminars, etc.?

Do you encourage your own people to take initiatives to improve working methods or team work? Don’t forget that you do not need more than two people to create a team!

Do you push all your people to sketch, be it account people, illustrators, art directors, etc.?

Do you stimulate good handwriting? Steve Jobs did!

Do you share knowledge with other design friends?

Do you go storechecking at least once a month?

Do you all speak English in the agency?

Do you send out my book 🙂 or any other book on design as an end-of-the-year gift?

Do you dress up when you meet your client?

Do you present your design proposals with explanatory comments to your client, avoiding emotional remarks such as ‘I like or dislike’?

… well, then you are doing very well! Joyeux Noël!

Nov 11

Red, yellow and blue make up the primary colours in a painter’s colour wheel. The secondary colours, violet, orange and green make up another triad. Triads are formed by 3 equidistant colours on the colour wheel.

The 3 primary pigment colours cannot be made by mixing any other colours. These 3 colours can be mixed to create all other colours and can be combined with white to create tints (lighter tones) or with black to create shades (darker tones). As the visual system develops slowest in our body (at birth, the child sees mostly grey) and the primary colours being the clearest, it is not surprising that the LEGO manufacture started off with only the primary colours for their plastic bricks.

I have a passion, or call it an obsession, to look out for any product, vehicle or collection that has settled for primary colours in order to stand out. How about these:

garbage bins,

these tubes next to the yellow plastic structure,

the three Volkswagen I saw in Mexico City,

the bus,

the three salesmen in Port of Spain,

or the 3 cases for liquid drinks?

As mentioned earlier, it is all about impact and being seen… because if you are not seen, you cannot be bought! Therefore many brands have chosen the primary colours and the one that comes first to my mind is Burger King.

Some flags have the primary colours and my favourite one is Colombia, as you can see on the small plastic pot in which I put my felt pens.

There are equally many packages with primary colours designs and I’m sure the reader has his or her favourite. My own is Nestlé’s Galak because first of all I like white chocolate and then I also appreciate the simplicity of the design which tells a very healthy story.

If you put a few packages together, you can obviously achieve a primary colours collection as these Vitasoy Ice Tea packs from Hong Kong or my own collection of Coke/Flup/Bref!

As mentioned earlier, children are attracted by bright colours, especially the primary ones, so it was very natural for Mars to use these colours for their M&M’s aeroplane dispenser.

Nestlé’s Galak

Vitasoy Ice Tea


M&M’s aeroplane dispenser

So if you wish to make an impact, think primary colours and for those who would like to know more, I hope to see you once when I give my speech “Colour in marketing”!

Oct 29

Typographic pack design

Posted by Packaging Sense in Advertising | Design | Uncategorized

When art and the practice of typography joined forces with the invention of movable type and the printing press in the 15th centry, who could then foresee such a fantastic development, which was going to be amplified with the arrival of the digitalisation? Calligraphy, also used in pack design, is of course even older and if we go further back in time, we find the Chinese proverb “a picture is worth a thousand words”. And this is exactly what this article is about! Can typography ‘paint’ a picture on the front of the pack to tell a great story? Yes, in the manner of the “LOVE” art by Robert Indiana, first as a Christmas card in 1964 and then as a sculpture in 1970.

In my collection of interesting packages collected over some 50 years, I’ve selected a few samples which I appreciate for various reasons, be it readability, creativity, surprise, beauty, structure or elegance. My samples come mainly from the Latin alphabet, although similar designs may be found in other writing systems such as Arabic, Cyrillic, Hebrew, Indic script or East Asian signs.

Let it be said loud and clear: the words put together must have both a verbal and a visual story to tell in order to achieve impact!

Maggi Liquid Seasoning (1909)
This masterpiece should never have been tampered with and should have kept its original design following the example of S. Pellegrino, an icon within the world of label design. With each redesign, the Maggi label has become worse and worse and is today a bland copy of the original one. Here I would use the excellent German expression “Verschlimmbesserung”!

I profit to say that by using the three colours red, yellow and black, as well as different type faces, you can easily get the following information:

  • is unique
  • for every kitchen
  • is unbeatable
  • Nobile quia optimum (= known because the best), in Latin to underline the uniqueness
  • ingredients, etc.

(The illustration is a modernised special edition of the original label).

Savon de Marseille
Here is another iconic design which I hope will never be modernised! The soap is in a typical cubic shaped pack on which one can read the whole story of its production. Unique is the word I would use for this typographic design!

Diet Coca-Cola
Let us make a huge step forward in time and admire Turner Duckworth’s highly contemporary design which was foreseen as a special edition, but was so appreciated by the consumers that it became the new standard for Diet Coke in the U.S. The rest of the world is today leaning towards the black Coca-Cola Zero. Can typography be more dynamic, unique and contemporary? I doubt!

Michel & Augustin biscuit packs
In 2004, inspired by the innocent fruit drinks, Michel & Augustin, les trublions du goût (taste troublemakers) started a whole new style of communication by using neither typography, nor calligraphy, but simple clear handwriting on their packages. Call it what you want, but for me this is an excellent example of

  • breaking away and being different;
  • using a language which the young consumer target appreciates as it is non-industrial.

Right now, the Michel & Augustin products can be found from Russia to Singapore, including even yoghurts (Vache à boire, i.e. Cow to drink), desserts, etc. In 2010, Michel & Augustin obtained the Prix Phénix for good communication, ahead of both McDonald’s and Evian!

Let us stop here for a moment, as is about packaging communication, more than package design. What conclusions can we draw before we continue? Well, there is a great future for those package designers who include copywriting and typography in their toolbox to design great packages. One day, they might even improve the back, i.e. service panels which are still disastrous when it comes to layout, amount of text, typography and comprehension! I’ll continue with 10 more interesting examples from my own toolbox:

The Hottest Fuckin’ Sauce (Figueroa Brothers)
Surprise! Surprise! … which makes the consumer read the whole text on the front that ends with the sentence “there is no better verbal therapy”. You may find the complete text if you go to their website, or buy the product!

Braised Pork (Russia)
I often go to Moscow to teach, as Russia seems to still be lagging behind the West when it comes to

  • the quality of the design;
  • the communication

I do not speak Russian and cannot read the text, but I have learned some of the cyrillic letters and am therefore of the opinion that to have all letters of equal height makes it less legible than the Latin alphabet with its ascending and descending letters. I may be wrong. Here is a label that says something like “great product”, “braised pork”, “extra”, “superior quality”… Unfortunately, the quality of this typography does not live up to these words.

Le Rustique
It is in fact quite easy to communicate tradition. First you just have to choose the right material(s) and then a typography that is hot stamped, i.e. burnt, together with a quality seal. Great simple design!

Petits-Beurre de Lorient
Yes, tradition is easy to represent as there are so many symbols to use in order to express a time passed. And isn’t food often something very traditional? I think this design has the right typefaces and decorative elements.

Domino’s Handmade PAN PIZZA
Certainly more than 50 years separate Albert Ménès’ Petits-Beurre and Domino’s Pizza pack, but what a difference in communication! Domino has always been creative with their packages. This one beats most of what I’ve seen until now! Full of fun facts and emphasis on the RTB as for instance “never-frozen dough”. Go to their website and learn more!

Compagnia dell’Arabica coffee
As a stamp collector, this design easily falls into my toolbox as the typography is so well chosen both on the stamp and on the pack. It is elegant design that expresses quality and it is timeless!

John & John No 1
Good choice of typogaphy (in a series of numbers). You may feel the pleasure the designer had when he carefully ‘filled the surface’ with the typography he liked. Congratulations!

McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes
An article such as this one would not be complete if I didn’t mention the revolutionary design, some years ago, by Williams Murray Hamm which, I believe, has been redesigned since. Can typography be used more effectively? I say “NO”!

MIGROS Budget Range
Typography can be used to express many things, from quality to tradition. These designs caught my attention as they cleverly combine the oblique quality pattern with a simple product denomination in a sans-serif typeface. Budget is furthermore designed in a cheap manner. Great communication!

Adams’ Infinity Chiclets chewing-gum
This is great design to express an ‘endless – eternal – perpetual TASTE’! When I write about typography, i.e. letters, I obviously include figures as well as signs. These small packs are real masterpieces! It is surprising to analyse this product category and see how creative the design agencies are, because the space is limited…

Zoega’s Forza!
Last, but not least, here is another of my favourits from which we have a lot to learn. Not only the concentration on one letter as done by McDonald’s or Kellogg’s (Special K), it is the way the letter has been designed to express something – and this is what this article is all about! The flames, together with the word “Forza!” and the Swedish words “eldig och kraftfull, extra mörkrost” (fiery and powerful, extra dark roasted) are telling a great story. Congratulations to Nestlé Sweden who did not ‘spoil’ this front with unnecessary information such as net weight, GDA, etc. which belong to the back panel!

I hope you’ve had some pleasure and learning from these examples chosen at random. I’m sure there are many more packs out there on the supermarket shelves. Just go and have a look!

Oct 11

The killing of 7 myths

Posted by Packaging Sense in Advertising | Design | Uncategorized

First: you have to show your pack in your ad…

No! It’s not necessary, as most consumers are not interested in what your pack looks like. An ad has to show your brand identity and tell what you are selling; all additional elements are just overloading the message. Advertising is about convincing who you are, what you do and where to find you.

Second: There is only one way to show the GDA…

No! First of all, there is no legislation about GDA, so you do not necessarily have to show it either on the front or the back. This being said, I am positive to the GDA for certain products. The illustration shows how Jordans do it on their cereal pack.

Three: Recycle whenever you can!

We have only one Earth, so we better take care of it. Recycling material is one of many disciplines we should all learn at school as early as possible. However, recycling for instance small coffee capsules or plastic bags/tubs in a country like Switzerland does not really make sense as we have a very efficient incineration system which, in addition, produces energy.

Ecology is mostly about energy and here the coin has many sides, depending upon where you live. It’s about transport which is energy consuming and about the separation or different materials.

Fourth: The corporate (or product) brand must be in the upper left hand corner, on the front of a pack.

I don’t know who first stated this. Yes, we start reading a book up left, but a pack is something different. It’s about selling, convincing and interest. Here the rules are different. If you have a so-called corporate brand, it must be in close proximity to the product brand and as disturbing as possible, so it can be below, above, on top, etc.

Fifth: People do not read back panels or people do read back panels.

Both statements are basically wrong! Pretending that nearly all consumers read the nutritional information is, in my opinion, based on market research where most likely the consumers, when questioned whether they read this information, will answer yes, they do. But they will most certainly only read what they understand, like for instance calories or ‘gluten free’.

The fact is that most people do not read back panels because they are boring! It is a pity that most designers and  brand managers are satisfied with the designing of the front and little attention is given to the other sides.

Sixth: You need the logotype and the product name on the back.

Why? When you have picked up the pack, you know what you have in your hands and, during my regular store checks, I see no packs that are placed the wrong way round.

Seventh: There is a standard size for the barcode.

Yes and no. There is a minimal size in relation to print quality, contrast, etc. but the code, if it answers the above criteria, can be as big as you like. I personally like the Kellogg’s barcode that can be read on several sides of the pack, or the Mackmyra Whisky from Sweden made from barley.

Oct 11

These days, my main interest has swung over from package design to in-store communication. Why? Because I find that so much more could be done in this area to trigger sales! Today, it seems that brand managers focus on sticking logotypes…  Yes, we need strong branding to attract consumers, but what is more important than a brand logotype is to give the consumer a real reason to buy a product (or a service).

Modern supermarkets have no sales people to attract consumers to certain products, so either call-to-action texts or mouth watering appetite appeal illustrations will have to do the job.

So why this article? Because during our yearly holidays in the West of Ireland, I met the master in in-store communication: Henry Keogh in Oughterard, Co. Galway. He runs a shop with all-weather clothes, boots and shoes, plus housewares, gifts and crafts. Henry never went to a marketing course or business seminar, as he is the typical down-to-earth, commonsensical self-made man. He took over the shop from his father who had set it up some 60 years ago. The first sign when entering the shop says: “Make sure to view the whole shop. It travels back a long, long way. There is also an upstairs”.

Henry, a smiling and charming Irishman certainly lives up to the Chinese saying: “Don’t open a shop if you can’t smile”. When I visited his shop, I was smiling to myself from all the learning I got from the excellent call-to-action texts such as “Books and novels, have a look”, “Feel free to try on our knitwear” or “Yes, we are open on Sundays!”

Wherever you turned in this Ali Baba’s cave, I was told that there was something for me and if it was sold out, the text read: “Sorry, large jars sold out, new stock arriving soon”. My favourite text reads: “We are happy to offer you our unique seletion of gifts, much of which will not be found anywhere else”.

If someone understands the power of loaded words, it is certainly Henry with words such as fantastic, value, unique selection, etc. He highlights the key words as for instance “Our value and selection will not be beaten”, or “Fantastic value, Nicholas Mosse Pottery. Prices have been reduced by 20%”. To have the word “Look” stand out, Henry added eyes! The top image show him together with his son, hopefully the next generation at John P. Keogh in Oughterard!

So when a small shop owner out in Connemara can do it, why not the big FMCG companies I’m working for? Well, hopefully after having read this article!

Sep 02

Lars Live!

Posted by Packaging Sense in Advertising | Uncategorized

Did you know that you can have Lars’ learning live?

Lars can come to you to analyse your designs, teach your people or entertain your clients.

The articles on come to life when Lars speaks with the help of a flip chart , an OH projector and a collection of slides. He has also case studies to involve the auditorium. He can do a 2 hour presentation as well as a full day teaching. All you have to do is to pay him a first class train ticket or a business class air fare (first overseas), a hotel room and a sum of money to cover the cost of preparation (didactic material, printouts, etc.) He even still has a few books to sell!

You will no doubt like his unique style of teaching and you’ll have a few hours of fun! Book him now by contacting “”

Jul 19

Does this make sense?

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

Very early in my marketing career I was told that, if you wish to build a strong brand, you cannot be two things, in other words, you must focus on one thing! I also learned that too many line extensions weaken the brand. Nothing made me change this opinion; I have seen many mistakes in marketing which just confirm the above.

The latest is no doubt KitKat Senses from Nestlé. Well, here’s another case which I will follow closely, as I doubt that it will be a success story.

A Kellogg’s brand, in this case Special K, is in my opinion a brand which has positive health connotations thanks to the two words cereal and milk. I suppose most consumers share this opinion. It is also a ‘sweet’ brand, as Kellogg’s products, from Frosties to Special K, are sugared or used with sugar.

What did I discover the other day, if not a range of snack products in the crisp/chips category which, as I see it, have very little health connotations! One of the products has an identical design to Special K Red Berries. Moreover, I think that it is the wrong type of pack. Snack products like chips or crisps are usually in plastic/aluminium foil bags to highlight the crispiness!

Future will tell us what will happen to Kellogg’s Cracker Crisps. My guess is that it goes the same way as Nestlé’s KitKat Senses!

The reason why the Crisp pack looks like the Red Berries is that the Kellogg’s company seems to have too strict a guideline which does not allow the agency to develop a unique design for this new range of different Special K products…

Jul 19

Many years ago, Nestlé tried to launch KitKat in China, with little success, as the recipe was wrong (for the Chinese), i.e. too much chocolate, two little biscuit and too expensive.

With a different recipe, “Nestlé Shark” was launched at the correct price and recipe. The shark was not there from the beginning, but as Nestlé had learned from Nesquik and Milo, they added a spokesman, an icon, i.e. something emotionally stronger than a logotype. Why? Because the product can be copied, but never a strong, memorable and unique icon! Nestlé’s cheaper version of KitKat was indeed quickly copied and, as can be seen from the illustration, there are many similar products on the market by now.

So what is the learning? It’s very simple: An icon, a spokesman, is much stronger than  a logotype and does a better job, but it has to be big and placed in a prominent place on the package. Just ask Kellogg’s – they know this!

Jul 08

Our brain functions in such a way that it concentrates on max 3-4 parts of an illustration. Therefore you don’t see, nor read, the second ”the”.

The question to which we have no real answer, although many studies and research at POS have been conducted, is the following:

Why don’t we buy certain things or why do we buy mostly what we already know?

At a conference in Stockholm some years ago, I learned from a Swedish researcher that there are 5 reasons why we do not buy certain things – a real challenge for a package designer to do something about it! Here are the reasons:

  • We don’t see everything we are looking at! Our capacity to take in information is very limited, in most cases as few as 3 data, in extreme cases up to 7. And in most package designs, we give up to 10 information on a front panel, often just to please a product manager’s ego.
  • The brain is constantly trained for things we do not wish to remember. Well, if our brain should take in all we see and store it, we would just ‘go crazy’. So the brain, on purpose, does not wish to see certain things and we can do nothing to change that.
  • We ‘see’ with our memory. We see faster certain things as our memory remembers certain shapes, colours and signs faster than others.
  • In the subconscious, there is a constant fight between what we are used to and the influence of the environment, and who do you think wins? What we are used to. Therefore, in order to stand out, we have to surprise to awake interest in our subconscious!
  • We need help to understand what we think we understand. Maybe we understand, but do we act from this understanding? We need help for this to happen.

As you may see from these 5 points, it is very important that we design with

  • as few elements as possible
  • as interesting elements as possible
  • as clearly understood elements as possible
  • as common elements as possible

Do we do this? Unfortunately seldom, as we often wish to please a marketing person’s view and not what the consumer really can take in! … makes you think, doesn’it?

Jul 08

Do you know the clue…

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

… it’s orange and blue!

I am often asked the question: which are the best colours for my pack so it is seen on the shelves?

The answer is of course: any! … it all depends on what you are selling, what the competitors’ packages look like or what you wish the consumers to retain from your pack design.

Some of my students insist and go on asking, “but which are the best colours for you personally?” Here I have a more precise answer: orange (different shades) and dark blue! Why? First of all because I happen to like these colours, but also because:

  • they are almost opposite to each other on the colour circle, i.e. they have a contrasting effect;
  • they express taste (orange) and freshness (blue), as I mostly deal with food and drinks packages;
  • the first brand I came in contact with out of school in 1962 was the P&G Tide as my company was the main supplier of these cartons.

During my regular store checkings, I learned more and more about shelf impact and retail communication and I noticed that quite a number of brands use orange as their main colour (Uncle Ben’s, Ovomaltine, or Ritz) combined with blue as for instance YORKIE.

For this short article I’ve selected brands from different parts of the world like Tiger (Asia/Pacific), Terry’s Chocolate Orange (UK), McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes (UK) and the Norwegian pizza BigOne.

There are numerous other packages around the world. As this colour combination is so strong, it is important to also think how to present an orange or a blue pack to achieve impact… obviously with the contrasting colours as the LC1 illustration shows!

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