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Tasty communication

Tasty communication

One day, I was asked by a Swedish Food Journal to give my views on how to best communicate taste on pack design. The title in Swedish was “Do you speak a food language?” Before I start, I should like to say that I am one of the lucky few who, during my education and […]

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More about Creativity

More about Creativity

A dictionary will tell you that creativity is the ability to make new things or to think up new ideas. Also, we should never forget that what leads to creativity is knowledge. In other words, the more you know, the more creative you can be. I know it sounds pretentious, but I believe that I’m […]

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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 […]

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 20

Package design for beginners

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

Package design is about selling. To sell you have to convince consumers that your product is different or better than the competition.

To achieve this you basically only need common sense and an understanding of  human desires. Which is not that difficult. Everybody can learn it and it is not a matter of taste only as most people believe. Of course taste plays a big role, but never forget that each person has his or her personal taste which is not easy to group.

Package design will take aesthetics into consideration, but what is far more important is that the package design has a real RTB, (reason-to-buy). This can be done through shape, copy, layout, colours, etc.

Here lies the weakness of most package designs, mostly due to designers putting too much importance on taste/aesthetics (often their own) and not human needs, as e.g. curiosity, esteem, safety or belonging.

In order to succeed with a package design there are some very simple rules, guidelines or advice to follow and they can be summarized as follows:

  • must be seen
  • maximal appetite appeal
  • simplicity
  • value for money
  • uniqueness

So where is then “the design”? Well, it should be everywhere. This means that in the above five elements for a successful package design the designer has actually designed the part that communicates. Yes, it is all about communication and not as mentioned above, just aesthetics.

If you do not communicate something you cannot sell as selling is about “touching the mind” of a consumer.

If you are not seen you cannot be sold! It’s all about impact, contrast and standing out on the shelf. It’s about being different and unique and thus remembered. If not remembered there will be no re-purchase. You achieve this best with a special shape (often costly) or a special layout (e.g. brand at the bottom), but also with colours and text.

Easy to say, more difficult to do as it is a matter of teamwork and optimisation. It’s how you cut the tomato, how you add water droplets, how you use warm light, how you increase the 3D-effect, how you embellish, how you add action, how you avoid back-lighting, how you chose a good material to print on or how you look in mass-display. You need a top food stylist, a top photographer, a top creative designer and a client with a passion for food and what makes food attractive. Also enough time. Food photography is not a haste work.

No consumer on earth is so interested in a food or drink product that she or he wants to see 4-5-6 different messages. Apart from speciality products like foie gras, boxed chocolate or malt whiskey where the buyer has time to look for information the average consumer is mainly interested in 3 things:

  1. the brand
  2. the illustration (if none, the denomination)
  3. the date (fresh products), the price (special offer) or the size or volume (servings or number)

In order for this information to stand out other information has to be deleted or subdued. Hierarchy is important and therefore one will find the biggest brands on typical impulse products such as a MARS bar, a soft drink or a chewing gum. On a pizza, however, it is the appetite appeal that takes priority over the brand while on a yoghurt pot the date marking becomes the number one information.

If the consumer has the opinion that she gets more than expected she will always return. That is to say a lower price, a higher quality and more product than she expected. Here package design can play an important role by not overpromising or being misleading. Honesty is a must which does not mean that you cannot photograph the product in a brighter light or increase contrast. A reclosable pack design, a pack easy to open or single serve portions are different ways to add value to the product, highly appreciated by the consumer.

Many products are by nature very similar. A litre of milk is a litre of milk and spaghetti will always look like spaghetti. The same is the case for a dried tomato soup or freezedried coffee. Luckily we can, through package design, make each of these products unique.

First of all we can have a unique logotype for the brand. Most logotypes can still be rendered more unique apart from those who have become timeless and untouchable as for instance CocaCola, San Pellegrino or Kellogg’s. The package design can be given a special shape which, however, often means extra costs.

A third way is to combine materials as for instance cardboard packs with plastic windows, glass bottles with paper labels or wooden bags-in-box for wine with a plastic laminate sachet inside.

Uniqueness can also be achieved by a unique layout, i.e. not following the standard layout with logotype on top, illustration below and ‘New’ in the corner.

Package desing can be outstanding and considerably increase sales if the above  5 advice are taken into account. Unfortunately it is seldom the case as we live in a risk-aversion society and do not dare to constantly change, thus improve the package.

May 20

First of all improve your product, secondly improve your communication and that is what this article is about.

Human beings are basically the same all over the world and will therefore buy the products which have the very best reputation. A reputation is built first of all thanks to an excellent product, but as there are many excellent products today we have to add great design and communication. This will, so to speak, be the cream on the cake! Communication and design should be as the cream highly emotional. There is of course always a rational background as we cannot build any communication on air or just on a statement, or even worse on a lie. You can lie once, never twice and repeat purchase and satisfied consumers is what counts.

Everything starts with what ou want to be which we could call product or brand positioning. If this is not crystal clear there is no future. This “want to be” can be anything from security (Volvo) to surprise (Kinder).

Why is this “want to be” so important? Because it decides not only what you are going to communicate, but also how. In order to maximize the impact (see below) it is not possible to do everything in each media as the consumer, being today bombarded with brands and products, can only take in few and simple messages at a time.

As you need a synergy effect to maximize your communication it is important to decide what to communicate in each medium. Here is an example for a food product.

  • Retail packaging: l. Appetite appeal, 2. Brand, 3. RTB;
  • Point-of-sale: l. Appetite appeal, 2. RTB;
  • Weekly press: l. RTB, 2. Brand, 3. Appetite appeal;
  • Outdoor: l. Brand, 2. Appetite appeal;
  • Website: l. RTB;
  • Transport & display packaging: 1. Brand, 2. Appetite appeal, etc.

As you may see, the order of importance changes from one medium to another as it depends upon the time (distance) between the message and the purchasing situation.

In order to strengthen the brand, here are a few advice:

  1. Decide what the consumer should first of all remember, i.e. logotype, icon or shape;
  2. Distribute a one-page document that freezes the various parts of the identity in order of importance. Those who should have a copy of this document are, internally: brand manager, sales dept., purchasing, legal, board, etc. and externally: agencies, printers, trade and retailers.
  3. Once the above document has been issued it is time to interpret it in a CREATIVE manner in order for the brand to become top-of-mind among the consumers. Maybe  you need not go as far as Google and constantly redesign the logotype, but it is very healthy for a brand to not always appear in an identical execution. The icon or the logotype can be partly covered to show another maybe more interesting object. The colour can never be changed. It is sacred and so is the eventual shape which obviously can also be partly covered. Why do I promote temporary changes to the icon or logotype? Because, in order to best express for instance a special edition for Christmas/New Year/Halloween/Easter, etc. it is important to relate to this event. As an example your icon can wear a Santa Claus cap on the Christmas communication. You have here the possibility to be very creative in order to make your brand more interesting. Good examples are Absolut and Toblerone.

In order to strengthen a brand it is necessary to make it stand out and be different. It is therefore important to understand the power of exaggeration! When you stress too little there is no effect; if you exaggerate too much you loose credibility. To exaggerate just right is an art and cannot be taught. It is a matter of the right gut-feel which you achieve if you know your brand, if you love and cherish it and if you are constantly looking at the environment in which the brand appears. It is also a matter of being up to date with technology. An example of this is that many two-dimensional logotypes can today also appear in 3D without loosing their identities.

Why is it so important to understand how much you can temporarily alter an identity? For the same reason that you dress differently on a Sunday than on a Wednesday. Would you like to see your wife constantly in the same clothes? … and I am sure you also like her make-up which is what ‘slight exaggeration’ or embellishment is all about.

Good luck!

May 19

Brand identity…

Posted by Packaging Sense in Advertising | Design | Featured | Logotypes | Uncategorized

…creativity, style and strengthening

Brands are in a sense virtual, helping to make products real. Products will always be more important than brands as they fill the latter with real substance. However, what we buy is more often a brand than a product as the brand has a superior emotional content. We buy Nescafé rather than freezedried soluble coffee and Red Bull rather than an energy drink.

So how is a brand’s identity built or made and what can this identity consist of? Before enumerating the various parts of the brand, may I state that identity is what we as consumers see (or hear) of the brand while image is the emotional idea we individually perceive.

The main ‘ingredients’ of the brand’s visual identity are:

  • • logotype
  • • colour or colour scheme
  • • shape/form
  • • style
  • • icon/spokesman
  • • slogan

To this we can now and then add sound, i.e. a jingle or a noise as the Harley Davidson engine!  A brand identity cannot be democratic, i.e. different people cannot have a say. It needs a guardian and that is the marketing manager (or CEO) of a company, not the legal department as often believed. Why marketing? Because a brand has to constantly adapt to the market situation in order to survive.

Having exercised my profession in the food and drink business I soon learned that a strong brand tastes better. If it tastes right and is constantly supported in all media it tastes best of all.

As we recognise rather than read brand names it is important that a brand be as simple to understand as a road sign, i.e. quickly recognized and remembered. Furthermore, it should have a unique personality.

This being said, is a brand’s identity untouchable once it has been fixed? It was believed so ‘in the old days’. What we have learned now is that in order to remain top-of-mind a brand can in fact evolve, temporarily change or even be cut off or partly hidden behind another design element.

However, the main key visual(s) of a brand cannot be changed. There are exceptions to this rule. The other day I saw Manchester United in their red outfit with a Carlsberg logotype although the house colour for Carlsberg is green! The main rule in branding is to be present rather than 100% correct. How about the Maggi logotypes outside the airport of Cusco?

By changing something to a brand’s visual identity for a short period makes it more interesting as we react to changes. The master in doing this is Toblerone, but also Mars and Nivea use this marketing technique to remain top-of-mind.

The logotype should, if possible, express the value(s) of a brand and have a strong personality. Also here there are exceptions. One that I haved experienced myself was at Nestlé. The basic Nestlé logotype was, on purpose, made neutral and uncharacteristic to be relevant to a multitude of product categories from medium quality to very high, from liquid to solid, from chocolate to baby food, etc.

However, some twenty years later the CEO, Mr. Peter Brabeck, a man of vision decided that Nestlé should look like a specialist in each category. The following designs were therefore developped. One so to speak ‘dressed up’ the neutral Nestlé logotype to express e.g.

passion for chocolate or

naturalness for milk

fresh water

This approach is of great value in markets where Nestlé is very big as for instance France, Brazil or Spain, but more questionable for smaller markets.

Needless to say a very characteristic logotype is of high value. Just ask CocaCola, Kellogg’s or Perrier. Pages could be written about colours and colour schemes to identify brands. As our brain remembers colour(s) better than shapes, forms or words a characteristic logotype combined with a colour or colours is obviously the best solution. My favourite colours and colour combinations are for instance

  • • Milka or Cadbury violet
  • • Uncle Ben’s or Ovaltine orange
  • • Nivea blue
  • • Maggi red and yellow

The great advantage of house colours is that it creates a block effect on point-of-sale and the brand appears bigger and thus stronger. Didn’t I say that strong brands taste better?

Among brand shapes in the food and drink category the most successful are no doubt

  • • Kinder egg
  • • Marmite
  • • Toblerone
  • • CocaCola
  • • Maggi Aroma
  • • Perrier
  • • Ritter chocolate

To give an idea of the strength of an icon/spokesman I rember that some 20 years ago the Maggi Blue Chicken (Gallina Azul) in Brazil became so popular (she appeared everywhere from Rio’s Carneval to Play Boy) that she became stronger than the Maggi brand logotype and consumers  thought that all Maggi products were chicken-based. There was only one longterm solution and that was to ‘kill’ the blue chicken to have the Maggi brand survive.

So much about icons. They can be very powerful if properly used as Johnnie Walker’s man who ‘keeps on walking’, the Green Giant, Uncle Ben’s sympathetic face, the Nesquik Quiky Rabbit or Tony the Tiger.

I obviously know that descriptive brand names are difficult to register and protect. This being said, I am a big believer in this kind of branding. There are many good examples in various languages from“I can’t believe it is not butter” in USA to “Nimm 2” in Germany or “The Decadent” in Canada. When we changed Nestlé cooking chocolate in New Zealand to “Easy to melt” we had an instant increase in sales.

Brand extensions is what brand managers dream of as it means little marketing investment. This is not the place to discuss the validity, but as a general comment: it can be very dangerous to extend a brand beyond its core value(s). This is equally valid for co-branding exercises:

A brand is like a ‘living person’ as we constantly add values to it in the same way as we human beings develop. The best example of how a brand identity can evolve, still maintaining its core visual identity is the UK Kellogg’s Corn Flakes package which got one of the best face-lifts in packaging history in order to

  • • have stronger shelf impact
  • • behave as the big leader it is in the category
  • • become even more iconic

In order to strengthen a brand in the consumer’s mind the brand’s identity can be ‘fortified’ by using a very unique design style. The best example is no doubt iPod and iPod + tunes’ outdoor and press campaigns which reinforced the simplicity of the Apple identity. The brand’s identity is furthermore strengthened by a constant improvement of the product(s). This makes it more attractive. The improvements can be in the packaging as well as in the product itself. We hope this article will help the reader to take packaging even more seriously.

This chapter can only best be finalized with the now famous saying

we make products
we sell brands,

but the consumer buys satisfaction which brings us to the quotation by P. Brabeck at Nestlé “The strength of a brand is only as strong as the product behind it..”  just as what the introduction of this chapter told us.

May 19

Design starts with an idea

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Featured | Uncategorized

Why sketching is important, or how to take pictorial notes

Did you know that there are basically two types of people on this earth? Visual and non-visual ones. The non-visuals can furthermore be divided into kinestetic and auditive, but we will not deal with this issue in this article.

Following the first remark, it must be noted that your colleagues may not see what you see. By the way, did you know that those who study marketing and finance, i.e. business, do not always belong to the category of visual people?

Well, why are so many of the visualizers so frustrated when they cannot sell their ideas? Because the person in front (i.e. product manager, brand manager, purchasing agent, etc.) cannot appreciate what has been done if it is not explained to them. The same happens when you bring your car to the garage for repair – you cannot appreciate if they did a good job or not unless you are an expert or that it is explained to you.

So how get rid of the abovementioned frustration? The answer is SKETCHING! If, when you are being briefed by the marketing person, you VISUALIZE your ideas in front of the client with rough sketches (what can be called ‘pictorial notes’) you do not only save time, but you can start your creative work in the design studio from a platform that your client has agreed upon and is therefore more willing to accept as he or she feels part of the creative process.

As words in a written briefing can be misunderstood (designers are often verbally weak) rough sketches are very useful to bridge an eventual communication gap.

Now you might say ‘I cannot draw’… Well, sketching does not necessarily have to be beautifully balanced drawings. It is enough if you show with very rough layouts the hierarchy of information that your counterpart expects. Commercial communication is not an exercise in beauty. It is an exercise in structured thinking. The elements which call to action are those which have to be visually strongest. Commercial art which is part of design has been developped with the arrival of modern distribution to sell products, not itself.

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.
May 18

Pizza packaging

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Featured | Uncategorized

After breakfast cereal packaging it is no doubt the pizza category of products that offer most  creativity (colour, layout, concept) in a supermarket. If the big selling pizza brands for obvious reasons amplify the appetite appeal there are still quite a number of secondary brands which offer highly interesting design solutions.

Before looking at some great designs let us first see what makes people buy pizzas or should we say, as the Italians, pizze?

No doubt the most logical approach when designing a pizza pack is to relate to its Italian origin, i.e. with symbols like gondolas, the Vesuvius, la mamma, the Tower of Pisa, etc. However, as all this now looks as ‘déjà vu’, we see far more creative solutions.

Here are a few advice if you wish to design a successful package with hopefully a product that lives up to your design.

FIRST: Maximal appetite appeal which means that you have to exaggerate the following

  • • the colours. A pizza must look warm, i.e. rather earthy colours;
  • • the crust. A pizza must look crusty, but at the same time ‘melting’;
  • • the melting. A pizza must show melting cheese as this enhances the mouthfeel. (La Grandiosa, M-Margherita, Big One);
  • • 3D effect. It is here most pizza packages fail as they look flat. It is a matter of lifting up a quarter, give it a drop-shadow and make it look coming towards you and not away!
  • • the foodstyling which means that the ingredients on top must be clear and clean, but at the same time looking real. This is not an easy job.

SECOND: You need a clear concept, or call it RTB (reason-to-buy) as for instance Steinofen (baked in stone oven), the Big One (Norway’s leading brand.. big people = big pizze), Grandiosa or Trattoria (made by a pizzaiolo).

THIRD: Varieties! Consumers wish to now and then change the taste although most likely 80% will always buy the same once they have found their favourite.

If you get the above three advice correct you may have a success. However, there are other ways of creating an outstanding design and that is to simplify to the maximum.

My own favourite is a take-home pizza in Switzerland called Pizza Pronto from the design studio Typoundso who worked with the famous illustrator Thomas Ott. If the key message is to be noticed, talked about (word of mouth is the best advertising) and economically produced.. this is it!

My second favourite is the Norwegian concept, the Big One, not caring at all to be Italian, but with American skylines (San Francisco, NYC, etc.), Norwegian Mozzarella and Cheddar.

My third design is the French Marie who have understood that a chilled pizza is fresher. This means that they took away the appetite appeal and made it look like a take-away pack in just two colours.

No1 in Norway

No 1 in Norway

Can a product name be better?

Can a product name be better?

Highly typical retailer pack design

Highly typical retailer pack design

As much italian as you can get

As much italian as you can get

Break away! Be different!

Break away! Be different!

All the imagery of freshness

All the imagery of freshness

Great typography

Great typography

A pizza doesn't necessary need to be italian

A pizza doesn't necessary need to be italian

As Marie and Bottega… a typical fresh (take home) design

As Marie and Bottega… a typical fresh (take home) design

Why not say it?

Why not say it?

Each market has it's slow-baked

Each market has it's slow-baked

Yes it is possible to put people into the design, if they look authentic

Yes it is possible to put people into the design, if they look authentic

Smaller units are always welcome

Smaller units are always welcome

Furthermore, according to my own experience, the right material for a pizza package is no doubt micro-well (E- or F-flute) as it is more rigid and also more isolating (the air inbetween the flutes). The Pizza category of food being one of the most popular international meals will no doubt see even more creative solutions in the future.

May 18

The Open Corrugated Box

Posted by Packaging Sense in Bottles | Design | Uncategorized

Creative packaging is one of the most efficient way to promote a product. Very often the creativity comes from “thinking outside the box”. Here is an example of such a creative thinking, making a corrugated box more unique.

The Glenrothes whiskies (there are several different ones) all have the most unique package design in the whole category as they use:

  • • an open pack;
  • • a 4-layer corrugated board;
  • • no enhancing colours or gold.

There is today a clear trend towards see-through packaging, i.e. the use of a transparent plastic window or just an opening on a cardboard or metal package.

This trend which comes from Japan is here to stay as consumers want to see what they buy. Another trend is what we call “sleeve packaging”, i.e. a wrap-around on e.g. a pot of yoghurt. A third trend is to go “back to basics”, i.e. communicate a non-industrial product through typography, material and/or shape.

The Glenrothes whiskies do all of the above and have therefore created something so unique that few can copy it although the Russian vodka Marussya and the Aalborg Aquavit Christmas edition have come quite close to it.

What we can learn from this unique package design is that it

  • • is possible to touch the product;
  • • it is possible to see the exact colour of the product;
  • • a squat bottle expresses better strength than a slender shape;
  • • the 4-layer corrugated board gives an image of great protection;
  • • a handle will always invite to take the product/package;
  • • a small label expresses uniqueness;
  • • the small label has hand-written text, year of production, date, signatures, etc. which all contribute to autenticity;
  • • the glass bottle has the brand embossed in the glass which adds quality;
  • • the square shape is the best from a logistic point-of-view.

So when you next time wish to buy a Scottish single malt whiskey, why not choose Glenrothes Speyside, the most unique corrugated box ever made?

May 17

Visibility sells!

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

There are many different trends within the food packaging world. One of them is the trend to include windows (with, or without plastic foil) on cardboard packages and especially in the areas of chocolate, pasta, rice and other dry products. More and more consumers want to see the product they are purchasing.

The more sophisticated a market is, the more transparency there will be as this excludes cheating, misinformation or exaggeration. The markets which have much transparency in their food packaging are no doubt Japan, France and UK, especially in the fresh and refrigerated product categories.

Thomas Hinze says in his book on packaging, “advertising leads you into temptation, it is packaging that is the temptation”. It is therefore somewhat surprising to see how little money is spent in creating package design in relation to the very often quite big advertising budgets. I heard the CEO of Nestlé, Mr Peter Brabeck saying in a speech

“food packaging is still an enormously under-utilised medium and the most economical advertising medium”.

How right he is! The reason why we do not see more “see-through” packages is certainly because food packaging is more often seen as a cost (and a plastic film window obviously costs more) than as a marketing investment. Packaging is and will forever remain the best advertising medium.

A company that has clearly understood the power of see-through is Ferrero.. and they do not only create unique food package design, most of them also have a window! When Mars created their success concept “Celebrations”, they were certainly inspired by packages such as Ferrero’s Rocher. At Barilla in Parma they know that in the pasta business consumers must see the product. That is why this business has so many plastic bags although they are less convenient both at home and in the supermarket than a rigid cardboard package.

The Collezione is for the writer a brilliant example of how to tell a convincing story that leads to purchase. Here are the five reasons:

  • • Attractive concept name “Collezione”;
  • • Window to see the product;
  • • Appetite appeal illustration with steam (hot food)
  • • “No 1 in Italia”.. if you are number one, you are in consumers’ minds, the best, i.e. a convincing RTB (Reason-to-buy);
  • • A service panel with not only a recipe and cooking instructions, but educational text how to recognize when a high quality pasta is “al dente”. Not to forget a big website and a legal text in several languages for sales in many different markets.

Food packaging, as can be seen from this article, is a matter of attracting the consumer and look as honest, fresh, interesting and inviting as possible as many of the window packages are not supported by other media.

May 14

Package design is no doubt a multi-diciplinary occupation. To succeed you need knowledge in many fields of activities. Here is a summary of the ten most important.

1. Understand the consumer
To find out what the consumer likes or wants, first of all think of yourself. What would you like ? A pack easy to open, a back panel text easy to read, a brand you trust, a clear product denomination, a pack easy to hold in your hands and easy to dispose of or recycle ? It is not more complicated. Forget buzz-words like insight or focus groups, just use your own intelligence and common sense! With this you will get at least 80% right and that is more than enough to achieve great packaging.

Packages are first of all designed with the consumer in mind, secondly only for the trade, the legislator or the boss.

2. Understand the meaning of simplicity
The person who best formulated this was Coco Chanel some 80 years ago when she coined the now famous phrase : “Always reduce, never add” and the architect Mies van der Rohe who also coined the often repeated, but seldom followed sentence : “Less is more !” Enough said. There is no doubt too much (useless) information on today’s packages.

3.  Understand positioning
Call it what you like : genetic code, DNA, spirit, core value, brand essence, big idea, etc., a package design must strengthen the idea behind a brand (or product). There must  be a synergy effect. A package design is always part of total communication and has therefore to be in line with the abovementioned idea or positioning. The idea must be simple and powerful.

4.  Understand hierarchy
There is always something that is the most important. It is very rare that two things matter the same, especially in package design. The responsible person for a package, be it the Marketing Director, the Big Boss or the Technical Director must be able to make a hierarchy list to follow for those who develop the package design. This is very seldom done and therefore the final result becomes ‘a little of everything’ which is equal to bad packaging.

It is obvious that nutritional information is the key information on a product like an infant formula milk for a newborn baby while for a teen-ager chewing gum an advice like “don’t smoke” would be the best choice.

5.  Understand legislation
This is the area where things often ‘go wrong’ as we do not make a difference between a must (i.e. a legislative decision) and a guideline or rule or best practice. Furthermore, a law can be interpreted in more than one way. For instance, does the front panel on a carton mean only the front or also the side panels ? It all depends upon which angle you hold the pack. In order to not fall into the trap of printing ‘almost everything’ which means small illegible texts, ask yourselves obvious questions like ;

  • • does the consumer really need this information?
  • • does this information help to sell more ?
  • • is the information understood ?
  • • does the consumer really need a GDA on a can of CocaCola or a small bag of peanuts, and what about the carbon foot print (CO2 emission)

Why not a bag-in-box in solid wood ?

6.  Understand material
Have you ever held in one hand a can of juice and in the other a carton pack (Tetra, Combibloc or Purepak) fresh from the fridge ? Well, do it once and you will understand why the aluminium or steel cans feel colder. One of the first decisions to take when developing a new package is what material or which material conbination should be chosen to best express the uniqueness of the product inside. It is just common sense that carton packages with transparent windows have today become very popular as most consumers want to see what they buy. Even paperbags have today a transparent window.

Why not a bag-in-box in solid wood ?

7.  Understand layout
There is a deep rooted syndrome among most marketing people. It is called ”the upper left hand corner syndrome” as marketing executives believe that a package is seen as a book and that one has to start ‘up left’ with the corporate brand. Nothing could be more wrong. A package design can have ANY layout. It is the product idea that dictates the layout and visual impact that should be achieved.

The French MAGGI “Panier de légumes” soup sachets are good examples. The layout could not be better. It has a 3D layout starting on top with the ingredients, a clear product denomination in the middle and a soup ladle at the bottom.

However, I will never understand what the text “Energy 83 kcal, 3 servings, etc.” has to do on the front panel. This type of information should be on the back leaving more space for the real call-to-action sales message which is “riche en fibres, vitamines et légumes” (in this order).

8.  Understand ecology
Today we are ‘bombarded’ with nutritional messages often too complicated to be understood by the average consumer. At the same time we learn about global warming, the dangers of CO2 and the depletion of the ozon layer. Would it not be a good idea to use the packages to educate the consumers about ecology (not only recycling!) and how we all, by changing our life style, could participate to make this Earth an even better place ?

9.  Understand 3D
A full-fledged package designer cannot be only a graphic designer. He or she must fully understand shapes, forms and how to achieve them.

A thin corrugated shipper needs a strong rigid retail package and vice versa. A great and interesting point-of-sale unit can work marvels even with a rather simple retail package. Before starting a package design project decide where to put your money !

10.  Understand total packaging, i.e. the SYNERGY effect
Until this day when I am writing these lines, after more than 40 years in package design, I have never been at a meeting where all of the following responsible persons were present :

  • • project leader (normally a brand or product manager);
  • • package designer;
  • • technical packaging engineer;
  • • advertising account executive or, even better, thecreative director;
  • • legal adviser;
  • • someone representing the trade.

As mentioned above total packaging is both a marketing and technical issue. It is a matter of retail package, display unit and shipper as well as taking the key decision up-front as to what the main visuals should be (form, colours, logotype, etc.) to be communicated through all packaging and media !

To do this is not an easy task. I therefore often say : “Do not wish it were easier, wish we were better !”

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