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My 4th book is now available (the first is sold out). It has a very clear message: how to improve the copywriting, as well as the layout on the back/side panel of your pack. As the previous ones, this book is directed to schools, design agencies, brand managers, sales forces, etc… well, anyone interested in […]

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Typography, a communication tool

Typography, a communication tool

Once I heard that typography was a “beautiful group of letters and not a group of beautiful letters”.

Aug 23

Some 30 years ago I was involved in a design project for Nestlé New Zealand. The sales of 100g cooking chocolate bars were stagnating and the brand manager needed to do something to get sales going again.

As I have always promoted that the most creative person is the one who asks the best questions I did my best to try to find out the RTB (reason to buy) for the 100g bar. Eureka!  I asked the fairly obvious question “does it melt easily?” and the equally obvious answer was : “yes”. So I said why don’t we call the product “Easy to melt” instead of “Cooking chocolate”?  No change in recipe, no change in price, no change in distribution, but a great change in SALES!

At that time, I worked also for Nestlé Brazil on a project for small chocolate bits type M&M’s or Smarties. They wanted to call the product “Picorettes” from the French word “picorer” which few Brazilians would understand. I said, why don’t we call it “Sin Parar”, i.e. “Non Stop”, a brand highly successful in Sweden for a similar product. The rest is history. Sales rocketed as it is difficult to stop eating once you started. Just like PRINGLES!

The other day I had breakfast in a hotel in Holland and when I was offered the choice of teabags I had great difficulties to choose the tea as all 4 varieties attracted me. Why? Because they were not just called Ceylon or Darjeeling, etc., but :

–       GOLDEN VALLEY Ceylon

–       ROYAL LEMON Citroen thee

–       BLUE MOUNTAIN Darjeeling

–       MISTY GREEN Groene thee

What is the learning from these three stories? The importance of what we call our products, be it just a product denomination or a descriptive brand like Easy-to-melt. This leads me to question why most design agencies have so little interest in text and copy, believing (I presume) that all communication can be solved visually/graphically. All advertising agencies have copywriters. I believe it is high time that the design agencies also include this profession as most clients, be it brand,  product or marketing managers, are quite good at figure-crunching, but fairly average at creative writing.

The copywriter in a design agency should be of a different kind. In an advertising agency there is a tendency to develop longer texts to fill up space while for a package design reduction of text is of utmost importance.

If we want consumers to have a more positive attitude towards food and drink packaging we need to soonest improve in the following areas:

  • easy opening
  • understandable and useful, i.e. educational nutritional information
  • bigger date marking
  • and last, but not least, useful and interesting, continuously up-dated texts as we do not want to read the same thing every time, as well as attractive product names.

In conclusion, think twice before you name your product!

Aug 16

The 5 stages…

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

…to successfully visualize and verbalize an idea

1st stage
DESIGN the key properties, i.e. the visual and verbal identity for the brand or product to be used in ALL media. This is a conceptual work, i.e. an IDEA and not a final execution! To be done in collaboration with Design and Advertising agencies. The idea is best ‘conceptualized’ with rough layouts using traditional magic marker sketches.

2nd stage
Execute the chosen idea in several media as for instance packaging, print advertising, website, POS material, TV or outdoor. Here the design computer is the best tool, but remember that the execution is still on the conceptual stage. Do not yet judge the executional quality!

3rd stage
Design the final execution of this idea for the package which will ALWAYS be the main medium for the identity as this is what the consumer is looking for and buying. Build in a powerful ‘call-to-action’ message, be it an extraordinary appetite appeal, a powerful USP text, easy-opening or re-closure systems, a nutritional plus, etc.

4th stage
Prepare a one-page identity sheet with a short explanatory text and DISTRIBUTE it to all parties involved, i.e. agencies, purchasing, sales people, legal advisors, etc.

5th stage
UPDATE, SIMPLIFY AND AMPLIFY continuously. A brand or product identity is a living matter as the competitors and distribution channels change.

Aug 09

My favourite material: wood fibre

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

Being in the package design business, obviously all materials are interesting to me as it all depends upon the product to be packed. A metal can feels colder than a drink carton, a great wine cannot be in PET, but must be in glass, etc. Born in the Swedish forest, the cardboard and thus also the paper have become my favourites for the simple reason that the products I have dealt with are mostly packed in this material, i.e. frozen food, chocolate, breakfast cereals, pet food, etc.

Before speaking of the advantages which the wood fibres offer, it has to be mentioned that several consumer studies have underlined that the general attitude towards paperboard is very good. This being said, I have also read similar comments about metal and glass. Plastic, however, is a less noble material in the consumer’s eye.

Consumers in the Western world become more and more educated about materials, either as children at school or through radio or TV programs, as well as newspaper articles. All this information gives a positive picture of cardboard and paper as consumers understand that

  • a)    it is easy to recycle;
  • b)   it is biodegradable;
  • c)    it is rather light;
  • d)   it comes from a renewable source, i.e. the forest;
  • e)    it burns easily in incinerators. Every ton of paper or board that travels down the supply chain is pure bioenergy that can replace fossil oil. After recycling the board represents energy equal to 420 litres of oil and retrieving that energy can avoid the emission of 1200kg of fossil carbon dioxide.

So far so good, but there is so much more to say about paper and cardboard, especially from an ecological point-of-view. Most consumers still ignore that

  1. The forest industry plants at least two trees when they chop down one;
  2. The trees bind more CO2 than they give away as trees absorb CO2 when they grow and CO2 is then partly bound in the ground via roots and stumps;
  3. The young trees absorb more CO2 than old ones, i.e. no harm to chop down the old tree!
  4. The paper and cardboard we use come from trees in the Northern hemisphere and not from Borneo or the Amazones;
  5. Many paper mills will, in the coming years, use no more fossile fuel as the energy they need comes from the part of the tree that does not go to paper and cardboard production;
  6. The wood fibre, from the beginning quite long, can be re-used 4-5 times before it becomes too short to be turned into cardboard or paper again.

The reason why I am so positive to cardboard is that it very often combines very well with other materials. See the illustrations of the COOP bread or the Roberto Grissini. There are numerous laminated papers or cardboards, either with aluminium foil, wax or plastic.

The cardboard can today be folded into almost any shape. Some years ago there was a breakfast cereals carton (I believe it was the World Cup 2006) from Nestlé with the carton in the shape of a football.

Although steel and aluminium, as well as glass are natural in the sense that the raw materials can return to their original stage, cardboard and paper are still seen as more natural.

Aug 04

Total communication

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

In order to achieve maximal impact for least money is, as this article explains, not a complicated matter. However, in practice, very few brands achieve this today as the communication is split up between different units, departments or managers. Furthermore, a communication coordinator with decision rights is seldom at hand.

The following illustration gives an overview of how each medium plays a different role to achieve maximum brand and product impact, i.e. sales!

There is a common belief that a design guideline (often with tenths of pages) laying down strict rules on how to use the logotype, the icon, etc. is the solution to efficient communication. I have a very different opinion based upon half a century producing packaging, POS and advertising material for FMCG companies.

My belief is based on the following 5 reasons:

  1. the market situation is constantly changing;
  2. we regularly learn new working methods which will help to improve communication;
  3. technology gives us constantly new materials, media, etc.;
  4. what we thought was a good solution may turn out to be less good than we thought;
  5. all manuals/guidelines are correct on an average, but often wrong in particular. One market is seldom a copy of another.

How to design a manual will be the subject of a separate article.

Each medium has its own rules and limitations. One medium may be the best to promote branding, another medium to promote a product. Here is a quick analysis of what different media can do:  Outdoor, TVC, weekly and daily print, direct mail, website, consumer service, point-of-sale and packaging. I have left out media like sponsoring and sampling as I have very little experience in these fields of activities.

Outdoor (buildings, trucks, busses, etc.)
I believe it is here we make the most mistakes as we do not accept the limits of our brain. We believe that the client/consumer/customer is interested in what we are doing and we therefore overestimate the impact our poster has. It goes without saying that the role of an outdoor campaign or single unit poster is to tell the consumers that we (as a brand) exist … nothing else. We can possibly add an illustration of our product, but that is all. However, 80% of all posters carry today considerably more information.

TVC (be it a short spot or a cinema commercial)
Here we need to

  • surprise the viewer, i.e. be different to other brands;
  • ‘hammer’ in both brand and product in order to be remembered;
  • be as emotional as possible.

If the pack is shown in the commercial it cannot be the complete pack design. It must be a simplified version. Furthermore, it does not necessarily need to be the complete pack, part of it or the key visuals are enough.

Weekly press advertising
Lots of time, lots of space! Tell a story! Make your product the star, try an interesting layout. Reduce text. Do not duplicate anything! Have the reader tear out the ad and you have a greater chance to sell.

Daily press advertising
Simplify to the maximum. Daily press is for news, ads have less impact, but still they remind the reader of your existence. Make your ad interesting through

  • a catching layout;
  • amplifying your USP and strongest possible branding.

In-store sampling
Be generous! Combine with a campaign to amplify the effect. Find people with smiling faces!    If possible, simplify pack design to include SALES COPY on your sample pack.

Consumer Service Contact
Best voice, best voice, best voice!

Sell products, not brands.

Point-of-sale material
Product before brand. Amplify USP! Call-to-action (visual, verbal or symbolic) is a MUST. Involve the consumer by personalizing the message. Be different and be simple! Brand is here less of importance as consumers buy products, not brands.

Shelf stopper
USP/RTB only, nothing else. Interesting execution and design as if it were a real bargain.

Package design
To be best in class, follow these 5 advice:

1.     simplify front panel to a maximum;

2.     design back panel as an advertisement or newspaper page, i.e. invite for reading;

3.     think material and shape before graphic design;

4.     amplify contrast !

5.     surprise with interesting layout.

Packaging is no doubt the most efficient medium as it contains the product. A great package design even enhances the product and makes it more valuable.

The advice in this article are in no way complete, but they try to convince the reader that there is not one solution that fits all media. To reach maximal impact which is translated in efficiency, i.e. economy, be willing to even modify the visual identity if this leads to more impact and does not harm the brand identity longterm (Toblerone is a good example).

Good luck and great sales!

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.

Jul 09

In 2010 Poland celebrates the Year of Chopin. There are numerous art events going on and the tracks  of the great composer is seen everywhere. Joanna Troszynska has sent a bottle etiquette with Chopin, designed by Andrzej Pagowski.

What’s Lars Wallentin’s comment on the “Cisowianka” bottle?

– Nice design but not a great design.. too foreseeable, no real surprise, says Lars Wallentin as he makes a draft on his ideas.

– My counterproposal has no real surprise either, but it follows these two basic rules:

– 1 …Never repeat logotypes or messages! The neck label can have another SELLING text to render communication more interesting.

– 2 …If the label is oval (i.e. a die-cut label) why not make it “specially oval” by letting Chopin’s head stick out? At CocaCola they call it “the broken line”.

Breaking the rules of artwork is one way to push the commercial design forward. Right, Joanna?

Jul 08

How would you package a series of products for professional hair colour? By showing every nuance of hair from peroxide white to goth black? The packaging of the new hair colour product Inoa from l’Oréal is nothing like that. The TDBdesign agency used a mean green and restrained artwork.

– Elegance is the design key of many beauty products. But there has to be something interesting as well, says Lars Wallentin.

– May it be a catchy icon or other spokesman for the product. Something recognized on every package in a product series. Something that communicates a Reason To Buy, says Lars Wallentin and concludes his comment to this entry in Pack Attack:

– This design has elegance, but it’s all typography. If the logotype is strictly typographical something more should be added to make it interesting.

Read More:

Jul 08

Those of you who were lucky enough to get tickets to the World Cup soccer games in South Africa recieved your tickets and accompanying information in a clever slider package. Remember? Well, here’s the rare package again.

This is the first entry to be commented by Lars Wallentin in his Pack Attack campaign. Sure it’s borderline unsporting to judge from a pack shot alone. All we aim for in the Pack Attack is Lars’ gut reaction. So what say he of this Hospitality Kit?

– The technical design by Burgopak, with opening slides and acetate window and all, looks good. But the World Cup artwork should have the potential to stand out far better than this. I don’t have World Cup tickets and I don’t know what they look like – but I have seen the FIFA logo a hundred times on TV by now and it’s difficult to recognize the small logo on this package, says Lars Wallentin.

– I expect to see a Big One, like football or logotype, and a better hierarchy. But perhaps something that communicates is added when the content shows in the window of the package? It’s hard to tell by looking at this shot, says Lars Wallentin.

– By the way, hospitality is something you want to experience. Why label it on the package to say “the content exceeds your expectations”?
There’s a good piece of advice: don’t let the designation of your work in progress become a caption on the package.

Read more (PDF): Burgopak FIFA World Cup Hospitality Pack

Jul 05

Brand Leverage

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

Some brands are for ever linked to one and the same product and it is unthinkable to use it for another product, even in the same category. Other brands have the capacity to be stretched. One can also speak of brand extension, but I prefer the term “leverage”.

The brands which have the capacity to be used for a range of products are most often brands which

  • have a unique positioning;
  • have been properly managed during many years to become very strong in the consumers’ mind;
  • have a strong, i.e. unique personality (icon, colour scheme, style, etc.);

As brand leverage is a far cheaper way to introduce new products than developping a new brand it is quite natural to ‘leverage’ a brand as new products are invented thanks to new technology, new raw material or new distribution channels.

However, as we all know, in marketing it is difficult to be two things at the same time without watering down or weakening one or the other. Great care must therefore be taken to not use the same brand for a new product too far away from the brand’s positioning. It is difficult to sell orange juice if your brand is Chiquita and equally difficult to sell a cheese cake under the brand Campbell which stands for soups!

A good case of brand leverage is Nestlé’s Nesquik who’s positioning until recently was “irresistible fun”. The Quicky rabbit who is more powerful and interesting than the word Nesquik is being used for many chocolate products for children. As the illustrations show it is possible to use this brand identity for products as different as chocolate drinks (powder, semi-liquid or liquid), chocolate spread, chocolate bars, chocolate cereals, chocolate desserts, etc.

By leveraging the Nesquik identity which from the beginning was a product brand (chocolate powder to mix with milk) to a range brand (many different products) the brand has grown tremendously and is no doubt one of Nestlé’s most successful and profitable brands although all of the above products can easily be copied and have indeed!

We can here see the importance of strong brand identity as Quicky the rabbit is trademarked and well protected and thus impossible to be copied!
The lesson to be learned is the following: Never ever leverage (or if you so wish stretch) a brand outside its core positioning. You will, in the long run, weaken it as consumers only pay the right price (i.e. the one which makes you earn money) for a product which has either a very special taste or feature, or a strong,  iconic brand.

We can here see the importance of strong brand identity as Quicky the rabbit is trademarked and well protected and thus impossible to be copied!The lesson to be learned is the following: Never ever leverage (or if you so wish stretch) a brand outside its core positioning. You will, in the long run, weaken it as consumers only pay the right price (i.e. the one which makes you earn money) for a product which has either a very special taste or feature, or a strong,  iconic brand.

Jun 29

The shipper is advertising

Posted by Packaging Sense in Advertising | Uncategorized

When the first corrugated box was developped hundred years ago, its only function was to group together a number of smaller units, be they prepacked or loose products. The function has not changed over the years, but a second equally important one is that of being a support of brands as well as product information and last, but not least, a message. Thus the heading: “The Shipper is Advertising”.

The technical/purchasing department is highly skilled in

  • choosing the right board (relation strength/price);
  • choosing the most economical construction;
  • reducing the costs (printing, gram weight, etc.);
  • providing the necessary information for the trade, i.e. article number and bar-code.

The marketing department is skilled in

  • maximizing the brand (shippers are often seen at a distance);
  • choosing attractive graphics;
  • communicating the USP or product denomination/advantage.

It is thus very important that the responsible technical/production person sits together with the marketing person and together they decide upon the hierarchy that the designer should follow when he lays out the various information on the 6 sides. This in order to avoid the common mistake of repeating the same information on every side which automatically will lead to a crowded design with very little impact and interest.

How then is the shipper designed? Here are some principles to follow bearing in mind that a rule will never solve all issues. A guideline is always right in average, but often not in specific situations. Common sense must prevail!

The brand must be the main element unless a unique brand identifier, i.e. an icon, is more powerful (the Nesquik QUICKY rabbit or Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger). The order-picker needs a clear bar-code, but never forget that even for him a strong visual is a faster way of identifying a carton than an article number!

The brand colours. It is bad economy to save on identifying colours when today flexographic printing machines handle up to 6 colours.

The product denomination which, depending upon legislation, can be turned into a USP or slogan which has a stronger impact.

As the title says – “The Shipper is Advertising” – it is possible to turn the main panels of a shipper into advertising. Therefore, it is suggested to rearrange the design elements in such a way that they constitute an interesting advertisement instead of pure information of brand, denomination, etc. Nobody has ever decided nor said that a corporate brand has to be in the upper left-hand corner, nor that a product denomination is necessary. Strong brands like KitKat don’t even need a product denomination. A big appetizing ‘product break’ illustration bescomes an important ‘call-to-action’.

Bar-code, storage and other legal texts should be on the end panels.

As most shippers have two larger sides, it is suggested to increase the brand as much as possible on these sides. The storage text goes on the top and as most shippers are stacked alternatively with the short and long side outwards it is sufficient to have the bar-code and other legal texts only twice.

The bottom should be used for text which is of no communication value, but need to be there for legal reasons.

For a promotion, make the promotion message ‘violate’ as much as possible and if the brand logotype is wellknown it can even partly cover it. As shippers do end up in certain supermarkets, in cash & carry stores, outside the shop (unloading) on open trucks, etc. never loose this opportunity to reinforce branding. There is no extra cost involved in visually strengthening brands in this way. Chiquita knows it very well!

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