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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 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!

Jun 23

I have lately been involved in some ‘special edition’ package designs which, unfortunately, did not become the masterpieces I had hoped. The reason is very simple. Very few brand managers dare to ‘do it fully’ and therefore end up with half-way solutions which will never have an impact upon the buyer.

Comparing the promotional tictac pack which today is sold in Switzerland with my counter-proposal (which can still be improved) the reader will hopefully understand why.

You can, temporarily, change the logotype as long as you maintain the key visual identity. Mars did it very well two years ago with Hopp. Toblerone does it very often.

Other sales arguments do have to disappear (at least from the front). The promotion ‘Hopp Suisse’ is very powerful with the red and white mints and should not be disturbed by a mention as to calories.

Reduce the number of elements and texts in order to make the promotional message stand out.

Give a RTB, if possible with the product. It is impossible to see on the front that this is a cherry/orange variety because the designer filled the surface with unnecessary elements as the football ground, the football, the calories and ‘special edition’.

Surprise! To see the tictac identity with the word ‘hopp’ catches the eye and that is the most important thing for a special edition.

It goes without saying that if one temporarily changes the visual identity the proper registered one has to appear somewhere in a smaller size to give trust and  authenticity to the brand.

There was recently an article about IBM, AOL and Pepsi in the French journal “Stratégies” which showed various executions of these brands. In my opinion, they are all wrong, i.e. not brand-building as the designer plays around with the identity without a very specific purpose. Toblerone has always a reason to changing the logotype. The St.Valentine’s Day version “TO MY LOVE” is a good example.

A strong brand has a unique identity. In the case of tictac, it is the physical shape of the transparent and white plastic dispenser, as well as the leaf shape on the label with the lower case tictac logotype.

The proposed promotional version maintains these two properties, but changes temporarily the logotype and the colour.

Jun 17

Great Learnings

Posted by Packaging Sense in Bottles | Design | Logotypes | Trends | Typography | Uncategorized

Guinness just redesigned their 50cl draught can. Did you notice it? Maybe, maybe not. Doesn’t matter. What matters is that they did it right. This is unusual as today we mostly see up-datings or modernisations without real logic or common sense thinking – just playing around with different elements. Here are seven learnings:

An icon is more involving, more emotional and has a stronger visual impact than a logotype;

A brand logotype does not necessarily have to be on top of the front panel;

An RTB, i.e. reason-to-buy or call it USP, Unique Selling Proposition, is needed to position the product in the consumer’s mind. The one on the new design is “Brewed in Dublin”.. where else? This is the real stuff, not something brewed in your local Carlsberg or Heineken brewery;

A signature as in this case “Arthur Guinness” always adds tradition, thus quality;

Don’t change for the sake of change! Neither the harp, nor the Guinness logotype have been touched. There was no need for it as both are already well balanced designs;

Combine if you can in order to reduce the number of design elements. The “Est. 1759” is now part of the harp. Great thinking!

Better use of space. On the previous design there was a lot of empty space, not on the new one.

Whoever did this, congratulations!

Jun 14

When reading about the introduction of the iPad in the TIME magazine I fell upon a few words about Steve Jobs which gave me the answer to the above question. It read as follows: “Apple’s success is mainly due to Steve Jobs’ insistence upon design, detail, finish, quality, ease of use and reliability”.

I seldom find this insistence in the companies I have worked for the last 5 years, nor in the design agencies. No brand manager I have met (yes, that is the person who orders package design) understands that in order to reach the simplicity of an iPad you have to take care of all the above issues, not just one or two of them. That is why it is so difficult.

  • Design is the way you think and work;
  • God is in the detail;
  • Finish is when it looks and actually is simple;
  • Quality is something emotional rather than rational, it is communication and not just information;
  • Ease of use is the way you lay out texts and pictures on the service panel;
  • Reliability is that you trust the brand and always return.

Shall we thus blame the brand manager, or is it more complex? Well, it is. The brand manager is only one of those involved who need more knowledge, training and common sense to reach simplicity. In a world which tends to overprotect the consumer by constantly increasing the amount of information on the pack, I claim that it is not necessary to put all this on the package. Rather, the consumer needs access to information via other media as website (make it big!) POS, advertising, brochures, etc.

The technical side of packaging is today not a problem as there seems to be great knowledge among packaging engineers, converters, suppliers of material, etc.

The weakness lies on the communication side, i.e. with the packaging designers and the brand managers who believe rather than know what

  • is legal
  • is understood
  • is actually seen
  • is necessary to know to enjoy the product
  • is strengthening the brand
  • is of interest
  • is the hierarchical order
  • increases appetite appeal, etc.

i.e. quite a list of key issues that today are dealt with in an amateur way (my personal opinion).

To help those involved to get it right, here is my advice:

First of all it is a matter of layout which is most likely a matter of priority. The priority is totally different on a single serve stick of instant coffee to a cake mix carton!

Secondly, do not call it ‘back panel’, but ‘service panel’ as it is all about giving information about preparation, nutrition, quality, ingredients, storage or further information as website, telephone, address.

Thirdly and last, but not least – it is a question of constant change. The daily newspaper is different each day, so is the weekly paper and we therefore read them. If we do not constantly update the service panel, nobody will look at it more than once! However, if we constantly give new tips, advice or recipes we achieve a stronger link with our cosumers. This is very important to build brand loyalty and consumer satisfaction.

This constant update is not a matter of pack size (e.g. cereal cartons) as most marketing people believe. It is a matter of hard work and professional copywriting (as is the case with dailys and weeklys). The surface can be small or big – it is just a question of priority and interest. Simplify and amplify are the key words in today’s marketing!

Today texts on the back of the packages are, apart from the breakfast cereal category, presented in such a manner that we are not really invited to read them. What a pity!

The other day I read in the Danish retailer’s IRMA brochure a text that translated would give something like this: “Read yourself hungry”. The text said, so rightly, that reading certain foody and tasty words (e.g. mango fruit, blueberry jam or chestnut cream) produces pictures in our brain which influence our taste buds and are mouthwatering.

I believe it is high time to approach the service panel in a more serious way and give a better balance between the legal text and the text that strenghtens brand image, simplifies nutritional information or increases curiosity about the product and its virtues. The preparation instructions can be both instructive, i.e. clear and simple and at the same time foody and tasty if we for instance use 3D photography instead of simple cartoon drawings.

In order to render the service panel more attractive we need to learn a lot from the weekly or daily press, i.e. use stimulating headlines, shortest possible texts and highlight key words.

If the role of the front panel design is to stimulate purchase, either through strong branding, appetite appeal, special offer or product advantage, the role of the back panel is re-purchase, i.e. strengthen the bond between the consumer and the brand/producer. If this is the case, why are so many back panels totally uninteresting, to such a degree that the consumer does not even look at them?

There are mainly five reasons for this:

  1. The responsible person does not believe in the above statement, i.e. that back panels are uninteresting;
  2. The responsible person does not understand what design can do to make things attractive, clear, simple and interesting;
  3. The responsible person does not have a knowledge of hierarchy, i.e. what is of primary and secondary importance to the consumer;
  4. The responsible person has chosen a design agency which has no or little knowledge of communication;
  5. The responsible person does not care!

It is not difficult to design a good service panel if the designer approaches this task as an editor of a daily or weekly paper/journal approaches his or her readers… with words, pictures and layout that invite reading. This is unfortunatley seldom the case today as the responsible person tries, above all, to please the legal advisors, the boss, guidelines, rules or best practices and thus complicate communication.

Furthermore, there is a misunderstanding about what has to appear, what can appear, should appear, may appear, etc. Here are 3 basic rules to follow when designing the service panel:

  1. How to best enjoy the product, which means how to prepare and consume it;
  2. How to contact the company for more information (recipes, tips, etc.) or comments, i.e. big website, a telephone number, an e-mail and postal address;
  3. How to best explain nutrition, i.e. simple and understandable data related to the product in question.

Only when these three criteria have been fully taken care of come texts such as ingredients, net weight, bar code, date marking, etc.

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