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Spokesmen and how to use them efficiently!

Spokesmen and how to use them efficiently!

Those of you who have read my books or the articles on know that I prefer both icons (e.g. spokesmen) and design style (identifying a brand) to a logotype, as they are more emotional. Today, I’d like to give some advice on how to use the brand spokesman in the most efficient manner on […]

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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”.

Oct 04

When designing for print, POP, packaging, outdoor, vehicles, etc.:

1.       determine priorities (simplify, amplify, delete);

2.       determine what will be ‘the BIG one’ to catch attention;

3.       amplify contrast (drop shadows, halo effects, etc.);

4.       introduce a touch of surprise;

5.       be flexible with key visuals. Adapt so that they maximize communication and size impression;

6.       exaggerate appetite appeal;

7.       3D gives depth! Take advantage of what your design computer can do;

8.       make your icon more important than your logotype. It has more emotion;

9.       reduce text to a strict minimum;

10.    verify your communication by asking the opinion from a third person.

Sep 27

Attitude for success!

Posted by Packaging Sense in Advertising | Design | Uncategorized

Attitudes you need to succeed as a package designer
(Inspired by Brian Sher)

  1. Have an open mind
  2. Be flexible
  3. Dream Big dreams
  4. Set goals and write them down
  5. Focus on perfection
  6. Have a clear sense of direction
  7. Ask for help
  8. Associate with the right people
  9. Do one thing at a time
  10. Be an optimist and a positive thinker
  11. Believe in yourself
  12. Develop strong personal values
  13. Be the first to give and serve others
  14. Do what you love and you’ll do it well
  15. Be patient
  16. Be willing to take risks
  17. Accept responsibility
  18. Fall, but don’t stay down
  19. Take decisions fast
  20. Know you are not perfect
Sep 20

The “weekly” package

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

Some 20-30 years ago weeklies like ELLE, Time or Newsweek discovered that the key message on the front page in that week’s issue was more important to the readers than their logotype. Thus, they let the head of a person or something of great interest cover some of the logotype in order to be more prominent and give a 3D effect to the page.

So why do we not, today, adopt this technique in the packaging design world? Well, probably because package design is, believe it or not, quite a traditional art form. At least 80% of all packages are designed according to the following scheme:

  1. Corporate and/or product brand on top, mostly to the left;
  2. Product description underneath. In many cases it is not needed as the illustration gives the same information;
  3. Product illustration below, so ‘honest’ that it does not surprise and is not mouth-watering!
  4. A flash ‘New’ as a triangle in one of the top corners;
  5. Net weight at the bottom (left or right) although most products are never bought by weight, but by servings, portions, etc.
  6. A flash, normally as a ‘sunburst’ somewhere next to the illustration. Note, it never covers a part of the brand as in the magazines!

I call this the “guideline syndrome” as most guidelines or manuals will prescribe such an approach. The word guideline should be banned for ever and be replaced by a word such as “tool-box” as a guideline hampers creativity while a tool-box stimulates activity. In the ever-changing world we need to constantly improve, change, surprise or just be simpler. As most people equal a guideline with the word rule, creativity does not happen as they follow the rule to be ‘politically correct’.

May I therefore suggest we make next year the year of the ‘weekly package’ which does not mean that I need to change my package design each week, but just design the front panel as the weekly journals design their selling page which is and will always remain … the FRONT PAGE!

So folks, just do it! And don’t ask your legal adviser for opinion or approval for she or he sees the world different to your consumers!!

Sep 13

Food packaging, a great example

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

It is not an easy task to choose one package out of many thousands in orderto explain what good food packaging stands for. There are many great packages, but unfortunately many more bad ones. Here is a try to explain what makes a great package… great.

The closest to perfect packaging is no doubt the blue Barilla package as it clearly communicates the following 10 key messages:

  1. clear branding;
  2. easy readable product denomination;
  3. appetite appeal;
  4. convincing RTB (reason-to-buy) “No 1 in Italia”;
  5. visibility of product/content;
  6. visible web-site for further information;
  7. stimulating recipes;
  8. clear preparation instructions;
  9. extra information,
  10. many languages, i.e. economy;

as well as further, less important information such as date marking, recycling symbols, nutritional values, etc. Let us analyse the attributes that make a great food package.

To achieve strong branding, a brand colour is a must. Barilla has chosen blue for its main range. (There are also yellow Barilla packages for another product category). This gives a blue bloc-effect on point-of-sale and makes the brand look important, which is translated as “big brand = good quality”.

If we call Barilla the corporate brand or main brand, the specific product brand which adds quality and attraction is “La Collezione”. The balance between these two brands is optimal as both stand out. It can be questioned if it is necessary to repeat them 5 times. I would not do it as the space can be better used for more brand-building information such as the slogan “no 1 in Italia” or even stronger “the pasta Italians prefer/the favourite pasta in Italy”.

Appetite appeal
The appetite appeal comes from both the see-through window, i.e. uncooked pasta and the appetising end-result (cooked pasta). Please note that steam has been added as hot food communicates taste better.

Front panel (other information)
As the European legislation does not impose the printing of the net weight on the front, but in close proximity to the product denomination, this information belongs to the back or service panel as does the cooking time. A useful information on the front would rather  be the number of servings, i.e. about 4. Food packaging is about servings, not about volume or weight.

Other panels
As mentioned above food packaging is a matter of hierarchy and it can be questioned how much information is the right information as some consumers want much, others as little as possible. The “La Collezione” packages respect all this:

  • • cooking time for the pasta (6 min.) as well as the cooking time for the recipe (20 min.);
  • • which red wine best matches the pasta, i.e. Chianti;
  • • a recipe which explains how to make a Bolognese sauce;
  • • information about what “al dente” means. Only when the cooking of a product is optimal has the product its optimal taste;
  • • a clear web-site for further information, a must on all food packaging;
  • • information about the product, i.e. the spinach variety from Emilia Romagna
  • • all other legal information which very few consumers read, i.e.
  • – ingredients
  • – nutritional value
  • – best before date
  • – recycling symbols
  • – e-symbol
  • – net weight
  • – company address (less important today as you will find it on the web-site)
  • – contains gluten
  • – store in a dry place
  • – producing factory

All in all a very complete information in 15 languages. Well done! As complete as the Pringle packages which also have a great number of languages for maximal logistical flexibility. Food packaging has to serve the consumers as well as the legislatiors, the distributors, the producer, as only products that sell will remain on the market place.

Sep 06

The Briefing Form

Posted by Packaging Sense in Advertising | Design | Uncategorized

Each company, each design agency have their own briefing form depending on the kind of work they handle. My advice will therefore be very general.

There are a few very basic rules which will help to focus the study. There are many possibilities as to the graphical design of the form, but one thing is for sure: if there are more than two pages, no effort has been done to focus. The following points must always appear in order to design something outstanding, unique and lasting.

1. Brand positioning
Whatever is done in package design must reflect the brand’s positioning. If well formulated, it should not have more than 3-4 key words to express the core value(s) which makes it different from its competitors. The fewer the better. Here are a few good positionings:

– Democratising Design
– Rewarding everyday moments
– Fun Family Entertainment

Don’t forget that the essence of positioning is SACRIFICE. You must be willing to give up something in order to establish that unique position. Words like quality, trust, innovation, modern are useless. Don’t use them! The best positioning statements use emotional words, not rational ones.

2. Priorities
No good communication is possible without a priority list. To be able to amplify one message you have to simplify, i.e. reduce the numbers. Not everything has to be on the front. Better big on back than small on front! What is important is to make a priority list for the concept or better, the Big Idea!.. which leads to point 3.

3. Total communication
Packaging is only one medium, but the most important one. It can contain all information. What is the USP or RTB? Some information is amplified on POS, other in advertising, etc. See special article on “Total Communication”.

4. Technical data
Size, volume, type of pack, printing, etc. for both primary (retail) and secondary (shipper) packaging as well as tray, POS-stand, etc.

5. Timing
Specify 1st stage, 2nd stage.

6. Cost
Specify the budget for each stage with flexibility. Creative work must be judged by quality, not quantity. Avoid asking for alternatives, it will always be costly! Separate the costs for creative work and execution as e.g. photography.

7. Think 3D
Package design is volume and not a flat layout as graphic design. This means that the design proposal(s) must show not only front, but total package. Therefore, never send proposals by e-mail, unless they are shown 3D. 2D-design is graphic design, not package design.

8. Execution
If first ideas can be and should be done rough with magic markers don’t forget that ‘God is in the details’. Flawless execution is today a must as the technology is available even in digital printing. This means that all texts. small or big, must have maximal legibility, that colours have contrast, that unnecessary design elements be deleted, etc.

9. Storytelling
Does your package design tell a convincing story? Does it involve and motivate to purchase? etc.

10. Target audience
To whom do you want to speak? To consumers who bake themselves? To the one who buys or the one who consumes? To the child or the mother? etc.

Hopefully these advice will be of use and help when you design (or update) your briefing form. If really well done it will be one single page! Good luck!

Aug 30

How to work with an agency

Posted by Packaging Sense in Advertising | Design | Uncategorized

Longterm relationship with your suppliers is a must;

Always deal with the creative person who can visualize in front of you when you brief;

Work stepwise e.g. brand identity first, then RTB, then package and then other media;

Avoid negotiating cost/price and concentrate on result;

Try to have your supplier physically close;

Never brief or receive designs per e-mail;

Judge concept before execution. It is faster, better and more economical;

Watch out: most so-called package design agencies are in fact ‘graphical studios’!

Always brief design and communication partners together;

Never work with agencies which offer 6 (or more) solutions;

Always expect from your agency a business and design explanation of what they offer – you will need it when selling it to your boss;

Expect copy, i.e. words as much as graphic design from your communication partner;

The Big Idea comes mostly from teamwork between client and partner, so the more you participate with information the higher the creativity;

Do not give design or advertising agencies lots of time. If they are good they have the solution almost immediately. If not, change partner; creativity does not need time as it is a brain activity and not manual work;

Do not ask the consumers what they think; ask those who know (top management,  colleagues, especially older, specialists, visionaries, etc.).

These were just a few hints from my experience. Use what you find is valid!

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!

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