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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”.

Jun 09

Packaging – Unravelling the Value of
the Silent Salesman

Simplify your message in order to amplify what you have to sell, advises Lars Wallentin, a Packaging Communication Specialist. Part of what the product does and stands for is getting lost through unclear and complicated communication, when in fact simplicity is the key. As a speaker at the marcus evans EuroPack Summit 2010 taking place in Monaco, 23 – 25 June 2010, Wallentin shares his solutions to some of the challenges facing packaging directors in Europe today.

What are some of the challenges facing packaging directors in Europe at the moment and what solutions would you recommend?

Lars Wallentin: The problem today is that purchasing and marketing executives are looking for different things – one wants to cut costs whilst the other wants quality. The industry is constantly creating more efficient packaging materials and production methods, thus it is not so difficult to find what I call the technically best package for a product. But a package is a silent salesman and must help in selling the product and that is where the problem starts; the product should be understood through its package and that is not being communicated so well today. The dialogue between agencies and brand managers is not at the level it should be. They often communicate through emails, which is not the same as sitting together and discussing ideas. Part of the message is getting lost.

Brand and product managers need more education and training, which is one of the reasons why I started a blog. We still have a lot to learn. There is a gap between each generation, because of technological advances; the younger generation thinks they can get everything done over the internet, but they can get information, not knowledge. It is not a matter of having nice packaging – it is a matter of getting to the essence of the product. We like Apple products because of their simplicity. There is legislation on everything, and we have a tendency to believe that all legislation is good, but common sense must prevail. Sometimes we need to do things differently in order to be clearer. We give out a lot of information on product packaging, but we do not explain.

Julius Maggi is known as one of the best marketing experts ever. At the back of his “Aroma” bottle in 1917, Maggi added a message for consumers not to use too much of the product as it would overpower the taste of the food product. He spoke in a language that consumers understood. Today, people would like consumers to use as much of the product as possible. This is another area where the information we add on packaging can improve.

How can similar products be differentiated?

Lars Wallentin: We must clearly communicate to consumers why our products are better, superior or different. Brand managers must have clear and simple positioning of products and what the brand stands for. A detergent cannot be both smooth and fresh. The manager must decide whether to go with either one or the other. If they pick freshness, they can use blue packaging and so on; if they decide on smoothness, silk can be used to indicate that quality. Brand managers today try to do everything at once, when they should be simplifying the message.

How can an unforgettable brand experience be created?

Lars Wallentin: An unforgettable brand experience can only be created through the product. A brand alone has no meaning. We do not buy brands, we buy products. The adventure or feeling must come through the product. If it is a food product, the taste experience is the most important. Companies must constantly update or improve their products, and communicate that through the packaging and branding. The brand must constantly evolve; it cannot remain static.

Very often we modernise brands, but that is useless if the product itself has not been modified. Consumers are not interested in the logo of the product but what it does to them. Cosmetic product changes do not change purchasing habits. Only people in the trade care about logos.

How can senses be used to improve packaging?

Lars Wallentin: Packaging designers do not make the most of people’s senses, instead focusing on the graphical aspect of packaging. They hardly use the sense of smell or sound in packaging. They have become dependent on their computers. They should start sketching, touching the product and thinking conceptually of how the product should sound. Packaging has a tactile aspect, and whether it opens and closes easily is important. If packaging were an Olympic sport, it would be a decathlon as it is a combination of so many different things. Nevertheless, most packaging executives have a tendency to only concentrate on logos.

People do not buy rational, they buy emotional. The “Big Idea” is something that is instantly perceived, verbally or visually or by sound and requires no explanation. When you hear the sound of a Harley Davidson, you immediately know what it is. The product comes first. If Harleys were not beautiful motorbikes, their sound would mean nothing. Their sound is a translation of what they stand for.

In a nutshell, what advice would you give to packaging directors?

Lars Wallentin: Simplify your message in order to amplify what you have to sell. Simplification is the key. There is so much information out there, that if you do not have the capacity for simplifying, you are not able to amplify the real reason for your product or your brand. Packaging executives must judge what is a “Big Idea” because only the biggest ideas survive over time. That is what we are all looking for.

May 21

Package Design and Food Styling

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

I left the Grafiska Institutet with a certificate quite different to the one a few years earlier at the Halmstad High School. When you like what you do you are always better. The only high note I got back at high school was in drawing.

I took up a job at the Esseltepac packing company in Norrköping, an industrial town just South of Stockholm. There I learned a lot about printing (offset, rotogravure, flexography) as well as carton engineering. As I had a support function to the various salesmen I also learned a little about selling. At the same time as I joined Esseltepac Nestlé bought up the largest Swedish food company, FINDUS, and set up a business unit for frozen foods at the headquarters in Vevey.

1964 – after only two years at Esseltepac I received a phone call from Switzerland asking if I would like to head a small unit designing all FINDUS packages in Europe which at that time meant Scandinavia, France, Germany, UK, Benelux, Austria and Italy. I said yes although I had been thinking of continuing to study at the Michigan State University in East Lansing, the only university at that time to deliver a batchelor’s degree in packaging.

I was only 25 years old when Nestlé hired me to head a small unit of about 10 people designing the FINDUS packages. At that time I was not a very daring and creative designer, but I had a good knowledge of planning, administration and printing technology and we produced some 25 artworks per week including a lot of food photography.

The FINDUS brand that stood for quality had a wide range of fish-, meat-, prepared meals and vegetable products. Our studio was situated next to the FINDUS test kitchen with great chefs who were very helpful when we prepared for the photos in the studio.

However, the real learning came a few years later when I started to work with famous German food photographers such as Mr. Ohlenforst in Düsseldorf and Mr. Teubner in Munich. These photographers worked with the very best food stylists in Germany and thanks to this knowledge I could later on organize workshops on food-styling which was a very rewarding experience.

I will try here to summarize what is important when it comes to food and drink communication in advertising, packaging and recipe brochures.

It is all about maximizing appetite appeal and present the products in their best light. If in the beginning tricks like shaving cream was used to fake real cream I learned very quickly that it is not about faking … it is rather about

  • Selecting the best coffee beans, peas or  fish fillets;
  • Use handmade samples instead of industrial products;
  • Using a warmer/colder light;
  • Chosing an angle that makes the product look more interesting, etc.

As we shop  with our eyes, meaning that our brain ‘eats’ the product before the stomach, it is important to give the brain what it wants, i.e. a vanilla ice-cream nicely yellow as that is the way we want to see vanilla ice-cream although vanilla is actually white as snow !

Perception is no doubt reality when it comes to appetite appeal. One can also say that we see with our memory as the latter remembers best the shape, colour, structure, etc. of food and drink products.

Let us first look at food photography and after that how to do hyper-realistic, highly retouched illustrations. Appetite apeal is universal and the basic principles are therefore as valid in Buenos Aires as they are in the small village of Corseaux where I live.

Maximal appetite appeal is the primary objective of all food photography. This can only be achieved if :

  • the designer or art director has given the package an attracive layout showing the product in the foreground;
  • the food stylist (be it the home economist or a specially trained person or the photographer himself) presents the product in its most photogenic manner. This can be compared to a make-up artist preparing a performer for a public appearance on television:
  • the photographer uses a lighting technique that gives highlights and bright colours.

Every succsessful photograph is based on a clear and precise briefing. It is just as important to draw up sketches, i.e. finding the best position of the various elements before taking the picture as it is to indicate the required structure, colours and props. The prop is used to indicate all material which helps to render the photo as interesting and attractive as possible, i.e. cutlery, glasses, cups, plates, serviettes, flowers and other decorative elements.

In food photography especiallly, time is money and time wasted in the photographic studio can be very expensive, so it is of utmost importance that the search for props and the layouts (i.e. tracings indicating the position of the food in the picture) be taken care of before entering the photo studio.

It is normal practice to hold a pre-production meeting some days before the photo session in order to settle all outstanding questions involving the product manager, the home economist, the designer and the photographer.

In order to carry out food photography for packaging, advertising, cookery books, brochures, leaflets, etc. the photographer’s studio should be equipped with one (if not two) ovens with a grill, a refrigerator, a large freezer, cupboards, a working table, pots and (non-stick) pans, as well as a wide assortment of knives, forks and spoons. Small electric appliances are very useful such as a deep fryer with a smoke filter, a blender and a mixer. Kitchen paper, towels, foils, cellophane wrap, brushes, Q-tips, etc. also belong to the modern food photographer’s equipment.

The photographer usually works with one or several assistants in order to speed up the work. If the photographer works  with a food stylist this person will have availbable in the photo studio all the above-mentioned utensils to facilitate her or his work. If a food stylist is not at hand, the company’s home economist usually carries out this role. It is the food stylist’s or the home econimist’s job to order and buy all the fresh vegetables, meat, fruit, etc. beforehand. When ordering these essentially fresh ingredients they must be selected so that they are visually flawless, without scratches or unpleasant looking spots. A sufficiently large quantity of  ingredients should always be available since testing often has to  be carried out during the preparation phase.

While the photo is  being taken, the photographer, the art director/designer and the food stylist/home economist work as a team. The photographer is in charge of the structure of the subject to be photographed and all technical details related to lighting, sharpness, depth of focus, etc.

The food stylist on the other hand is in charge of the actual product and its true representation. The designer provides the briefing and decides on the correctness of the layout, the mood he wishes the photo to convey as well as the overall presentation. If the product manager is present when the picture is taken he can assume responsibility for the overall presentation (avoiding taking over the role of the photographer and the food stylist) and contributing his knowledge of the product in question.

Good is not enough ! In food and drink photography the result must be EXCELLENT ! To obtain maximum results, team work is a necessity and the leader of the team is the brand/product manager whose responsibility is to achieve maximum appetite appeal.

If something is not optimal, it is always the fault of the other, i.e.

  • the designer did not understand the  briefing;
  • the food stylist was not perfect;
  • the photographer used the wrong light;
  • the litographer was poor;
  • the printing was a haste-work;
  • the purchaser did not allow for a good cardboard, etc.

So what can be done to improve the appetite appeal on packages, in print or on TV ? Here are some advice, not necessarily in order of importance.

Think BIG. There are five good reasons for thinking BIG. The first is that a blow-up illustration makes the package itself look bigger ! The second relies on the premise that by thinking  BIG one concentrates on the product to the exclusion of secondary design elements that can clutter the illustration and confuse the central message. Thirdly, in mass displays, large illustrations create a bull’s eye effect that polarizes attention for more shelf impact. A fourth reason is that a dominant illustration achieves better recall and makes it easier for the consumer to locate it on the shelf for repeat purchases. The fifth reason is that, if the work is properly done, the product is in the foreground. This is important because the consumer is always primarily interested in the type of product. Brand names, product denomination, size, etc. come second.

As a general rule the product shown in close-up should not exceed 120% of its original size. A good close-up can also be achieved by photographing pieces of food on a fork or spoon. The individual piece of food must be sufficiently large and interesting, otherwise it is the fork or spoon which are being sold rather than the product.

Contrast. To ensure that the product stands out from the pack, it is essential to create a good contrast between product and background. This contrast is usually based on the light/dark principle. It is therefore essential that light products be pictured against a dark background or dark products against a light background. Additional contrast can also be achieved by creative handling of light and good colour difference.

Highlights. Now that we have learned that the product must be pictured with good contrast and in close-up, we come to another essential point. i.e. the product must also be made to come alive. Here the highlights play this role. It is now up to the photographer to set the small highlights in such a way that the products become visually larger and more attractive. If no highlights are used, the product looks ‘dead’ and flat; if there are too many, it looks cold and stale.

Action. Food and drinks in action are always more tasty than static !

Freshness. When photographing food or drinks it is very important to put across freshness wherever possible so as to tone down the impression of the industrial manufacture or products. Depending on the product involved, this can be done in different ways.

Water droplets are frequently applied with a spray to fruits, vegetables or to glasses containing cold drinks thus conveying the idea that the fruits or vegetables have been freshly picked or that the drink is cool and refreshing.

In the case of prepared dishes, small bouquets of fresh spices can contribute the required freshness and atmosphere. The addition of green salad can have the same effect. When handling lighting, ensure that these green trimmings are in the light and therefore radiate freshness.

Look at the masters. They are in Japan, Germany, France or the UK – and the best journal today is ELLE à Table (French), ELLE Bistro (German), but the TESCO Recipe Magazine should not be forgotten.

Food and people. Consider what the addition of a satisfied consumer’s face will add, however seldom on packaging,. The MAGNUM ads are excellent examples of  what a human face can add !

Not all substrates give the same result. An illustration on a plastic material is likely to shine more than on paper/cardboard/tinplate.

Borrow appetite appeal ! Many products do not look good (but taste excellent) – so add appetite appeal through additional props or even other products. To avoid confusion add the text ‘serving suggestion’.

Make a distinction between editorial photo and packshot. An editorial photo can contain a lot to create a certain mood, a pack illustration must be simple.

Never forget a window if technically possible. Most, if not all, consumers wish to see the product.

Highlight the ‘key consumer benefit’. If it is the structure of the food, make it clear; if it is the taste of the drink, exaggerate slightly the colour !

Be generous ! Do always try to offer more than reality. If we communicate GREAT TASTE through an illustration, the consumer is then conditioned, i.e. prepared to experience GREAT TASTE !

Food styling. Each food photograph is only as good as the preparation of the product. A food stylist is a specialist who is familiar with the preparation of products and who is capable, if necessary, of manually reconstructing an industrial product.

Unlike an ordinary chef, the food stylist applies ‘make-up’ to the product to be photographed, to make it as photogenic as possible, disregarding the taste (salty, spicy, etc.) which has no influence on the illlustration.

In order to meet this target, he or she will sometimes alter the composition of a product in such a way that the finished picture does not show this fact. The supreme law for any food stylist should be the fact that you can beautify a product, but must never deceive the consumer.

There is certainly a lot more to be said about food and drink photography for advertising, packaging, POS material, etc. Here just a few words about highly retouched illustrations. It was difficult, in the old days, to do such a thing as one always started with a drawing. Nowadays, one obviously starts with a digital photo on which the experienced retoucher works. This is an art that very few master. It is a matter of increasing contrast, definition and colour intensity without loosing its naturalness … not too little, not too much !

May 21

Package design and ecology

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

Why are packages all over the world more often seen as waste than useful containers of products? Why do we have a guilt-feel if we do not recycle the smallest plastic bottle or Nespresso capsule? Why are there more negative articles written these days on packaging than positive ones?

One of the reasons is that nobody has been able to explain (e.g. on the pack itself) to the consumer and the media that it is basically just a matter of how we reduce energy consumption by a correct use of packaging and its disposal.

Good packaging sells products in perfect shape and condition, makes food and drink products available everywhere and increases shelf life (i.e. less waste). All this can be explained to consumers and the press, but how about the package when it has served its purpose and needs to be discarded?

We have all learned the four “Rs”:

  • recycle (i.e. collect)
  • reduce (weight)
  • re-use (return the bottle)
  • recover (energy)

We know that it is a combination of all these 4 actions that reduces energy consumption. But the real problem is to explain that there is a big difference between countries that concentrate on “recover”, i.e. burning packaging waste and recover the energy and countries that concentrate on “recycle”, i.e. collecting packages to make new ones or other products (Switzerland and Denmark for instance do it all).

However, as it is a matter of total energy saved, it is of utmost importance to calculate all the various stages from cradle to grave that consume or bind energy. It is here that too much transport is most likely the over-riding issue as transport consumes energy which is not renewable. It is here light-weight packaging also plays a big role as whatever we transport has a weight. To transport air, i.e. volume thus becomes energy-intensive.

As I do not think that I have, with these lines, more than touched on the surface of a very big issue, I should like to give 5 quotes to ponder on:

Think globally, act locally;

Garbage isn’t waste, it is simply raw material until incinerated;

Burning petrol as a fuel is as wasteful as “firing up a kitchen store with banknotes” (Mendeleyev, Russian scientist);

The Earth isn’t a gift from our parents, it is only on loan from our children;

The future will be either green or not at all (Jonathan Porrit).

May 21

My friend Bobby Monaghan in London said it so well: “if packaging were an olympic sport, it would be decathlon”. Yes, to master package design you need to know and understand a lot, i.e.

  • graphic design and industrial design
  • copywriting and materials
  • marketing and sociology
  • economy and technology
  • selling and speaking English

You don’t have to be an expert in all these areas, but you must, as mentioned above, understand. You need help from specialists in the fields you don’t master yourself.

As some designers are too proud to ask for help they do the best they can with the result that the client doesn’t get first quality service.

Here are some of the missed opportunities I have found during my career in the design business:

Too many design elements although we all know that the human being cannot take in more than 3-4 key elements. One has to convince the client that if there are more than 3-4 elements they are actually not even seen!

Linking design elements, i.e. overlapping in order to reduce elements and to make the layout optically bigger.

Showing only a part of a wellknown element, be it the logotype, the icon or an illustration. Consumers are intelligent. They fill in what they actually don’t see.

Trying to show everything on the front panel. An information has more power and conviction big on the back than small on the front.

Choosing the wrong size or material. A material often speaks better and clearer than graphics or colour. The Nestlé Dessert in France is today the best selling chocolate in the market thanks to my advice some 30 years ago to choose kraft paper. An excellent Consumer Service for baking with chocolate was equally of big help.

Saving on convenience, i.e. trying to reduce costs instead of adding convenience. TicTac did it right some 30 years ago!

Not understanding the power of the correct word(s). As most designers are highly visual, but fairly weak verbally they forget that certain things cannot be clearly expressed visually, only the choice of the convincing word(s) will do. How many design agencies have a copywriter?

Storytelling is emotional, information is rational. The consumer normally buys emotionally and not rationally, so we have to design with emotion in mind which is very difficult as today’s brand managers think mostly rationally; it’s easier to test and testing is obligatory in certain companies.

Designers believe that the client sees the same things as they do. But unfortunately, many business people are not visual. Thus the designer must explain the thinking behind a creative design. This is seldom done and a great idea may be lost.

Package designers mostly do only package design instead of designing the Big Idea. The Big Idea must work in all media be it POS, advertising, etc. It is the role of the package designer to propose an idea that is campaignable as the package is and will always be the main medium! Unfortunately I seldom see agencies presenting to the client the idea through at least 3 media… what a pity!

As the reader may see, to become a great package designer is not that easy. It is a profession that needs a thorough understanding of design, sociology, marketing and technology.
May 20

Do it BIG or stay in bed

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

Can it be said better? I doubt. On a recent business trip to Austria I was once more reminded of the fact that in every single market in Europe we ‘overcommunicate’. Not only on packaging, but equally on POS, outdoor advertising, TVC or print.

If  packaging technology improves daily, the quality of communication decreases for each day. When digital technology helps us to communicate faster, cheaper and more easily, the quality of what we communicate gets worse.

Not with all companies. Some do it well, such as most beer brands, Mars, Apple, McDonald, IKEA, etc. But about 80% deal with communication in an amateur way.

  • Why have two logotypes (same brand) on a given surface, as they often compete with each other for attention?
  • Why are brand logotypes so small or without supporting icon or colour scheme which we do not see, nor remember who is trying to sell to us?
  • Why do we have more than 2-3 messages on a given surface when we know, and tests have proven to us, that our brain is not interested in more?

The above three comments are surprising when branded products have to fight for being seen surrounded as they are by an ever increasing number of retailers’ own products. If you are not seen you cannot be bought is a statement which reminds us of the importance of simplifying in order to amplify the main message.

As mentioned above some companies ‘have got it’ and do well understand the limitations of the human brain thus being efficient when communicating with the consumer.

For the others, here are a few advice to design a package (front and back) that stands out on the shelf and that invites to be read.

Rule no 1: Strong brand on the front, no brand on the back. Strong brand means strong product brand as that is what the consumer buys. Strong brand can mean BIG logotype, but also interesting icon/spokesman, powerful colour(s)/pattern or contrast. It goes without saying that if a corporate (umbrella) brand is considered it must be strongly linked to the product brand to have maximal effect.

Rule no 2: A powerful RTB which triggers new consumers. Do not whisper it … shout it out in a bold manner on top of the illustration, the brand or icon. The design becomes more 3D which is the sign of a contemporary product. Be inspired by the front page of the weekly press. They know how to sell, week after week.

Rule no 3: When developing the RTB, if it is a text, try to inspire your best copywriter, the one who knows the value of words and their impact. If the RTB is appetite appeal you need the best food stylist to bring out the unique taste, structure or size impression. If the RTB is a technical feature then be sure that it is understood. If not, you are wasting money. ‘Do it BIG’ also means do it strong and convincing.

Rule no 4: Make the back of the pack worth looking at with the help of

  • constant change. You never read a text twice;
  • short text and BIG. Remember the title. Consumers do not read small texts;
  • the back panel being the service panel you need a BIG website if you wish consumers to contact you. The better consumer contact the more efficient marketing expenditure.

These were just a few advice how to ‘make it BIG’ in order to better capture the consumers’ interest. If not done, I suggest you stay in bed.

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.

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