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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 30

During my 40 years at Nestlé, I was nicknamed “Mr Back Panel”, as the back of a pack interested me as much as the front. Why? Because I was never satisfied with the way the industry tackled this part of a pack.

I have always taken both the consumer’s and the company’s side. Regarding the latter, I refer to a recent article on this site about brand vs. company. I’ve always believed that, what is important for the consumer (on a food or drink pack), are informations such as cooking instructions, ingredients or simple nutritional data.

In constant pursuit of ameliorating this famous back panel, I’ll publish, this Autumn, a book entitled “Read my pack”.

To give an example of how bad it is today, I’ve selected a Swiss Coop pack (see ill.), but it could as well be one from Unilever, Migros, Nestlé or Aldi.

As any reader will see, the 5 point text about how to cook these raviolis has been given roughly half the space compared with the food profil, i.e. the nutritional information which I believe will be read by about 5% of the consumers only!

Furthermore, I learned, as a junior designer at Nestlé some 50 years ago, that a recipe without illustration is almost worth nothing. Here, it takes up precious space.

Last, but not least, I believe that today, the most important message on a back panel should be the company website, as it is there modern consumers are looking for information. Well, unfindable!

Maybe I’ve been a bit too negative in my comments, but I hope the reader gets my message: “make BIG and clear what is of real interest to the consumer”. You need no guidelines to do this, just common sense!

After having written the above, I found an even better worse example with the smallest cooking instructions I ever saw and where the key text about the vegan food could be twice as big if the brand were left out (it’s already on the front). Furthermore, if composed differently, the nutritional information could take up half the space only and still be very readable.


LW/June 2017

Jun 27

Brand stretching

Posted by Wallentin in Uncategorized

Brand stretching, also called brand extension, is often an efficient and economical way of launching new products.

The potential for brand stretching depends on the positioning, i.e. how it is seen by the consumer. The new products (or services) have to fit the positioning and, hopefully, be more profitable.

It is possible for brand stretching to be the fundamental idea of a company. Virgin is a good example for their strategy, leveraging their irreverent, challenger brand across music, airlines, trains, telecoms and even banking.

Among FMCG brands, the first one that comes to my mind is KitKat which has successfully introduced, in Japan, all sorts of sizes, flavours or services.

In Europe, I doubt KitKat has done a good job, as the core idea of “the break” is totally lost in a product such as KitKat balls!

A brand which successfully stretches into other categories is no doubt Guinness. As it is rather difficult to have a younger generation drink a stout as rich as Guinness (they prefer lager), the latter now sells all sorts of products in their home market and I must admit that they fit very well in the Guinness imagery.

Don’t I do my fitness in a black Guinness T-shirt? If Red Bull today make most likely more money through media (and not the drink), I can imagine Guinness making a lot of money thanks to all their brand extensions. The latest I found were Guinness chips (from Burts), a Guinness steak sauce and Guinness Luxury Chocolate!

This being said, if you do brand stretching wrong, you are in for great troubles! I once saw Chiquita Orange juice… you cannot be two different things in marketing and that’s why brand stretching is so fascinating, i.e. to find a new product (or service) that fits the positioning, well even strengthens it!


LW/June 2017

Jun 23

Once again… do it BIG!

Posted by Wallentin in Uncategorized

I have many times repeated my mantra: “Do it BIG or stay in bed!” To design BIG is one of the best solutions to stand out on the shelves (pack design) or to be seen in any type of advertising.

During our Easter holidays in Ireland, I found two Easter Egg packs which stood out. Quite different, but highly unique both of them: the Lion Bar and the Snickers cartons. In the case of Snickers, I wonder if it was a real success, as my experience tells me that the consumers want to see what they are buying… but I can be wrong, of course.

I’m definitely not wrong when I give 10/10 to the Kellogg’s single service packs. I picked them up at breakfast in my hotel. I just say wow!

I have already mentioned the current Ford campaigns which I find outstanding, as advertising of cars is, of course, mainly about branding.

However, brand managers and pack designers still have a long way to go when it comes to turn the display trays into an advertising space, i.e. get rid of brands (they are on the cans) in order that the message can be read from a bigger distance. See my proposal for “boost up your sales”.



LW/June 2017

Jun 20

Choose the Best Material

Posted by Wallentin in Uncategorized

I’m reading in the newspaper that in a basically stagnant market, Lindt shows great sales figures… This is, without doubt, due to

  1. great chocolate recipes
  2. TV advertising that highlights the taste and the tradition which results in high quality
  3. good distribution, etc.

I have obviously no information where Lindt makes the best sales, but one thing I’m convinced of are the two seasonal shapes: the Christmas bear and the Easter rabbit, not to forget the way they are exposed on POS!

During a recent visit to Ireland where one finds the English packs, I could see, with my own eyes, the difference between two similar products, i.e. rabbits from Lindt and Maltesers from Mars with the very English pun MaltEasters…

i.e. Lindt’s rabbits and Mars’ MaltEasters.

Yes, the products are not identical and Mars’ products, I believe, less expensive, but the conclusion I draw is the following:

  • – why hide the shape in a flowpack when the product can be highlighted with just a thin aluminium film;
  • – gold is no doubt the best material to express quality and gift feeling;
  • – the addition of the red ribbon with the golden bell hightens considerably the impression of a handmade product;
  • – the reflexion of light that makes the aluminium glitter is also a plus;
  • – as Lindt seems not to be bound to any brand guidelines for these products, they can amplify the POS with the shape and not, what is usual, the logotype.

Why do I write this? Because I have a feeling that, when we design packs in front of a computer, we easily forget the impact the right material has on SALES!


LW/June 2017

Jun 16

I have already written an article on the subject, but as the trend to buy local is stronger than ever, I thought it would be worth mentioning a few more examples. This week, our local Lidl will promote 15-20 products with the local language, Swiss-German, and give them personal names, such as

  • Ueli’s Delikatessen
  • Gabriel im Engelbergertal
  • Rudolf’s Original or
  • Frieda’s Traum

During our holidays in Ireland, I found O’Donnells crisps “of Tipperary” and Irish Hereford Premium Beef Steak Mince produced in “County Cork”.

My Swedish friend Bosse Wallteg informed me about Mjölk “från Wermlands Mejeri”, i.e. milk from County Värmland. In France, you’ll find, since some time, Patrimoine Gourmand that promotes regional specialities such as Sardines “de Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie au Pays de la Loire”. We all know that the South of France is a real garden. Thus the Fraises “de Carpentras” and “Savourez le Vaucluse”.

However, what strikes me with these local products is that only half the job is done, as the local issue appears only on the front (no doubt as a sales message) and is not followed up on the back.

I believe that selling is about strengthenig the bond between the consumer/buyer/user and the brand/company that makes a product. This bond can only be strong if you give reasons for choosing the product in question.

Food products, which I mainly deal with, are about taste, quality, convenience, etc. The back panel text can and should amplify this. Furthermore, thanks to digital printing technology, the text can be changed, i.e. updated and improved endlessly.

I see that very few brands profit from this, the reason being probably that it gives more work to the brand manager and the designer! I find this a pity, as there is so much to be said to amplify the advantage of being local… freshness, for instance, ecology, etc.

To promote this thinking, I have started work on my 4th book which will have the title “Read my pack”, maybe something for you to look forward to…


LW/May 2017

Jun 13

Common Sense

Posted by Wallentin in Uncategorized

Most brand managers in Europe believe that full nutritional information in a table form is a must… wrong! Nor is it necessary in the US, depending on the size of the pack. Sun-Maid raisins is a good example. Also, it becomes a bit absurd when, on water bottles, one finds a lot of zeros (no calories, for instance).

It is therefore refreshing to see one of the latest Coca-Cola designs I found in the UK which says “fat, saturates, protein, salt – negligible amount”. Wow, common sense! What is important to the consumer on a coke is information about calories, i.e. energy and sugar content that everybody understands and this should be clearly marked.

Is this the beginning of common sense? I hope so! More detailed information can anyhow be given, for instance, through the QR code!

I am not against complete information when it has a sense, as for instance on the S.Pellegrino and Aqua Panna labels.

But I’m totally against filling panels with so much text that you can’t read it, especially if you have a certain age… See the 2 sides on Aquafresh!



LW/May 2017

Jun 09

The Ritual

Posted by Wallentin in Uncategorized

It took me a long time… in fact almost 30 years of my career as design adviser, to discover the fantastic power of one of the strongest media, “the ritual”. The ritual creates a strong bond between the brand and the consumer, be it with the product itself or through packaging.

Some of the best examples I know of (there are certainly many more) are:

  • – how to drink a Corona
  • – how to pour a Schneider Weisse
  • – how to enjoy an Oreo cookie
  • – how to open and read a Baci
  • – how to open Apéricubes
  • – how to open a Babybel

If you manage to develop a pack in such a way that it is outstanding, unique and original through easy handling or even fun handling, it will give you a memorable advantage!

I can see the surprised faces in my public when I teach and unfold, in front of them, an Apéricube and eat it or when I put the slice of lime into the Corona bottle and drink this great beer, not to forget when I lick an Oreo biscuit and dip it into milk!

As for the Schneider Weisse, for those who have never heard of this beer, here is how you drink it: Rinse a beer glass in cold water. Hold it at a slight angle and pour. To get the full taste, you leave a swallow of beer in the bottle. Roll the bottle between your hands and pour the rest.

So next time you develop a pack for a new product, THINK RITUAL!


LW/May 2017

Jun 01

Tasty communication

Posted by Wallentin in Uncategorized

One day, I was asked by a Swedish Food Journal to give my views on how to best communicate taste on pack design. The title in Swedish was “Do you speak a food language?”

Before I start, I should like to say that I am one of the lucky few who, during my education and later, in my professional life, had to work both verbally (as a journalist) and visually (as a designer).

My advice will be divided in 4 categories:

  1. the visual language, i.e. appetite appeal
  2. the symbolic language
  3. the verbal language
  4. the layout and how to maximise food appeal on a pack

Appetite appeal

The Tesco orange box and the Swiss Kambly biscuit tin say it well: “a picture is worth a thousand words” which was coined as early as in 1911 in a US newspaper article about publicity.

Mon Chéri and the bag of bread are here to show that, in order to have taste, you must come closest possible to the product. Small food illustrations do not taste!

The symbolic language

It is very powerful to use a symbolic language. Can strength be better expressed than on the Tabasco ad? I doubt!

Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut and Nestlé’s CRUNCH show that there are several ways of expressing crunchiness.

The verbal language

McDonald’s is, in my opinion, the master and I could give many examples. I’ll select just one on their cartons for Big Macs.

Another way of telling a story are descriptive brands (Gusto Italiano, Utterly Butterly and Seriously strong).

If “chocolat” is good, “aux pépites de chocolat” is certainly more tasty!

Monoprix has an assortment where each pack says exactly what it is. I would say that, if you have a powerful communication, you do not even need a brand, as in the case of “sans arêtes” Sardines.

It is important to have the best words on the pack design. It is even more important on point-of-sale and in advetising.

Snickers’ “affamé” (hungry) says it all and so does Le Parfait bread spread “spread it quickly, but savour it slowly”.


Here is where most designers and brand managers get it wrong. Most of them believe that the logotype must be on top when in fact it is the product that should be there. The illustration will always stand out better if it is in the foreground, as on the Chinese fruit cake pack or in the case of McDonald’s BIG TASTY.

The product I prefer by far is the Swedish version of KitKat, i.e. Cloetta’s KEX which is not so crunchy, nor chocolatey, but I doubt a design can express the product and its taste in a better way. Now that’s my opinion and as the saying goes: “De gustibus non est disputandum” (there is no disputing about taste).


LW/May 2017

May 26

No two consumers in the world have the same opinion, nor is there any consumer who knows your positioning… so all you can test is whether or not a consumer likes a design.

This being said, I am in no way against testing, as that is one way of measuring  certain forms, colours, icons, etc. in relation to communication.

So what then should you test? First of all, start with one thing at a time. If you have designed a new brand logotype, ask the consumer’s opinion about it when it is not yet on the pack, but in isolation, with no disturbing elements around. You may then find out things you would not have seen by yourself, as you might be too close to your own project.

Another thing you can test quite easily is the appetite appeal of an illustration, also here in isolation. You may, as above, test one illustration against 2-3 others, as you then get a more elaborate answer.

Don’t test copy, as your copywriter knows very well the value of the words used and don’t test the type of pack if you already have decided which production line you will use (for economical and practical reasons).

By the way, we all know what the various materials express: plastic is less ‘noble’ than glass, an aluminium can feels colder than a glass bottle, etc.

Once you’ve got feedback as to your brand logotype and/or icon, the illustration, the best-selling call-to-action, a good designer knows how to put it all together to obtain a design with

  • – optical size impression
  • – easy readability
  • – maximal contrast
  • – correct hierarchy
  • – respecting legal requirements, etc.

Learning: Measure likes or dislikes to individual parts of a design by asking the consumers, but never ask their opinion about the full pack design.


LW/November 2016

May 23

The reality check

Posted by Wallentin in Uncategorized

I have recently updated my “advice to a brand manager”, as I noticed that I had, at stage 3, forgotten the importance of the reality check!

The reason why I bring it up in this article is the following: with the arrival of the design computer, indeed a facilitating tool, there is more than ever the tendency that a design is being judged on a computer screen and not in reality.

By the way, one thing I learned quite early during my Nestlé years was to constantly update guidelines which is what I am doing with the “5 step formula”. I would hate to hear that young designers and brand managers  make the same mistakes the previous generation did.

The McDonald’s ad, compared to the other two, is an excellent example of an outdoor ad that can be read and understood from a distance. I’m sure that the designers who did the other two ads never checked how legible the message would be in reality, i.e. understood when passing by, driving your car. They were ok in the design studio, but not outside in a busy environment. So, folks… do it BIG or stay in bed!

LW/November 2016

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