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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 31

Yes, it’s not good to smoke. I still indulge myself now and then in a good pipe and a single malt and what’s wrong with that…
But things are as they are and we have to comply with the rules.

As this site is about communication and not about giving moral advice, I dare to bring back to life some designs that were part of our graphical design environment… cigarette designs!

The other day, I fell on quite a unique book (special edition), printed some 13 years ago, sponsored by different industries and written by the excellent Christian Rommel and Hans-Georg Böcher from the German Verpackungs-Museum in Heidelberg. It’s called “Little Treasures” and retraces the era of cigarette pack design.

I doubt there is any category where the creativity was so great and that, essentially, thanks to the ‘big boys’ such as Philip Morris or Reynolds Tobacco who spent money on design.

I repeat, it’s not good to smoke, but as money was available for design during that period, the result was often stunning. Imagine all the Camel packs. Have you ever seen such interesting camels? Or imagine the Marlboro cowboy… the real Wild West ‘macho’! Lucky Strike also struck our minds and hearts with their nice girls!

Now and then the graphical quality reached heights of divine beauty… just admire the Chinese pack designs!

The selection of illustrations from the abovementioned book (copyright Rommel/Böcher) has been generously made available by the authors.

I repeat once more, smoking is not good for you, but the ‘golden’ area of cigarette smoking gave us some outstanding designs that will never be forgotten!

LW/October 2016

Oct 25

Looking into Google, one of many definitions of brand management read like this:

“The process of maintaining, improving and upholding a brand so that the name is associated with positive results. Brand management involves a number of important aspects such as cost, customer satisfaction, in-store presentation and competition. Brand management is built on a marketing foundation, but focuses directly on the brand and how that brand can remain favourable to customers. Proper brand management can result in higher sales of not only one product, but on other products associated with that brand. For example, if a customer loves a special biscuit brand and trusts it, he or she is more likely to try other products offered by the same brand, such as cookies.”

I’ve been told that the title “Brand Manager” first appeared at Procter & Gamble around 1990, i.e. not so long ago.

Reading the above text, it does not say “stick as many logotypes as you can, i.e. on all sides of a pack, in an advertisement or on POS material…” Well, I am of course exaggerating, but the reader knows what I am after and that is

a)     to use common sense and

b)     to activate sales through great communication.

I know why we often see so many logotypes when, in principle, one would be enough: because the guidelines of the company say so!

If you read some of the articles here on www.packagingsense.com, you must have noted that I like the products of “Bonne Maman” and especially their IDENTITY. However, in my opinion, the brand manager got it wrong this time: 4 times “Bonne Maman” is three too many, especially as you can use the tartan pattern in a very effective way!

The messages the consumer wants to read are, in order of importance,

  1. crème brûlée
  2. pour ces moments de gourmandise and
  3. (maybe rather on the back of the pack) “C’est toi que j’aime tant”.

On this ad, these texts have been disturbed by the “Bonne Maman” logotypes!

Marketing is to communicate with the consumers in such a way that they learn first about the products and then about the brand, or am I wrong?

LW/October 2016

Oct 25

Is it your aim to sell?

Posted by Packaging Sense in Advertising | Uncategorized

Being a consultant is great. You learn to know new people every day and you have the chance to analyse how brand managers and designers ‘operate’ together. What strikes me most is their apparent lack of interest in making  the pack, the ad or the POS really SELLING the product!

I think that many brand managers are too company-centered and believe that just a big brand will do the job.

Many designers’ main interest is to design a ‘nice pack’ according to their own perception. So what I teach mostly these days is the copywriting part of efficient communication.

The other day, when looking for inspiration, I fell on a website called WordStream where I borrowed some ideas. Here are four examples:

  1. Give the consumer a reason why she should buy your product;
  2. Use words that provoke emotion or enthusiasm;
  3. Don’t be afraid to be more creative and, above all, surprise!
  4. Use numbers when possible, as they are instantly understood.

I’ll give here some examples in order to change information into communication:

  1. from “NEW” to “finally available”
  2. from “free” to FREEE!!
  3. from 38g to 10 pieces
  4. from “reduction” to “save now”
  5. from “offer” to “buy now”
  6. from “guarantee to

LW/October 2016

Oct 25

I often stay in hotels and take my breakfast with a cup of tea. If there is one thing I don’t like is when my plate is taken away before I’ve finished eating, another annoyance at breakfast is trying to choose my sachet of tea. It is almost impossible to read the flavour amongst the varieties offered!

Once again, I think both the brand manager at the tea company and the designer are to be blamed for not understanding COMMUNICATION. You don’t drink logotypes, you drink a tea variety! So why do so many companies put their brand on top or so big that the variety becomes difficult to find?

The Bewley’s packs are certainly great designs, but what I need in the early morning is to be able to choose the variety!

The third annoyance is that many companies do not tell us what the sachet contains, but invent names like “love”, “relax” or “tea journey”. They also often print white texts on a yellow background (even at Lipton)! And what about sticking too much to  guidelines as in the case of Lipton green tea? Do I need to be told three times that it is green tea?

I know that Unilever is promoting the sub-brand “yellow tea label”, but it would be good to know the type of tea.


I hope that some designers will read these lines and even some marketing people at tea companies so I can easily find my Earl Grey or English Breakfast tea in the future!

PS: there is obviously also some good communication, as for instance on the Ronnefeldt tea sachet!

LW/October 2016

Oct 25

The other Beer Designs

Posted by Packaging Sense in Bottles | Uncategorized

One of my recent articles was about respecting category norms. But, as always in life, there are exceptions to the rules and here I’m going to deal with an interesting case.

Beer bottle labels or beer cans are usually simple in order to achieve shelf impact. Oval or round shapes are used, as well as contrast and strong, memorable icons like the Heineken Red Star.

However, there is another way of making your label (or can) unique and that is to use what we call ‘storytelling. There are many examples, but today, I limit myself to 4 stories:

  • the Vikings
  • the raw materials (ingredients)
  • the castles
  • the unique local cultures

There is no question that the paraphernalia designs of the Norwegian handcrafted Viking Aegir Brewery made a great impact on me. Graphical masterpieces! This is a great example of selling a product thanks to design. I just wonder if 9 varieties are not 5 too many?

The Danish Skovlyst that I bought in a 4-pack at the Copenhagen Airport is no doubt also a good example of an outstanding design level. The beer is brown, but I believe that the green colour can also be used with success in the category.

As beer brewing goes far back in time, it is obvious that there are many brands relating to castles, at least in Europe.  The Swiss Feldschlösschen  (“Little castle on the field”) is my local beer that uses the almost obligatory oval shaped label, as well as the castle and the hop.

Another Swiss beer which I get on the Swiss airline flights comes from the Canton of Appenzell, known for its rural customs and traditions. It couldn’t be more ‘Swiss’, including the cow with a bell and the small sheep dog!

What’s the learning? Well, if you have a unique and memorable concept and the beer tastes good for the locals, you are in business!

LW/October 2016

Oct 25

When it’s ICONIC

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

… you may still make it contemporary. I’ve chosen an Italian and a Japanese label in order to explain what I mean.

Some designs have, with time, become so unique that they have become icons and that they are, in principle, untouchable. You know the expression “don’t change a winning team” or “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

There are quite a few iconic designs like the Coca-Cola logotype, the French Herta Knacki, the red or blue gingham/vichy pattern on the Bonne Maman packs or the Swedish Kalles Kaviar tube that do not need any improvement.

However, and that is why I wish many CEO’s or brand managers would read this article, even an iconic design can be tampered with in order to stay in tune with today’s consumers. S.Pellegrino does this exceptionally well, as can be seen on a few chosen examples and so does the Kirin Ichiban beer where some typical Japanese Spring flowers have been added.

I am not speaking of promotional ideas only, but also of special editions for celebrations such as Christmas, the Chinese New Year or even the Japanese Spring. Today, famous brands such as Coca-Cola are almost expected to offer the consumers something new to look at, while maintaining, of course, the brand’s graphical identity!

LW/October 2016

Oct 25

Fill it up!

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

The computer is no doubt a wonderful tool that speeds up the designing of an ad, a pack or a POS display. It has just one big disadvantage: the person who sits behind a screen is often far away from reality. Today, about 80% of outdoor ads are too badly designed to be read and understood from a distance! The same applies to many packages. Why is this? Because we do not use the full space given to us and we seldom check if a pack, an ad, POS, etc. communicates in reality!

The illustrations I have chosen make it very clear. Out of these three ads, only McDonald’s masters layout, text and product communication. You find these three ads in a crossing where drivers and pedestrians have more important things to do than reading ads. However, I can guarantee that the McDonald’s ad will be noticed (although busy for a McDonald’s ad this time).

So advertising should use the full space. Coca-Cola shows the same approach on their TVC’s and so do Snickers, Mars, Boddingtons, etc. in pack design!

LW/October 2016

Oct 25

The Kirin Promise

Posted by Packaging Sense in Bottles | Uncategorized

Until recently, I held the American Budweiser label as the best front label text in the beer category, in fact in the whole food and drink world. We all know that it states the following: “This is the famous Budweiser beer. We know of no brand produced by any other brewer which costs so much to brew and age. Our exclusive Beechwood Aging produces a taste, a smoothness and a drinkability you will find in no other beer at any price.” Also the temporary rebranding to “America” has some quite exciting words worth reading.

However, when analysing the Japanese Kirin Ichiban label which is as much of a masterpiece as S. Pellegrino, I discovered great English communication. I obviously cannot understand the smaller Japanese text. By the way, for those who do not know it already, the Japanese consumers prefer by far French or English texts, giving them the idea that it is a superior product. ‘The grass is always greener on the other side…”

Using loaded words as prime, purest, 100%, premium, etc., this beer must be good and indeed it is!

Today, we highlight the icon more than the brand. The Kirin, a legendary mythological Chinese creature that portends good luck, certainly helps to render this label unique and timeless.

For more information, I suggest you visit the Kirin Ichiban website.

LW/October 2016

Oct 12


Posted by Packaging Sense in Featured | Uncategorized

Did you know that the first thermoplastic was a compound created from nitrocellulose and camphor? The two first brands being used were Parkesine and Xylonite until Celluloid was registered in 1869 in Newark, New Jersey. It was first used as a replacement for ivory. Well, that’s a long time ago and if there is one material which has constantly been improved with time, it is certainly plastic, in any form or composition. We have polyethene, polypropylene, polystyrene, polyvinyl chloride, etc. basically developed from crude oil.

The famous words by the Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev have to be mentioned here. He said: “burning petroleum is as stupid as firing up a kitchen stove with bank notes”. Yes, it is far better to use the world’s resources or crude oil to make plastics than to heat, drive cars, etc.!

As I’m not a scientist, nor a packaging technologist, I will here only deal with the enormous utility of plastics to communicate, or rather let the product do so, as most plastics used are transparent.

We all know by now that the main advantage of plastic as a packaging material is that it is light. And were it not that so much plastics end up in the nature, I’m sure that our shopping bags in plastic would have less impact on the environment than the heavier paper version.

I will not enter the ongoing discussion about recycling, as it is just common sense to recycle plastics of a certain weight, while thin plastic films help our incinerators to be more efficient!

We can get fantastic results when the marketing and the technical services meet. I believe that the recent Coca-Cola plastic BOPP label that turned into a great ribbon or bow tie was just great! Just a pity it didn’t work each time.

Some brands would, in my opinion, not have existed, were it not for the plastic material. I think of Tic Tac, Mon Chéri or Ferrero Rocher. Plastic bottles are no doubt superior to glass when handled by kids, so we see for instance a lot of plastic ketchup bottles.

What would the whole chips industry be without plastic bags, whether aluminised or not. Most PET bottles have now labels in the same material. This is logical when you think of recycling.

But most of all, I think that plastics are best when combined with paper, cardboard, etc. to obtain see through windows, as consumers wish to see what they purchase.

One of my biggest learning during my years at Nestlé was no doubt the possibility to embrace any material, as from a communication point of view, the material often says more than a text or an image. Long live plastics!

LW/September 2016

Sep 14

Brand vs. Company

Posted by Packaging Sense in Advertising | Uncategorized

Brand vs. Company in the food and drink world

I’ve had the great advantage and pleasure to work for almost 40 years for Nestlé. During that time, I have regularly been asked to explain the difference between a brand and a company or, in other words, between a product brand and a corporation.

As any marketeer well knows, brands in general can be classified in categories and companies use different terminologies such as

– sub brand
– product brand
– range brand
– corporate brand
– strategic brand
– descriptive brand
– endorsing brand, etc.
They appear on the front as logotypes and can be of various sizes or strength.

Any marketeer also knows the difference between the two brand approaches:

a) Nestlé or Unilever, for instance, often use a corporate and a product brand, ex. Mousline from Maggi (dual branding);
b) Mars never use a corporate brand (single branding).

The reason why I write this article is that I found, the other day, a very interesting example: Tetley tea from TATA GOBAL BEVERAGES with Tetley as a logotype on the front and TATA both as a corporate logotype and the product division “TATA GLOBAL BEVERAGES” on the back. This makes me believe that the management at TATA, as well as (to a certain extent) Nestlé and Unilever have not yet found the best balance between a product brand and the company behind it (see later).

I’d like to explain that a product brand which in the consumer’s eye is a creation to express a certain positioning stands, in this case, for taste, but it can also stand for other product experiences such as crunchy, salty, sweet, i.e. real values and perceived values like young (Coca-Cola) fashionable (Innocent) or extreme (Red Bull).

However, a corporate identity, showing the company behind a brand as for instance Nestlé with their nest symbol and TATA with their “T” symbol stand for values such as trust, quality, local, global, i.e. values which can be both real or perceived and different to the above product values.

In the years to come, I hope we will no doubt see a stronger and explanatory information of the company on the back panel (avoiding complicated dual or triple branding on the front), as consumers want to know who is behind a certain brand and which values this company has. No doubt Nestlé will increase their nest and explain what “nutrition, health and wellness” mean and Unilever their “U” also explaining to the consumers what their company believes in.


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