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 18

More about Creativity

Posted by Wallentin in Uncategorized

A dictionary will tell you that creativity is the ability to make new things or to think up new ideas. Also, we should never forget that what leads to creativity is knowledge. In other words, the more you know, the more creative you can be. I know it sounds pretentious, but I believe that I’m more creative today than when I was younger. I have collected far more knowledge thanks to being curious!

Where do we need more creativity in pack design or, rather, in which area are we missing it?

Going back to my friend Robert Monaghan who said that package design is like a decathlon, here are the 10 areas in which we need to have maximum knowledge:

1.     materials

2.     graphic design

3.     photography and product illustration

4.     printing/die cutting/molding, i.e. all technical areas of pack production

5.     typography and readability

6.     ergonomics and functionality, i.e. opening, reclosing, etc.

7.     marketing in general and segmentation in particular, i.e. sociology

8.     copy writing

9.     retailing basics, i.e. the hot spots on the shelves and product classification

10. secondary packaging, as for instance shippers, shelf-ready displays, etc.

It goes without saying that you do not have to be an expert in all these fields, but you must have the basic knowledge and know to which specialists to go for further information. In order to stand out on the shelf, your pack must obviously look different and yet, still obey to the category norms to be quickly understood.

Take the special edition of the Lion Bar Easter egg… how do you design such a cardboard pack to be erected by machine and not by hand in order to keep costs down?

Another example, this time from the highly creative bag-in-box sector, is how to imitate wood in order to stimulate the traditional wooden box for wine bottles.

Should you have a paper label, a plastic label or print directly on the glass? The result is very different.

How far can you form a standing pouch to give a unique shape in order to appeal to children?

Of course all your competitors can learn this and it is therefore very important that you master the ability to learn faster, as it is often the only sustainable competitive advantage you can have.

Here is a list of what attitude and behaviour you need to become more creative:

1.     Ask more and better questions. By asking a good question, you almost have the answer.

2.     Trust the unexpected.

3.     Learn the guidelines and company policy; follow their meaning, but not more.

4.     Question the briefing. Know how to forget it and leave the door open for a surprise. If you don’t surprise, you do nothing.

5.     Create a more relaxed environment where laughing and smiling are main ingredients. Be serious in what you do, but not in your attitude and behaviour. Fun uses the same ingredients as creativity.

6.     Limitation encourages creativity, so do not see it as a disadvantage.

7.     Creativity is the destination, but courage is the journey.

8.     Provocation is an essential part of creativity… use it with moderation.

9.     If you are not passionate about your task, you have no chance.

10. As a creative person, you are committed to risk.

11. Creativity, according to Toscani, implies an absence of security, a willingness to do the opposite of what established value systems suggest.

12. You must have a certain ability to communicate your imagination.

13. Creative people are doers. They recognise a good idea right away. They add their own personality in the relentless execution of the idea.

14. Creativity is the ability to generate something unique, functional, beautiful and it must generate value for the society.

15. You have more time to be crazy and creative if everything is very organised (Mathias Ruegg).

16. Your organisation’s most valuable assets are people’s intuition (Tim Brown).

17. Once the mind gets curious, no law can stop it (Larry King).

18. Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing (Salvador Dali).

19. To be creative requires divergent thinking, thus generating many unique ideas and then you need convergent thinking to combine these ideas into the best result.

20. Reasonable men adapt themselves to the world; unreasonable men adapt the world to themselves. That’s why all progress depends on unreasonable men (G.B. Shaw).


LW/May 2017

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.


Jul 28

YES, it’s possible

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

We all know that one of several reasons why consumers often have an aversion to packages is that so many of them are difficult to open, or reclose.

That’s a pity, as many packages are in fact very good from a practical (handling), as well as from an aesthetical and informative point of view.

Why is it so? Well, we forget very quickly something that works, while something that does not work is negative and stays longer in our brain.

When teaching as I do, with actual examples, I always carry with me the French cheese cubes Apéricubes to prove to my audience that if you really want an opening device to function EVERY TIME, it’s possible! I don’t know how many millions or billions cubes are wrapped each day, but I’m sure they ALL function!

I believe that if top management decides that their products/packs should be easy to open, it’s possible!

The reason why it is still so bad (and yes, it is!), especially with some lids, bottle caps, sliced cheese or ham sachets, etc. is that the responsibility in the company falls between two chairs: marketing (who does not have easy opening high on their priority list) and production (who wants it to be as less costly as possible).

With this article, I just hope some companies will wake up and give what the consumers want… easy openings!

LW/July 2016

Oct 26

It’s local!

Posted by Packaging Sense in Trends | Uncategorized

… and it’s in your big supermarket! One of the most visible trends in today’s fast moving consumer goods markets is no doubt the arrival of small local producers in the big supermarket chains.

How refreshing! … to now have the choice between buying from and supporting a local business or getting ‘factory-made’ products which sometimes come from the other side of the world.

I saw many examples of such locally produced products during my last holiday in Ireland and when I was in Zurich last week, I discovered new local Swiss products in Globus’ department store.

When I go to my local supermarket, I’m now even told where my apples, my salad, my strawberries or my eggs come from! These local products are of course often a bit more expensive than the big brands, but I believe that most consumers, at least in Switzerland, have been well informed how important it is to support local producers.

Some years ago, local products were often quite badly designed, as it was most likely done by the owner. I am happy to see that today’s local products have package illustrations that

–          are designed

–          are very emotional

–          have quite a good hierarchy

–          are often transparent

–          are using attractive materials.

I’m sure that the readers will find equally good examples in their local supermarkets. Buy them! Go local! It’s good for yourself, the environment and the producer or farmer!

Sep 28

Use all the space and overlap!

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

No doubt we see today a lot of great designs in advertising, point-of-sale or packaging, designs that are simple, interesting and communicate well as for instance McDonald.

However, I also see more and more average, even mediocre designs that do not do the job for which they stand for, i.e. selling a product.

I have found that there are mainly 5 areas where the designer (or whoever puts text and picture on a screen, paper or a wall) fails. Here they are, most likely in order of weakness:


Designers don’t use the space given to them in an appropriate way in order to highlight/increase/amplify the message which should be the most important to trigger sales. I see too many outdoor ads where you literally have to look for the brand, i.e. the advertiser, or they are too crowded with information. Always keep in mind that outdoor advertising is mainly for branding, as the purchasing situation is seldom immediate.

As each media has its role to play, I find that the product illustration/information in packaging and point-of-sale could still be largely increased, as you are here very close to the purchasing act and it is the product (and not the brand) that will be bought.


… which is in one way related to the first point: I believe that instead of ‘filling a surface’, one could let the various elements overlap a great deal more. Besides, this would give an added 3D communication and reduce the number of elements, as you ‘group’ by overlapping. When you overlap or ‘bleed over’, you also increase optically the elements in question, be it a logotype or an illustration, as the viewer will automatically fill in the missing part.


… still too much text, unless it is an advertisement in a weekly press when the viewer takes the time to read it, but of course only if an interesting headline invites to do this!


The ad/pack, etc. is often created in an office in front of a screen, not considering how and where it will be used. For an outdoor ad, a brand must be seen from a distance of 30-50 meters, while on packaging, it is the product or USP that must stand out.


Creativity is quite low, mainly due to the lack of art which would make an ad, a pack or a website unique. Most print communication consists of a typographic logotype + a photo of the product + too long text lines. Instead, it could be an artistically hand drawn logotype, possibly incorporating the icon, an illustration that could be a mixture of a photo and a drawing, plus a text with a serif typography rather than a non-serif font.

X  X  X

These are just 5 things to think about when creating good communication!

Sep 23

Twenty years ago, in the UK (of course!), a brave brand manager at Kraft Foods (as it was called at that time) accepted a proposal from the Design Bridge Packaging Agency to temporarily change TOBLERONE to “TO.MY.LOVE” for St. Valentine’s day! The rest is history. The whole production was sold out in about a week!

Kraft learned something and has since produced all kinds of alternatives to the original TOBLERONE logotype. Many other brands have followed and Mars has become both Refuel and Hopp (in Switzerland at the last European Football Cup).

NIVEA use their typical white typeface on the blue background to announce both Christmas, birthdays or special promotions with words like MERCI or LOVE.

Thus the question, why do they do this and does it strengthen or weaken their brand identity? It obviously strengthens it, as they do not change the visual identity, i.e. typeface (font), colours, style or basic layout.

Furthermore, it does not cost anything more than a small change to the artwork, the printing plate, the cylinder, etc.

The effect is the following:

–          as the consumer recognises the brand, it obviously strengthens it (by repetition), but, most of all

–          the consumer reacts as something has changed. Our brain registers the brand and understands that something has been changed without changing the basics. It signals that it is contemporary, up-to-date. And, of course, there is some fun in doing this so it makes you smile, a reaction that proves you have noticed the brand!

I often get the comment that only well known brands can do this to which I answer “yes, but…” Obviously, it does not make sense to do this with a new brand. However, the sooner one does something, the faster the brand will be noticed.

In my packaging collection, I have some outstanding examples such as Pringles’ “Pringoooals” or Branston Pickle with their famous slogan “Bring out” (the Branston). Marmite does it as well. If someone still has doubts about the success of such changes, ask Coca-Cola when they altered their logotype into names like “Lars”, “Valentine”, etc.

Being an avid jazz fan, I particularly like Evian’s latest version of its brand “swing” (play young), in this case referring to a golf player at the Evian tournament which is mainly sponsored by the water brand.

Aug 25

Yes, it’s possible!

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

… but only with a clear briefing, conceptual thinking, stepwise designing, an open-minded client and last, but not least, the right hierarchy of information… It took only 3 months from briefing to printing!

No guidelines to follow, no corporate branding (which, by the way, I find wrong), no rigid hierarchy to obtain decisions during the progress of the study.

Why do I say this? Because I find the result just great! A front panel concentrating on a creative, i.e. unique illustration with lots of appetite appeal, although the product samples were not yet up to standard. This can happen, as package design work is often paralleled with the finalisation of a product. A descriptive product brand name (logotype) and a key message to the consumer: 100% fruit.

The back panel is divided into two clearly different messages. A lower part containing all legal information (which most consumers will not even look at) and a top part underlining the fruitiness of the product in just a few well chosen words and pictures.

X  X  X

Many readers would now say that this and that could be better and they are right! But this brings me back to what I learnt from Mr Peter Brabeck, one of my mentors at Nestlé. He used to say “don’t look for the last 20%, it will cost you too much in time and money”!

LW/July 2015

Aug 25

Be close to your target!

Posted by Packaging Sense in Design | Uncategorized

The other day, I fell on two goblets standing side by side in the rather new product category of chilled ready-to-drink coffee beverages. As I love to analyse communication, this is what I found:

One design speaks the language of the young consumer who drinks on the go, while the other design most likely follows the company guidelines which, in my opinion, are complicated and have the wrong hierarchy. Furthermore, the design is loaded with information on the front that belongs rather on the side or the back of the goblet.

Let us play the consumer, for a moment, who buys a caffè latte:

  1. What am I looking for? Well, a caffè latte macchiato… where do I find it? fastest on the Emmi pack.
  2. What brand will I choose? If I’m a fervent Nescafé consumer, I’ll take Nescafé. Now, coming to the brand name, Nescafé has chosen Shakissimo (written with rather small letters) which has little or no ‘taste’ while Emmi chose Caffè Latte which has taste! So here I am sure Emmi is a clear winner.
  3. Do I care about GDA for this type of product? I doubt! So let’s not print it in front, or not at all, as no legislation stipulates its mention at this moment in time. The light blue consumer promotion “win 1 iPhone 6…” is no doubt more interesting as a message in terms of positioning, even if I do not participate in the promotion. It signals that the brand is contemporary.
  4. What sells more today? Information such as “shake me” which is already in the product brand or communication as for instance “it’s the HMMM to your OHHH”, i.e. the language of young people? The reader knows the answer.
  5. Which gives you the strongest shelf impact? … a solid black sharp bull’s eye or a trial to communicate a coffee splash? The reader can certainly find it out!
  6. Is the back panel communication of interest? Yes, on the Emmi goblet, as the light blue colour catches the eye. As the Nescafé cup is a bit smaller, it may not be fair to compare, but why is the barcode smaller on the larger size? Of course to give space for the Rainforest Alliance logotype!

X  X  X

So what did we learn from this comparison? Mainly three things:

  1. Increase shelf impact as much as you can.
  2. Speak the language of the target audience.
  3. Make the denomination of the product as clear as possible – in this case the consumer is looking for “Caffè latte”. I often repeat: “Consumers drink products, not logotypes”!

X  X  X

PS: Comparing the two corrugated display trays, the Emmi product is even more convincing! You can read about POS material elsewhere on www.packagingsense.com

LW/August 2015

Dec 03

The HaHaHa Pentaward

Posted by Packaging Sense in Advertising | Uncategorized

One day, I was sitting with my old friends Brigitte and Jean Jacques Evrard, chatting about humour, one of our favourite topics. I mentioned that humour seems to have no place in today’s business world. Digitalisation has made us so efficient that there is no time to lay back, think and smile. So Jean Jacques said: “Why don’t we give a special award for the most funny pack and you are the chief jury?” Said and done!

Here we are, a year later, with Springetts’ great creation “Just Laid”. For those who were not in Tokyo and don’t know the reasons why this design was chosen among several other funny packs, here they are in a nutshell:

  1. a great, very balanced calligraphic logotype;
  2. a funny word with two meanings;
  3. a well-chosen colour scheme;
  4. a simple layout with little text;
  5. a great technical solution: press behind to open;
  6. it’s not vulgar;
  7. This solution may not have been 100% according to briefing. An agency should always do better than a briefing;
  8. Yes, it is a concept only, but Pentawards are there to promote any creative pack design.

Today’s business world seems to me to have become less creative due to best practice, guidelines and the “middle management syndrome” (i.e. take no risks). It is therefore refreshing that a contest like the Pentawards can promote highly creative solutions such as “Just Laid”!


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