Posted: December 11, 2012 in Index

meThis website is dedicated to underscoring the important role Packaging Design has assumed within the modern retail environment, and to helping marketers and designers improve Package Design and Branding communications through knowledge and innovation.
Below you will find links to our packaging design capabilities, workshops and a series of articles, which we hope will promote a deeper understanding of the potential of the package as a direct line of communication with consumers and therefore as a marketing tool of high value.
POWER PACKAGING WORKSHOP: http://rhpkg.wordpress.com/pkg-know-how/
Please feel free to enjoy the articles below and to investigate the potential we can offer you by visiting http://rhpkg.wordpress.com/about/

Why Paper Packaging Sells

Posted: November 28, 2013 in Index

There was a time when brands were new to us and were made famous through advertising, a time when there were corner shops, with helpful owners who were happy to find the brand you asked for and hand it to you, over the counter. In this time, people were so dazzled by the notoriety of the brands, that the packaging, whilst clearly being seen as attractive, was at the same time, perceived to be just a utilitarian and practical way of delivering the product.

As times evolved, people gradually, became liberated from tyranny of advertised goods, and corner shop assistant ‘gatekeepers’, because the supermarket entered our high streets, and began to seduce us all, by exposing us to new offers and products never before seen. With the supermarket came the freedom of choice, the freedom to evaluate and decide which products we wanted to buy, without the need for any shop assistant help!

As more and more supermarkets arrived, this newfound freedom took a lot of the power of seduction away from the advertisers and put the power of choice into the hands of the people, the ones we now call ‘consumers’. What all this meant of course was that, what people now saw sitting in front of them on the shelf, became the product identifier, the product sales person and the link between the brand and themselves. Packaging had become important to both brands and consumers alike.

But then something else happened, scientists and politicians started to warn us that our world was warming up, that the ozone layer was thinning and CO2, they said, was one of the main causes. We all became aware of our changing environment, and people began to look closer at what might be causing the problem. We were told that we were using up the world’s resources, that fossil fuels, like oil, were going to run out sooner or later, and that we needed to find other renewable resources that would not deplete over time. Packaging, and especially oil based plastics packaging, which had offered us all that choice, was suddenly exposed in a new light, it had now become part of the problem!

One industry that took all these indicators seriously was the paper industry.

Paper, unlike many other packaging materials, comes from a renewable resource; trees. Trees come in abundance, they cover over 35% of Europe (and that’s excluding CIS countries), and in total they produce around 20 billion m3 of wood, a figure that increases every year by nearly 800 million m3. Trees, of course, are a renewable resource because, well managed, they can be harvested and replanted just like any other crop. In addition to the harvested wood, around 50% of the fibre material used for making paper and board in Europe is recovered paper. This can happen because at least 64.5% of paper is recycled and re-used again and again.

Clearly, all this put the paper industry in a strong position to offer the material of the future, and the industry quickly set to work consolidating this advantage, by building programs to constantly increase production efficiency, by reducing emissions, and by recycling and managing waste, throughout their operations, in order to minimise any environmental impact.

Because of all this work, the paper industry today can offer a material that is not only extremely well suited to packaging, but that also offers a great sustainable packaging alternative to any brand that wants to express their environmental concerns and show their consumers that they care. Much more than this: Paper is available in an infinite variety of forms and thicknesses and also happens to be a very tactile, because paper is a material that can be given many varied surface textures and finishes. This means that it can be easily exploited to express brand values, to seduce, to enhance and deliver many other communicative advantages to product packaging. Paper is a wonderfully flexible material, which can be very specialised and designed to fit almost any packaging need, whether for labelling, wrapping or for other flexible packaging uses.

Because in today’s world up to 70% of buying decisions are being made in-store by the consumer, brands need to pay particular attention to their packaging, be clearly seen on shelf and work hard to project the right message. Here, paper packaging has always had the advantage over most other materials. This is due to the excellent surface properties of paper, which allows for spectacular printing efficiencies. Colours can be subtle or bold, surfaces can be embossed, die-cut, or can be given many different printing effects such as metallising, gold or silver blocking and many other creative uses of textures and varnishes.

The evolution of our high street, the power gained by the consumer and the changes our environment is undergoing, has given paper based packaging a real advantage. Far more than any other packaging material, paper offers an efficient packaging solution to brands that need to communicate and connect with their consumers, whilst projecting a truly responsible environmental image.

This is why paper packaging sells.

Rowland Heming – November 2013©

Brand Mascots and Visual Communication

Posted: November 14, 2013 in Index

The great thing about brand mascots is that they visualise a brand’s character, its benefits and need no explanation to be understood. Whatever language you speak, they create a visual and emotional connection, and are able to communicate in a way that can be positive and endearing, by relating to the viewer in seconds!  Imagine therefore, how effective your brand communication could be, if you could use a mascot to convey information, like brand benefits and brand character and also help consumers relate to your brand in such a short time!

It’s called visual communication: For example, look at these images below, I’m sure you can recognise each and every one of them, whatever language you speak – whereas, in order to read this article, you can only do it, if you speak the language it is written in!

B&W symbols




So it’s not surprising that one of the smartest ways brands can communicate to consumers, and to get their message across, is to use a brand mascot, because by creating a mascot, brands are able to express in a visual form, many aspects of the brand message: Positioning, attitude, age, gender, product characteristics, origins…  to name but a few.

Whilst brand mascots have been around for sometime: Tony the Tiger, Captain Iglo, the Nesquik Rabbit, Johnny Walker, Ronald McDonald etc., a deeper investigation will reveal that many have also changed and evolved over time. To give one example:

The story goes that André and Edouard Michelin were walking around their factory in France, when they saw a stack of the tyres they produced and announced that, ‘that stack of tyres looks like a man’. This statement allegedly led to the creation of the famous ‘Michelin Man’, properly known as ‘Bibendum’. Whatever the truth of his origins, ‘Bibendum’, has been around since 1894 and is a perfect example of how a mascot can express a brand’s character and create a bond between manufacturer and consumer, and yet still evolve, along with the brand and product itself.

BibendumIn the beginning, the Michelin company sold tyres of solid rubber, tyres that could withstand any road obstacles imaginable, so to reflect this, the brand mascot, ‘Bibendum’ was portrayed as a portly man with pince-nez glasses, smoking cigars and drinking a glass full of road hazards (nails, broken glass etc.). In this way, the portrayal of the brand mascot was specifically designed to reflect the product characteristics and benefits: Tough, masculine, serious, reliable and adult etc. In later years though, when tyres became pneumatic and filled with air, the ‘Bibendum’ mascot was adapted to reflect the new product characteristics. ‘Bibendum’ stopped his drinking of broken glass and nails, and became slimmer and fitter and of course younger, to reflect the performance benefits of the new tyres.

The end effect of all this careful presentation of the Michelin brand and the evolution of its mascot, created a communication reversal for consumers. Whereby, all of the characteristics invested in the ‘Bibendum’ by the brand, now allowed consumers to discern all the characteristics of the brand and product, through the brand mascot.

This example shows how a mascot can, not only visualise a product and it’s characteristics, but also shows how a mascot can create an ‘instant’ connection and familiarity with consumers, a connection that is difficult to achieve with any amount of text. Remember also that in the age of the Internet, the mascot’s visual communication capabilities will allow you to communicate your brand message to almost any nationality across the world – Clearly an essential criteria for any brand today!

Many of the brand mascots that we see today, have become not only an image of the brand, but have in a sense become, brand ambassadors. They articulate the brand’s core attributes to consumers in a personal an intimate way, building trust and animating and amplifying the brand message in a simple and direct language.

wwfFor example, we see Tony the Tiger, tells us directly that Frosted Flakes are ‘Grreat!’, always a happy smiling ambassador to the Kellogg’s brand. We can see the lion being used on Nestlé’s ‘Lion Bar’ to express the strength of the product’s energy giving benefits.

The Panda is used by WWF (World Wildlife Fund), to create empathy and tug at our heartstrings, and the elephant, that symbolises Côte d’Or chocolate. is used to simply remind us of the product’s  African heritage.

Mr CleanThere are times when a brand mascot can be used to do a strategic job, like uniting a product brand that carries different product names throughout the world. A strong example of this is Procter and Gamble’s brand Mr Proper, which has different names in different markets, but always carries the same smiling, bald headed brand mascot. Whether he is called Mr Proper, Mr Propre, Meister Proper, Mister Clean, Mastro Lindo, Maestro Limpio or Don Limpio…!

Other clear advantages of building a brand mascot, must of course lay in the fact that, once created, a mascot can become the cornerstone of any brand-building program. Just as is the case with Mr Proper, the mascot can animate brand events, educate, entertain and support brand promotions across media and across time. In this way, mascots help brands to become trusted friends, they build relationships with consumers, are highly recognisable celebrities and therefore stand-out in a competitive market place and ultimately, add clear value to a brand.

So what should you take into account if you are considering creating a brand mascot for your brand?

Most importantly, brand characters should be highly relevant to the brand or the product attributes. Just as Mr Proper, wears a pure white ‘T Shirt’ and shows off his muscles, to express the strength of the cleaning product he represents, your character should articulate (even amplify), the brand message and support the product benefits you want consumers to understand.

To be effective, any mascot you create, should be understandable and have a character that goes beyond a static image – for example, I would suggest that the Starbucks mermaid is a symbol rather than a mascot as it serves only to identify the brand, rather than express the brand character. Think of the mascot as a positive, living entity with a story, a personality, an environment, an attitude and a style of its own. Take time to create a profile for your mascot that will show all who work with it, how it dresses, how it acts and what it believes etc. In this way you will be creating a unique set of character attributes that can be built-on as time goes by and will always support and help differentiate your brand.

Once you have created your mascot, make sure it appears in all your communications and most of all, make sure it is animated, flexible and capable of doing many brand or product related things. Remember to always be consistent, because once a mascot exists, it becomes ‘real’ to consumers and an emotional attachment will develop, creating a bond that can last for generations to come.

Rowland Heming – November 2013 ©

Following the creation of our new design company Le Kub in Q4 2013 we are proud to showcase our recent work for one of Russia’s most popular beers.






Please click the link below to see a pdf presentation of this case study

Klinskoe Case Study

Should you wish to know more about this project or would like to find out more about our design capabilities please do not hesitate to contact me rh.pkga@gmail.com

Brand owners often use packaging designers to work on their packaging communication, and when they do, they mostly see the designer as an exterior (and inferior), supplier, called in to answer an already established brief and to execute specific pre-set tasks. But what if things were different, what if the packaging designer was given a more important role in package design development, and was asked to be a part of the total process from the very beginning – what role would the designer play and what advice would the designer give?

As a experienced packaging designer with extensive experience working for national, multi-national and global brands over many years, I’ve been thinking about this question, and as a result, I’ve put together what I think to be some of the most important advice I think brand owners should know:

The first thing I would ask is how well do you really know your brands, I don’t mean by that auditing which brands you have and listing product characteristics etc…, What I mean here is, do you really understand your brands? Do you understand the history of each of your brands, do you understand the relationship consumers have with each of them, have you identified and defined what it is about them that consumers are attached to?

What are the identifying elements and brand equities…?
Who buys, and who consumes your product?
What is your brand context with competition, with consumers and their lives?
Why do they buy it, what are the real and the perceived benefits?
What are the consummation rituals etc…?

I would do this because brands rarely belong to manufacturers, as they might think they do. Brands exist because consumers buy them, and it is consumers that make them successful! Marketing may get them out there in front of an audience and can boost sales with promotions and offers, but in the end it’s the relationship between a brand and its customers that cements a brands place in society and in the consumers mind. Mostly, this relationship is built by physical attributes like the product and the packaging, but it can also be built by a long term positioning, and by consistency of message in advertising and promotions.

Having identified what your brand means to consumers, it follows that my next advice would be, to be very careful about giving my marketing people too much power over my brands. The trouble with marketing people is they tend to be young, and of course they want to make their mark on the world. One of the easiest ways to do this is to mess around with the brand, and, as it’s usually quite hard to change the product, young marketers tend to do this by changing the packaging design.

But don’t get me wrong; I do believe that having young talented marketing people to work on brands is extremely beneficial, and brands can gain much from their drive, energy and ambition. However, where this can go wrong, is if this ambition and drive remains unchecked! My personal experience has shown me that often this drive to create a difference and to be seen to be doing something, can lead to ill conceived, short term thinking, which can end up being detrimental to the long term brand communication and, worst still, may lead to undermining consumer trust in a brand. One way to avoid this, of course, is to invest in design training allowing your marketing team to gain some understanding of design, equity management and the design process. In this way instead of just making changes for changes sake, there can be an understanding of how to ‘move the brand forward’, through efficient communication and powerful, outstanding design.

There are many examples of brands that retain structures, logos and images that young marketers may have wanted to change over the years, and for all the best reasons, but which remain essential (and untouchable), to the brand’s loyal users.


For example the ‘Kinder Boy’ or the UK’s Fairy baby, who still walks around in towelling nappies, or the dead lion with flies on the Lyle’s Golden Syrup pack, they remain, because consumers want them to!

The key here, is to remember that brands belong to consumers, and

Golden syrup

just as, you don’t like people to mess with the things you own without your permission – neither do they!


One sure way of protecting a brand against the excesses of youthful marketing zeal, is to appoint a ‘brand guardian’ within the brand company structure, this might be a design manager or a brand director. Whichever route is followed, this person’s role should be that of an arbiter, a go-between, bridging the gap between marketing and design. But a word of warning, the very nature of this persons position within the brand company, will always mean that they remain slightly biased and strongly influenced by, historical baggage, their own experiences and internal management pressure and decisions. Therefore, I would strongly advise that this person should not ‘be’ the designer but should ‘oversee’ the design process, and ‘steer it’ in the right direction both with internal structures and with external suppliers. Bearing in mind also that designers too can be guilty of un-checked ambition and can just as easily be harmful to a brand’s longevity.

Where an in-house brand guardian is not possible, another way, is to build a long term relationship directly with a design studio (or studios), bringing them in as a part of the brand building team and treating them as partners in your business, this works, but it is still advisable to retain a brand guardian of some sort (for example, senior management), within the brand company, to be sure the long term view of the brand is always maintained.

Clearly however, there are times in the life of a brand where changes are necessary. When this happens there are some golden rules that really must be applied:

The first of these rules is to create a good briefing, briefings are there to control the process, to define the required out-come and to be used as a measure by which judge any design work that emerges. However, before a briefing can be written, there is a need to make some kind of audit of the market, the competition and the selling environment. There is also a need to understand consumer’s thoughts and motivations. Both of these tasks are best undertaken by independent outside suppliers, because, there is no doubt, you will always be too close to your brands and products to ever have a really objective viewpoint! You will find that when it comes to writing the briefing, the perspective gained by these external audits will be invaluable.

Developing the package design brief may be one of the most important tasks a brand marketer will ever undertake. Yet compared to the effort put into a brief for an advertising campaign the development of a package design brief is often sadly under rated. Figures show that this assumption is dangerous, for whilst package design development may only be in the region of 50,000 Euro or so, compared to much larger, and therefore seemingly more important, advertising budgets, the importance of the package design cannot be so readily compared in simple monetary terms.

What marketers tend to forget is the moment you re-design your pack, your not just spending 50,000 Euro…your messing with your core product perceptions. You may be altering the purchase cues consumers have come to trust and relate to… you’re playing with goodwill, loyalty and preference…. In-fact, you’re playing with one of the major assets of your company!
This is why a packaging design and a package design briefing are so very important, when set against a brand’s success or failure. It’s not 50,000 Euro at risk, it could be your multi-million Euro business itself. Think of the Tropicana re-design in the USA, which went disastrously wrong and cost PepsiCo millions! Crisis

Choosing a design studio, can be a difficult task, everyone of them are expert in telling you just how good they are, they all are excellent communicators and spend many hours creating exciting and compelling presentations of their work! But in the end there are some simple ways in which to help make the decision making easier.

Firstly, now that you have your briefing, you should have some idea of the task ahead, and with it some idea of the skills needed. So, use this knowledge to measure-up each candidate, ask questions like, does the studio have experience in your category, or have they handled a similar project before, what did they do, how did they do it etc…?
Secondly, meet them! Most design projects will take a few months to complete, you need to know if there is a good chemistry between you and your new partner, because you are going to be seeing a lot of each other!
Thirdly, be honest! If you are putting them in competition, tell them, and tell them against who they are competing, by doing this you will create a spirit of competition and fuel their ambition. But don’t expect to do this for free! Free work is both immoral, because someone somewhere will have to pay in the end, and demoralising, your project will certainly not get the senior input it deserves!
Finally, if you have a purchasing department, use them to negotiate project costs, not to choose design studio suppliers and certainly not to deliver the brief or receive proposals. Your packaging is far too important to be left to number crunchers. It’s a job for all those clever marketing people you’ve employed!

Many of these ideas may seem obvious at first glance, but my experience shows, that many of them are obviously lacking in so many brand owners organisations. It seems incredible to me that when packaging design is so important within the path to purchase and in maintaining and increasing market share and ultimately driving purchase decisions, that package design and package designers are accorded so little importance within the marketing mix!

Time for a change, I think!

Rowland Heming©
December 2012

Part 2: http://rhpkg.wordpress.com/2013/02/08/what-else-can-a-packaging-designer-teach-a-brand-owner-part-2/

Part 3: http://rhpkg.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/what-more-can-a-packaging-designer-teach-a-brand-owner-part-3/

In this second paper on the role of packaging design in the branding process, I continue to explore what would happen if the packaging designer was given a more important role in design development, and rather than being treated simply as an outside supplier, and instead, was asked to be a part of the total process from the very beginning.

In first paper, I discussed; how package designers can help brand owners prepare for the design process, though understanding their brands, their consumers and effectively managing the equity elements. I also gave some advice on how to prepare for the design process that follows, by creating and effective brief and choosing the right studio to work with. In this paper I want to move on, to another level of understanding that the packaging designer can bring, and discuss how and why packaging design is such an essential brand communicator.


As a brand designer, who has worked on many major brands throughout Europe and Eastern Europe for the past four decades, I have always been aware about how important it is to understand the selling environment, or the place where my work has had to perform, and as a result, I have spent many hours of my life in supermarkets, observing, recording, and following trends in design, communication and packaging across all categories.

Most true packaging designers, unlike many Brand Managers spend a considerable amount of time in supermarkets, mainly because we believe that truly effective design cannot be created by remaining in an office, or sitting at the computer. The selling environment found in a supermarket is a dynamic and ever changing world, which any Brand Manager ignores at their peril; it’s also an Aladdin’s cave of inspiration, innovation and learning. All those lovely brand books and ‘best of’ website’s, to me are boring in comparison, because they are telling you what ‘has’ happened rather that what ‘is’ happening right now in the market place!

However, I can understand that one of the problems with being a brand owner is that you follow your product from conception to reality, it becomes, ‘your baby’, and like any parent, you are rightly proud of it! So, when you go to see your product on shelf, you, of course, see, ‘your product’ and next to it, you see the ‘competition’. The problem is that the effect of this perspective can lead to a tunnel vision, a view restricted only to your brand and your category and, as a result, you will tend draw conclusions about what you see, from what we might we might term, the ‘brand owner’s perspective’.

Whereas, shoppers, within the same environment, see ‘choice’, which is OK, except, when you remember, that with 20,000 to 40,000 products in an average supermarket (and many more in larger supermarkets and hypermarkets). The poor shopper has an extremely difficult time trying to make a ‘choice’ and especially the choice you would like them to make, because they are constantly under attack, being bombarded by brands, logos, colours and claims, etc…

This almost certainly explains why around 80% of new ‘product’ launches fail, and of the remaining 20%, only about 5% achieve any real financial success. What is clear therefore, is that if a product is to have any chance of success, it needs to stand out and communicate effectively in the supermarket environment! To do this, it needs the expertise of people who spend their entire working career trying to understand how successful packaging works in the market environment, and who follow the constant changes that occur. One of these professionals is of course, the Packaging Designer!

This is where a package designer’s perspective will add value to the process, because the designer, in the main, will have a ‘broader outlook’, seeing the package, not as just a container of a product that needs to say simply, who made it and what it is, but who goes much deeper, by understanding why consumers re-act as they do, what visual cues stimulate, titillate and communicate the message that has to be put across and what drives consumer purchase decisions!


To understand the how and why consumers behave in the way they do, we need to go back all the way to the very beginnings of life, where I believe it all starts, at the moment we begin to grow inside our mother’s womb and are finally born into this world. As we grow, and our nervous system begins to form, we quickly recognise shapes, textures, odours, colours and sounds… the face and smell of our mother, the bright colours of our first toys, all serve to reassure us that, all is well.

When we do find something we do not like (or at least we are not sure of), we similarly begin to associate the forms, texture, odours, colours and sound with these negative experiences. We lodge all this information in our memory banks, in our sub-conscious and un-conscious minds. It is the beginnings of communication, and it’s so essential, that nature makes sure that we do not need to be taught how to do this, but learn to do it instinctively.

The learning of numbers and letters, of course is also part of the way we communicate, but these come later and have to be taught to us, as we grow older, and in fact, I’m told, are even processed by a different area of our brain. Therefore, it’s not surprising; if we look back to the beginnings of writing, that we find initially, that writing too, evolved by using only images. First, in the time of the cave man as painting on walls, and later as visual symbols and drawings in the time of the Mayans or the Egyptian Pharaohs and other civilisations.

The realisation of this fundamental way in which we assess what we are seeing is of course important to packaging design, as it allows designers, to address shoppers directly, sometimes even without words, so that information is transmitted in seconds. For example, the symbol of a skull and cross bones, which we instantly associate with poison, danger of death, communicates its message far quicker than the words can ever do and in addition, can be understood more or less internationally.

Typefaces can be used to express serious sophistication or friendly fun and many other moods, as they can also be consistently used to link a group of products or units in a brand’s offer.

Colours too are can be effective communicators, for example, the colour green might transmit that a product has some roots with nature, whereas the colour red might indicate that we should pay attention, because of its connotations with fire, love, danger or passion.

When copy is used, I believe it should be simple and relevant to the person it is addressing, that is to say, not cold and factual, but rather, intimate and personal, written in a way that it connects with the reader and expresses the brand USP, it’s character and ultimately the reason to believe.

Packaging designers understand and exploit shape, colour, texture as essential communicators. These communication tools, coupled with great copy, help designers to build brand recognition and product communication, by creating an instant visual and verbal dialog with consumers.

According to Elliot Young of Perception Research Services USA, consumers recall…”Firstly, the colour of your pack, Secondly, the shape of your pack and thirdly, the logo style”. To me it’s no surprise that his research find this to be true, or that it singles out, “the logo style”, as opposed to the logo itself, because I believe, it really is the visual style of the logo that we recognise, often much more that the actual letters.

There is no doubt, that drawing from the understanding that package designers have concerning the power of communicating via forms, texture, typefaces and colours, coupled with great copy… will allow brands to create ways to stand out from all the other packs. Well used, it will also allow brands to create real differentiation. In packaging design, because this is how we communicate.



Part 1: http://rhpkg.wordpress.com/2012/12/11/what-can-a-packaging-designer-teach-a-brand-owner/

Part 3: http://rhpkg.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/what-more-can-a-packaging-designer-teach-a-brand-owner-part-3/

In this the third paper on the role of the packaging design in the branding process, I continue to explore the added value a package designer can bring to brand development.

If we start by tracing the story of a brand, we will find that over the years, a brand can be owned by different companies, managed by different people and designed by different designers during its’ lifetime. This implies that the only consistent relationship in the life of a brand is the relationship between the brand and the consumer!  This is why I have stressed in my previous papers that any person, who works on an existing brand, must always take this relationship into account and be sure that they have a complete understanding of the feelings and expectations of existing consumers towards any brand, before undertaking any change.

This is the emotional link that we all exhibit towards brands; it is in itself ‘equity’. A valued equity that can be termed ‘an intangible equity’, because it lives, not in the tangible world, but only in a consumer’s feelings towards a brand, or in what they perceive the brand values to be. It is why, although brands need to, and should, evolve, such change should never be undertaken without prior consulting with consumers, or without gaining an understanding of the possible consequences of any change. The real truth is that branding is not just about a logo or a pack, but it’s about an emotional connection that exists between a brand and it’s consumer, a delicate connection that exists mainly in the mind and in the heart.

The way we form our opinions of a brand can of course also be rational and based on tangible elements, but it is the emotional and sometimes irrational or intangible connection, that creates a lasting link between a consumer and a brand. It is for this reason I believe, that rather than projecting purely functional benefits, the focus of brands is changing and many brands are moving from, what may have been in the past, a purely product focus to a broader emotional and attitudinal focus.

Today, brands are re-thinking their relationships with consumers and are re-assessing the product-based values of the past, and instead are moving towards new values that are relevant to their consumer’s current lifestyle, and that respond to ‘their’ desires and aspirations. Consumers demand that brands become a part of the way they live and the way they interact with society, and they look to brands to deliver a distinctive and memorable ‘experience’. We have moved from salesman’s basic pack design, with bright colours and big logos and loud product benefits, to a more personal communication, to story telling, to partnering with consumers, and to creating an emotional appeal and therefore a connection on a far deeper level. The goal for any brand today must be the creation of these intangible brand values, values that will lead to a desire, not just for the product, but also a desire to be part of the brand universe, ultimately therefore, delivering values that will promote trust and brand loyalty.

In the past, consumers got their brand exposure through ‘above the line’ activities but now, more and more it is in the retail environment that exposure to brands and purchase decision making is occurring, elevating the importance of the package to new heights.

For brand owners the path to creating a connection with consumers lays in paying attention to packaging design, and working closely with packaging design professionals, right from the beginning of any proposed initiative. Packaging Designers can then assist in visualising and interpreting the emotional cues of a brand, by articulating the brand values and inspiring consumer participation and involvement.

For consumers, the brand, and it’s packaging together become the ‘product’. They become inseparable, because each element is subtly intertwined in the consumer’s perception, interacting with their daily lives and simplifying consumer choice by offering reassurance, familiarity, product delivery and adding that all important, intangible value.

This value is added to a brand:

When you create trust in the minds of your consumers

When you create an experience that is even richer than the product.

When you make a link to the consumer’s needs, desires and lifestyle.

When you make space for alternative interpretations that go beyond product and allow consumers to create their own realities.

In this way, adding intangible value to a brand brings it closer to consumers and increases it’s chances of success. There is no doubt that successful brands create rich companies; companies like Coca-Cola, 75% of whose value is said to lay in its intangible equities.

Therefore, we might conclude that the physical product itself is becoming only a small part of what a brand is. This implies that when brand equity is built, not only from rational cues (like logos or product quality etc…), but also from emotional cues (story telling, perception and desire), that brands can create a binding relationship with consumers that goes way beyond the purchase of a single product and way beyond just selling to them.

For example, if we take a product like Heinz Ketchup, in product terms it is easily copied, (as it clearly is, by many retail brands throughout the world),

Ketchupwhat singles out Heinz Ketchup from the rest. of course, is the brand itself, which is articulated by all it’s brand cues, including the logo style, the keystone structure, the ‘57’ and the little green gherkin etc….Heinz equity

It is the ‘brand’, and all those visual cues, and not the product that encompasses all the emotional values that we each attribute to Heinz, in our own personal way. As a result, the Heinz ‘brand’ is not limited to a single product offer, this is why Heinz is able to go beyond ketchup, and bring those brand values to other products from soup, to mayonnaise, to baked beans and many more…

Heinz products

What does this mean for brand owners?

Clearly one of the most important intangible equity values of a brand lies in its packaging design. In a film released on YouTube, Moira Cullen, The Coca-Cola Company’s Design Director says of their recent Coca-Cola re-design by Turner Duckworth: ‘The new identity {-} allows the real truth of the brand to come forward and consumers are really responding to that.”Coke history

It seems to me that the ‘real truth’, is referring, not only to the logo, but perhaps also to the simplified brand cues, their meaning, and the intimate relationship that they have created between brand and consumer!

Equity, whether it be tangible or intangible, is in the end, the ‘perceived’ worth of a brand, and often this can be directly translated into it’s packaging design. This is why packaging is such an important tool, because, being essentially part of the product, it offers direct access to consumers, influencing them… Yes, at the moment of purchase, but also accompanying them in their world, in their personal environment and therefore, playing its’ part in shaping the way they perceive a brand in their own terms.





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Part 1: http://rhpkg.wordpress.com/2012/12/11/what-can-a-packaging-designer-teach-a-brand-owner/

Part 2: http://rhpkg.wordpress.com/2013/02/08/what-else-can-a-packaging-designer-teach-a-brand-owner-part-2/

The Importance of Packaging Design

Posted: March 22, 2013 in Index

Why is it that some brands are always leaders, and others are always followers? Why is it that some brands are always successful, whilst others are not?

In the company where I worked previously, we had a saying: “It’s not the things we look at, but the way we look at things”. Behind this phrase there is a deep philosophy, rather like saying, “Is the glass half empty or is it half full” it implies that the way in which you look at something determines what you see and how you will react to what you see.

It follows then that any design project has to start with and audit and analysis of a brand, it’s competition, the category and market within which it has to perform. For it is only by going through the process of looking at our client’s brands in an objective way that we can have an clear view that, exposes problems or opportunities, which can help create real success in the market.

It’s also about understanding the need to be aware of the market conditions that surround design work, for example, in these difficult times of financial crisis, crucial to building success, is understanding the motivations of our client’s main client: The consumer. With more than 50% of consumers today spending less than before the crisis, consumers are clearly shopping with much more attention and care than ever before. Cocooning themselves against the crisis means, they go out less, they eat at home more often and have changed their buying habits. We see consumers, trading up to more premium products, to treat or reward themselves, and trading down to value products, where they can to save money on everyday purchases. Of course, the end result is that there is a real pressure on the already shrinking middle market.

Then there are private labels who, continue to grow in strength every year since the 1960’s, crisis or no crisis. They too have responded to the needs of the consumer by expanding the classic three-tier offer (premium, mainstream and value), to many different and specific tiers of product positioning and by developing quality products and packaging that attract consumers by directly answering consumers changing values. They do this because they understand clearly, whether consumers shop for brands or private labels, their buying behaviour has been radically influenced by the economic crisis. But is also, is being shaped by many other factors related to the insecurity of the financial climate, including more focus on family, health, nutrition, quality, and a desire for familiarity and trust.

Clearly, private labels will continue to develop and improve their offer, and we will see from them much more investment in creating quality products, in building their brands, by improving packaging and starting to create brands and with it real brand equity with consumers that consumers will inevitably come to value.

Already, different surveys throughout the world show that around two thirds of consumers think that private labels are real brands, not coming from the supermarket at all, this perception making competition even more fierce on the shelf.

So how do I see the future for manufacturer brands? With the prospect of a shrinking middle market, a more aggressive private label offer, you may well ask, how can the manufacturer brand survive?

First, I believe brands need to realise that “their brand is their business, much more than their product is”, products can and will be copied by the retailer and ‘will’ be sold cheaper. Only by investing in the brand itself, offers the chance of security and longevity by answering the consumer’s need for familiarity and trust. By investing in building your brand, you will not be linked to a single product type, which will give you the added opportunity to be flexible and adaptable to the changing needs of the consumer, putting your company in a position to create new and exciting offers and potentially expand the brand portfolio.

Secondly, brands will need to re-define what it is they sell. Are you in an area of stiff competition with private labels or do you have something original and different to offer? If you do, I would suggest that these are the areas to focus on. You will need to weed out your weaker offers so that you can concentrate your spending only on your strongest brands. This will in turn allow you to be in a position to invest in equity building for these chosen brands, by improving the consumer experience, innovation and creating real differentiation.

Thirdly, brands need to understand how the market has changed and redefine priorities. In my view, after getting your product and distribution right, branding and packaging should be your first priority. Why? Well, Unilever’s own research estimates that 62% of shopping trips are now quick trips, which implies that people are shopping for less time, but clearly more often. Add to this the fact that we know, two thirds of purchasing decisions are being made right there in the store, and packaging becomes your unique opportunity to speak to consumers on a daily basis, in an environment where your brand is on show every day, and in front of the consumer at every visit a consumer makes. Your packaging also becomes a part of a consumer’s life by being further exposed daily in the kitchen or on the breakfast table in the home. It’s no wonder in a recent article for The Design Management Institute in the USA, Rob Wallace wrote“Package design is the single most effective and cost efficient communicator of a brand’s core identity”

Retailers are well aware of this and consequently we have seen how they have built up their private label market share steadily over the years, by mainly using just the packaging as their main vehicle of communication. So, it just makes sense to invest on a much more serious level in your packaging if you are going to have a chance to play, ‘the same game on the same pitch’ as the retailers. For too long manufacturer brands have looked at packaging as the little brother to advertising and promotion, I say, it’s time for a change! Time to rethink a strategy that clearly isn’t working, when retail brands just keep on taking market share year on year.

The philosophical phrase, “It’s not the things we look at, but the way we look at things”, allows an objective view and a way to gain a clear understanding of the changing market around us. Whilst there was a time, when advertising ruled, when it was the principle vehicle for commanding the consumer’s attention, persuading them to go into the store and ask for a product by name. Today however, this has all changed, there is just too much media for a product to have such influence through advertising, too many TV channels, too many magazines, radio stations and websites etc… Supermarkets and hypermarkets have now become the place where consumers make their final choices, and the package has become the key player in influencing that choice.

Rowland Heming © September 2011