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, values 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 the 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),Ketchup

what 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… Heinze badge

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…

BeanzWhat 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

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.


Rowland Heming©
 December 2012/June 2014*

*If you would like this presentation or any presentation on this site to be made to your company, university or organisation, please contact me on rh.pkga@gmail.com


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