The new issue 87 of NewDesign magazine has a four page feature about the relationship between brand and packaging written by Simon, our creative director. Get hold of a copy to read his ramble, or see below.
Packaging and branding go hand in hand but it’s a brands’ packaging that I believe is the most important communication link with consumers. It’s certainly the packaging that competes for shelf space in our ever-expanding supermarkets and retail centres. It is also often the packaging that dictates a products’ positioning and pricing and in some cases it will cost the producer more in production than the product it actually promotes.
A lot of people seem to think that brands are dying out, but that just isn’t the case. There will always be strong heritage brands (such as Heinz and Guinness) that rely heavily on their big brand recognition; however, there is also a subtler new breed of innovative brands that realise the true potential of creative packaging and rely more on effective design to promote their story and engage the consumer.
These brands often start without big marketing budgets, yet understand that investment in good design will bring results far beyond the initial outlay. They grow by combining their presence at point of sale with targeted advertising through new media, social networking and unique PR activity in their own branded style; often creativity is fuelled by financial constraints. Companies that embrace creativity and realise the strength of a deep and coherent branded message also know the potential of opinion leaders who will spread their message without cost. Brands are now more powerful than ever before and more diverse and complex than they have ever needed to be in order to compete.
As the quality of own label products have improved, so has own label branding and packaging. Retailer brands and sub-brands have become so dominant and consistent that the best way branded products can compete is to target a specific audience in a way that an own label, due to their jack-of-all-trades approach, can not.
This is particularly relevant to emerging brands (such as Clipper Teas or Crips Crisps) that have the confidence to position themselves as desirable to a particular, often narrow demographic. Their aim is to capture and hold the consumers’ attention by relating to their specific requirements, while reinforcing the promises advertised. Brands of old would state their corporate messages, but there’s a trend to speak to the consumer in a more relaxed, intimate and friendly tone, which if believed to be sincere, restores faith in brands and the fun of shopping.
This is where brand and packaging design becomes most exciting and engaging. The best brand creators focus on genuine brands strengths and communicate them in a style that resonates with their desired audience. This design process incorporates imagery and branded tone of voice to create the overall branded feel. Brands are now distinguishable by the emotion they evoke and due to the fact that we’re bombarded daily with hundreds of branded messages, thankfully being different is good.
In addition to being honest about the claims of a product and its suitability to our lifestyles, there is a growing demand for brands and their practices to be ethically and socially responsible. Consumers gravitate to products that seem to reflect their own lives and as the number of people seeking Fairtrade, eco or organic products grows, so does the number of targeted products that communicate these messages. There is also a growing requirement for producers to reduce packaging quantities or use sustainable or recycled materials, therefore reducing environmental impact. This is proof that packaging design does not only communicate, but also educate and can actually improve the world we live in.
Packaging has the ability to enrich as well as engage us in many ways and promoting nostalgia is a brilliant way. In the same way that film directors and musicians draw on familiarity of the past to position their own products, so do brands and their packaging design. This is a great way to promote authenticity and heritage, which can never be faked and is the main way that long-standing brands have an advantage over the new. Recognition and nostalgia can often reignite a passion within a past consumer, enticing them to revisit a product. This is particularly relevant in the design of food packaging and we all know the reward of tucking into a childhood favourite for the first time in years to find that it still tastes as good, taking us back to happy times. This is a brilliant way of promoting children’s products to the parents holding the purse strings, although these designs must balance nostalgic appeal and fit with today’s reality.
There are plenty of iconic, established brands that lose their way trying to imitate the success of challengers that have stolen some of their market. There is still opportunity for these long-standing brands to speak to the consumer in a more honest manner and my advice to all would be to build on what you do best. At Robot-food we recently rebranded the nation’s favourite Jammie Dodgers and our aim was to simply make the branding and packaging seem ‘more Jammie Dodger like’. We played on the heritage and nostalgia of the brand, retaining the classic ‘Dodgers’ typeface, originally from the Beano ‘Roger the Dodger’ comic strip. We also incorporated a retro feel to the design in order to appeal to parents who grew up loving the product, as well as a mischievous tone applied like marker pen graffiti to appeal to their kids.
Brands must speak from the heart and their packaging best shows their personality. When it comes to design no longer is the minimum requirement good enough and as the game moves on, so do the demands of consumers. The relationship between a brand and its audience is deep and those brands not willing to invest in good creative will be left on the shelf. By focusing on genuine strengths and communicating them in a simple and honest mannor, any brand can compete. There are more colours, fonts, materials, processes and structures than ever before and the consumer is more open to all of them – Just beware of using them all at once.