I would believe that, in today’s supermarkets, at least 30% of all products, packed or unpacked, are sold with some sort of promotion, mainly relating to price. Many books have been written about the efficiency of promotional activities. I will therefore not discuss the subject in depth. I will just quote, as an introduction, whoever said once “If you offer more than what is expected, the consumer will always come back”. It’s about a certain generosity, a word I do not often hear when I work with FMCG companies!
There are mainly 2 types of promotions involving packages:
1. On-pack promotions as a price offer or something free;
2. Combining two products that enhance each other, i.e.
- too different packs;
- a pack and a fresh unpacked product (mayonnaise and asparagus)
- a packed product plus, for instance, a tool or any other gift;
- a pack that turns into something else and can be saved, like a tin, etc.
There are numerous possibilities, all you need is a little bit of creativity!
Here is what you specially have to think about when developing a promotion involving a pack:
- Don’t forget the positioning of your brand. A promotion is a great opportunity to reinforce the positioning;
- Keep your message simple and make it engaging;
- Create an integrated campaign. On-pack promotions are mostly accompanied by off-pack campaigns to have a real impact;
- Build an in-store display that highlights your offer and don’t forget, products are here more important than brands;
- Remember who is buying… and who is consuming… not always the same person!
- Be brave! If you don’t surprise, you do nothing! Soft promotions don’t exist!
- Make it a memorable experience. Promotions are about brand building!
- Don’t waste a lot of text, so make it
If you ‘google’ SIGNAL toothpaste, you’ll find 41 varieties of the product. It is therefore no surprise that a shelf in a Carrefour shop in France looks like this:
Why this confusing multitude? Because the marketing department knows that the more varieties, the more shelf space will be obtained. If so, why then such bad communication to the consumer? As I have written many times on www.packagingsense.com, neither the brand managers, nor the package design companies, seem to tackle this problem seriously. The point is to find the right hierarchy so the consumer INSTANTLY finds the appropriate product.
This is a matter of giving each individual product a genuine and unique identity, still maintaining a strong SIGNAL brand identity.
Is this possible? Yes, if the designer uses the right tools:
- unique descriptive denominations
- colour coding, but never more than 4 colours
and this not only on the primary package, but also on the tray, display unit, advertising (on/off line) and whatever other media being used.
This is a typical TEAMWORK:… from the purchasing department who probably deals with the outer cartons to the promotional team that sells “3 for the price of 2”. Who should be responsible? Well, the brand manager, the name says it.
By the way, some other categories like deodorants are not much better. Do you INSTANTLY understand the difference between the 4 L’Oréal Men Expert that have the following messages:
- antiperspirant vs. deodorant
- thermic resistant 45°
- 48h freshness longlasting auto-reactivated
- 96h non-stop
- 5 in 1, total protection 48h
- Carbon protect
- Cool power
- Focus spray
- Perfume ice fresh
- Woody force perfume
- Perfume fresh mint
- Perfume clean cool
Conclusion: As I believe we’ll have to live with more and more line extensions and not really new inventions, I would suggest that the industry finds a new UNDERSTANDABLE way to communicate. The actual system does not seem to work in the interest of the consumers.
By the way, why do the 4 spray cans have so many different colours? There seems to be no consistency which would help the consumer to choose the product.
It seems there is no methodical thinking behind.
And I bet that when a new brand manager takes over this range, there will be yet a different ‘solution’ which will, once more, leave the consumer puzzled in front of the shelf!
Marketeers like to divide the market into categories like premium, superpremium, etc. I have nothing against this, as it is a language understood by those involved in marketing.
However, the fact that each of these categories have to have a visual language that informs the consumer about the quality and price level is not always obvious to the marketing people. Here is where the designers come into the picture, as they are familiar with these visual languages.
John Cleese says something very true in his autobiography “So, Anyway…”, stating “unfortunately, you have to have some creative ability before you recognize it in others” which is what design mostly is about.
Here are some of the typical visual traits for a premium product:
- very few design elements
- no New flash
- no promotional texts or symbols
- small product illustration, if any
- delicate choice of typeface(s)
- no net weight, etc.
- gold, visibly embossed (too often, the gold used does not add the premium touch it is supposed to do)
Why do I say all this? Because the other day, I found a Mondelez product in Sweden that missed out on most of the above. Most likely, the brand manager wanted to show everything about the product on the front panel. So the space is filled with no less than 10 different messages! Imagine how these delicious thin chocolate discs could have been put in evidence if the designer had approached his work differently. Here are my suggestions:
- if it’s premium, you just can’t have a bold 70%
- a cheap looking “NEW” in the corner lowers the quality level
- does the consumer really care that 5 (why 5?) thin chocolate discs give 7% of the daily need of calories and that at least 30% of the cocoa comes from certified rainforest areas…?
Great package design only give key information on the front in order to optimise the layout. Other information belong to the rear panel for those who have the time and interest to read all the information before buying!
The most interesting project I had during 2015 was no doubt the work on the identity for a new caviar factory in Wallis, the canton next to where I live.
The width of the project made it fascinating. Moreover, it was a job without guidelines, nor were there any preconceived ideas. Well, when I got the job which I did together with the local ARD Design agency, the two seahorses which are the company’s icons/symbols had already been decided upon, but not in a fixed position.
The interesting point with this project is that a brand can have two different identities, something I learned from Peter Brabeck during my Nestlé years. So, instead of designing a Kasperskian logotype and then use this identity for the two different caviar products, we were given the freedom of designing a unique white identity for “Caviar with life” (when the fish is not killed, but its roe merely squeezed out) and a black identity for the traditional caviar (when the fish is killed at the age of 7 years after having taken its roe).
Another reason which made this project so special was to follow the creative passion of my designer friend Patrick Gaudard. To take an example, Patrick walked a long way above Zermatt to find a small stream in which he placed the tin of caviar, creating a beautiful photograph in the fresh, splashing water.
This was not only a pack design. It was a project including everything from interior design to signage, brochures and last, but not least, some 12 different tins with labels, sealing tapes, etc.
At the beginning of the project, I knew very little about caviar production, be it in Poland, China, Chile, France, Italy, etc. It has to be noted here that, today, there are very few sturgeons in the Kaspian Sea or in the Volga, as they now swim in fish farms in the countries just mentioned.
The project was also challenging, as the “Caviar with life” is a new concept, so the design had to be unique. It is based upon the fact that for each time the fish is being ‘milked’, the caviar pearls get bigger and this is translated visually on the pack design.
For those who wish to know more about the Kasperskian caviar in Wallis, here is the website: www.kasperskian.com
Before writing about branding and communication, which is the purpose of this site, here come some information for the technically interested reader about recycling, footprint and bauxite.
Aluminium became an industrial product at the end of the 19th century. It is a silvery-white, soft, non-magnetic and ductile metal. It is the 3rd most abundant element after oxygen and silicon that can be found in the crust of the Earth. The chief ore of aluminium is bauxite. Here is quite an amazing figure: 75% of all aluminium ever produced is currently still in productive use. Why? Because we recycle it. Brazil, for example, recycles 98% of its aluminium can production and Japan 83%. When recycled, 95% less energy is needed in comparison with the extraction from bauxite. Recycling rates in Europe vary from 30% to 80%, so the average figure is about 50%.
The European Aluminium Foil Association (EAFA) uses the terminology “the smart packaging choice” in their communication to the trade. So why do I, as a marketing and packaging communicator, like this material? And the answer is: aluminium has a very clear ‘language’ because the consumers trust the protection quality of a foil. Glass and stainless steel give, of course, also confidence, but plastic and cardbord much less. If stainless steel is considered a bit old fashioned (we have less and less tins today), aluminium is seen as a modern material.
When choosing a new pack for a product, it is important to know what the material ‘expresses’. We communicate with shapes and graphic design, texts or pictures, but prior to these decisions, we have to choose the adequate material. Take for instance your medical pills, a product you must trust. It is obviously aluminium that will give you that feeling.
I had the pleasure to participate in the graphic design of the first Nespresso capsules. What a success story! Not only because it is obviously a good product – here again we have aluminium which gives it an airtight protection, not to forget an attractive look!
As aluminium is a ductile material, we see today specific shapes such as the Heineken ‘barrels’, but above all the bottle which is in alumunium. The two Coca-Cola illustrations show what can be done today to make a pack unique!
The thin aluminium foil or the foil based laminate has the great advantage that it accentuates the shape of the product in question. The fantastic success of Lindt’s bears or rabbits are convincing examples of how the aluminium material not only reflects the light in the supermarket, but also accentuates certain irregularities in the chocolate which give a more lively appearance of the animals.
The most remarkable example of how to render a pack unique is the latest Coca-Cola metalised film label that becomes a Christmas decoration when pulled from the bottle. Congratulations Coca-Cola – real creativity!
With these examples, I hope to have convinced the reader why aluminium and especially the foil, have a great future.
My advice “simplify, amplify and repeat” has never been more actual than today when young marketeers believe that everything has to appear on the front of the pack.
To help these young marketeers, here are examples of great communicating packages which show that in order to stand out and be seen, we have to exaggerate something in the design. This can obviously only be done if we at the same time reduce or simplify other messages by relegating them to the back panel.
There are basically 6 ways of doing this. Here they are:
Let us for once start with the sixth advice and look at the outstanding, brilliant corrugated banana box from Chiquita. Can it be done better? Please also notice that the product denomination is only PREMIUM as it is superfluous to say bananas.
The 5th category shows packages with lots/much/many… this can either be done by enlarging considerably the illustration as on the Kleenex tissues (a Pentaward winner) and the wheat on Tesco’s Biscuits pack, or by reducing texts to allow lots of product which is translated into lots of taste. This is the case for the two Marks & Spencer orange and clementines packages.
Package design is about SELLING PRODUCTS and can it be done better than shouting out “HALF PRICE” (Yoplait) or “NEW” (Nescafé)… I don’t think so! Unfortunately, we see very little of this approach in today’s supermarkets.
A very similar approach is to make the pack look optically big by enlarging something. The Fazer brand in Finland has gone very far. To explain what I mean, I have, for my own pleasure, re-designed the Special K bar pack, but I doubt a brand manager would go as far, although this design
You can also just ‘play it big’ as the Finnish “Bear Beer” or the 6 pack for one-and-a half litre S. Pellegrino. Personally, I like the quality stamp as a branding device which you can see on Stroeget in Copenhagen if you pass the Royal Danish shop.
Last, but not least, you achieve impact and interest if you dare to be different! Here are a few great examples for inspiration:
Tango handle with care
REAL handcooked crisps
Tyrrell’s black pepper crisps
and two designs that use a person’s head: Barilla pasta promotion a few years ago with those wonderful children’s faces and the take home Pizza Pronto with outstanding drawings by the artist Thomas Ott. This article is about thinking outside the box and the pizza cartons from Pizza Pronto certainly do this!
This article is meant to give the reader some information about STORA, most likely the oldest corporation in the Western world as it dates from 1288 and SCHABZIGER, most likely the oldest branded cheese in the world with an unaltered recipe which was first produced and sold in Glarus, Switzerland in 1463.
The Swedish copper mining company Stora Kopparberg (“great copper mountain”) in Falun was granted a charter from King Magnus IV of Sweden in 1347, although the oldest preserved share in the company (granting the Bishop of Västerås 12.5% ownership) dates from 1288, i.e. more than 200 years before Columbus discovered America in 1492!
Since the end of the 20th century, the company diversified into pulp and paper and other forestry related activities. The copper mine closed down in 1992 and Stora is today one of the world’s biggest supplier of pulpwood, cardboard and newsprint and, among other activities, Sweden’s largest producer of electricity! One in three beverage cartons (Combibloc, Tetra Pak, Elopak, etc.) has Stora cardboard. The Harvard Business Review praised 1997 Stora’s ability to adapt to changing circumstances over centuries!
The cardboard for the Zlatan perfume carton is a Storaenso board and so is the 2015 ECMA winner for innovative packaging “Kägi” which brings us back to Switzerland.
The Schabziger cheese was first produced in 1463 from skimmed cow’s milk and is therefore virtually fat-free. It comes from the oldest industrial county in Switzerland, Glarus, and it has not been copied due to the copyright legislation from April 1463. It was exported to France and Italy already in the 16th century!
The success story of the Schabziger depends much on marketing activities. During a period, the “Zigermanndli” went from door to door, delivering the following message in Swiss German: “Heid-er oder weid-er / alte, guete, herte Glarner Schabziger? / Er chänd ne i d’Hand nih / er chänd ne än all Wänd hare khiie / und er tuet ech nüd verhiie!”
Some small changes have no doubt been made to the recipe during the centuries, but the reason for this article is the pack that amplifies the unique shape of this cheese. As I have often repeated in my articles, the most practical packages are often from various materials, in this case a transparent plastic tub with a cardboard ‘label’ and a white plastic bottom.
The attentive reader has certainly noticed that I have not spoken of the taste which is very special and will thus only appeal to connoisseurs! Well, among these connoisseurs you will find some famous chefs who wish to add something spicy to their dishes. If you wish to learn more about this “uuurwürzig guete Chäs”, you may visit the site www.schabziger.ch
When designing a pack, most marketing people follow what they think is the most logical layout, i.e. NEW in the upper right corner, corporate brand upper left, product brand on top with product denomination below, etc. (see ill.).
Why is this? Most likely because many design manuals say so! That is why I always suggest that a design manual should not give fixed layouts, but only key visual properties!
This means that a design manual will have about 4 pages at most which include directions to follow rather than fixed elements to respect. I therefore promote verbs such as maximize, optimize, emphasize, simplify or prioritize. These words help to constantly improve an identity which is the main function of a manual in today’s ever-changing world.
When you design a pack, an advertisement, POS material, etc. it’s the brand/product idea that dictates the layout. As an example, if the pack is round and the product idea is a clock, it is most logical to work from the center outwards, placing the logo in the middle. Thus the brand becomes the focal point! Strong branding does not always mean a big logotype! (ill.).
Should your main message be the knitting of small hats as “innocent” has done for some years, this information must obviously come on top, thus relegating the brand to the lower part (ill.).
For a special Christmas edition of biscuits, Migros’ Créa d’Or shows the biscuits hanging like in the Christmas tree which gives an interesting layout. Imagine if there were a manual stipulating what is said in the beginning of this article.
What did we learn?
a) manuals must be short and avoid giving fixed layouts;
b) it is the product/brand idea that dictates the layout.
When designing packages, or even advertising and POS material, there is one golden rule often ignored by designers: have the main message, i.e. mostly the brand, rather once BIG than several times small! Indeed, most great designs have as few design elements as possible.
I thought of this unwritten rule when I found the can of sardines shown below. It struck me not only because it highlights the words “sans arêtes”, but also that it has basically no brand, just a visual identity! Interesting! Now comes the question: does a pack need a brand? Well, in fact not, according to legislation. Furthermore, does a pack need to mention the net weight? Yes, but not necessarily on the front.
Another example in line with the above and basically little branding is the Citterio “taglio fresco” (fresh cut) which is obviously a better sales argument than a logotype. The English call such expressions ‘loaded words’. These two packages (sans arêtes/taglio fresco) are excellent examples of ‘once BIG rather than several times small’.
My advice to package designers: go study the legislation and discover how lucky we are in Europe! We can do great pack designs, as we don’t have to put lots of information on the front – they can be on the back or on the side panels.
The Lipton tea pack seems to have been designed following guidelines to the letter. Why repeat “Green Tea” three times? I believe that the more guidelines we have which stipulate that certain texts be in a certain position, the less we use our common sense.
In other words: how to be outside the visual style or identity of a product category in order to stand out.
Most consumers do not pay attention to the fact that many product categories in a supermarket have their special characteristics, such as
- Camembert cheese
- beer bottles
- wine bottles from Provence
- goat cheese
- Bordeaux wine labels
- homemade pasta, etc.
So when we design packages for any of these categories, we have to follow these patterns with a view to making the product believable. Doing so, we will be accepted by the consumer, as most of us instinctively choose the products which speak that category language. However, the design will then unfortunately not be unique and will most likely have difficulties to be a real success!
The creative pack designer will always try to break this mould, but in such a way that the product remains within the category style, as many of us are ‘creatures of habit’ and do not like to be disorientated too much. All this, I find, makes package design so fascinating!
In order to be successful, you need
a) to be a good designer
b) to be a good salesman
c) to have an intelligent client
d) to have a client with guts!
e) to persist with your efforts, as the consumer often needs time to understand and adapt!
Here are two good and one bad examples:
“Le Rustique” and the “Sand Tropez” are no doubt perfect examples of how to stand out in a positive way. The Spanish premium beer “Isleña” from Ibiza is a bad example, unless the people on Ibiza have a weakness for the Flower Power times of the 60/70ies… In my opinion, a white bottle (in fact, it is a can) suggests rather a beer for women, whereas this one is a strong-tasting beer more like Ale. Whatever… the purpose of this article is to stimulate designers to think both inside and outside the box!]]>