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!]]>
… 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!]]>
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!]]>
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.
… 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”!