BY SHAUN BOWEN
CREATIVE PARTNER, B&B STUDIO
It is a safe bet that everyone over the age of 30 has an ad they remember. Maybe they saw it on TV, or perhaps at the cinema. But for every one of us, the right combination of beauty, wit and relevance snagged in our brains. Some of us will have bought the product; all of us will have fallen a little in love with the brand. Filmed advertisements, in an era that now seems somewhat before the dawn of time, were how companies spoke to consumers, and when they did it well, we felt we had a chance to reply.
All change in the client conversation
That is no longer the case. These days, we consume more media than ever, but the audience is splintered, spread across social media channels, TV or film on-demand, and other areas of the internet. Effective communication has moved on – to design.
Whereas once, the ad would alert you to the product and the packaging design would help you find it in the supermarket aisle, design has become a far more important element in getting a brand into people’s homes and hearts. Looking good is no longer enough. In our highly visual world, a product’s look must catch the consumer’s attention – and then draw the consumer in, via an engaging and accessible experience, to inspire not just take-up but loyalty.
All hail the little guy
One great advantage of this changed world is it favours small businesses and start-ups. As long as they understand the importance of packaging that is not just beautiful but right for their brand, they can bring a design agency on board right from the start, not as a supplier but as a partner. Together, they can craft a brand into something that speaks to the consumer. And they don’t need a million-pound advertising budget to do it.
With Pip & Nut, a fresh look and feel, a leaping squirrel logo and an innovative sachet format come together to announce a reinvention of nut butter as a clean product with no palm oil that’s as much an on-the-go snack as a companion to toast. With such powerful and photogenic packaging, owner Pip Murray was able to concentrate on social media, building an Instagram following of 50,000 in two years. The brand grew 400% last year, with sales topping £3 million in 2016. And all that, with absolutely no advertising – just an excellent brand that looks and feels right.
We learned early how powerful and effective that conversation, between brand owner and brand designer, can be. Our very first client owned a dried fruit brand that sat in the baking aisle, but was able to see its potential as a snack at a time when healthy snacks meant individual instead of family-size crisp packets. Working with founder Hayley Gait-Golding, we created the brand Bear with a naive and playful simplicity that was perfect for kids’ snacking – and crucially we created it through packaging alone. With a cut-out bear that was simple enough for kids to project their imaginations onto, collectible cards, a ‘bearcode’ – not a barcode – and an address that was simply The Cave, we didn’t just ‘make fruit fun’, we created a world where kids felt at home.
By late 2015, Bear was the biggest seller of children’s fruit snacks in the UK; not coincidentally, the bear himself now gets 3,000 letters a week from people engaging with the brand. Hayley’s appreciation of the power of design, and her bravery and desire to collaborate with us, have surely contributed to the brand’s phenomenal success.
Good sense of humour required
Every brand has a personality, but that’s no use if it’s hidden: it is the designer’s job to make that personality clear. It’s the packaging equivalent of making introductions and handing round drinks at a party, and when done well, the party – or the business – will swing.
So, with Kabuto Noodles, we knew that challenging the market leader, Pot Noodle, with an unknown meant building a brand with a fantastic personality – fun, approachable, great sense of humour. There is nothing stuffy about packaged noodles – not even ones like Kabuto, which are healthier than many of their rivals.
Again, we were brought in from the start, and we set about creating a brand that is both healthy and fun. We were aiming for that Wagamama experience, modern and enjoyable with an Asian flavour – a contemporary take on packaged noodles.
Wit was key to the brand from the start. The name references the Samurai helmet, and the logo is a clever combination of helmet and noodle bowl. We used the packaging format to our advantage: the two-minute wait for the noodles to be ready, followed by the convenience of eating out of the pack, meant that we could grasp the consumer’s attention by giving them something to read – a collection of Japanese proverbs tweaked to be about noodles: “the noodle that bends is greater than the chopstick that resists” and “when the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his noodles”. None of this wit and style would have worked if the product wasn’t great – but it is. The fresh and tasty flavours of Prawn Tom Yum and Beef Pho are highlighted by the packaging’s contemporary feel, clean red graphics and elegant pale background.
Know your market…
Of course, this tends to work best when you have a product that springs from passion, one that creator, design agency and consumer can all believe in. The next is the kind of strategic thinking that enables you to really know your market. That goes along with a trusted, talented design agency, who will help shape your brand from scratch. And your market will want to know you.
A good design agency doesn’t just do the packaging, although as we have seen, even that is a lot more important than it was in the past. No, your agency is a true business partner, understanding the market and using their creativity to solve complex business issues. It’s not just about looking good on-shelf, but about achieving a good-looking balance sheet too.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2017