Classed as one of the top branding and design agencies in the UK, Identica is turning heads with its eye-catching and sophisticated packaging designs. Whilst J20, Monkey Rum and Drench are some of the team’s previous clients, one of their most iconic projects was the redesign of Johnnie Walker’s striding man. We spoke to Nathan Hurley, trend hunter for Identica, about the power of branding, challenges faced by design agencies and tips for start-ups.
What’s the power of good branding?
Good branding can elect presidents, start revolutions or sell containers’ worth of products people don’t need. There were 14 search engines before Google launched. None of those fourteen spoke clearly enough for us to care about them. Google, along with being the simplest service, communicated a clear and concise message that left nobody in doubt about what they did. That’s the power of good branding.
Why do you think packaging has the power to influence a consumer’s decision?
It can make or break a product. It may sound like a cliché but first impressions are everything with consumers and it usually happens in a subconscious capacity. At a very basic level if it doesn’t clearly indicate what the product might do or taste like then it’s failed. After that it needs to speak to its target consumer with specific design cues that inspire them to buy. Premium whiskey? Wooden box and gold foiling. Chocolate bar? Product image and a ’tasty’ colour palette. To be successful in a marketplace it can be tactical to disrupt the shelves and break the category codes. Pringles did this when they introduced their tubes.
What are the challenges of portraying a brand’s story through packaging design?
It can be difficult to tell the entire story on the pack. A website or brand film can be flexible but you’re limited to space with packaging. That’s why it’s vital to be clear and get the most important messages out first.
It’s not just space that can be a restriction to telling a story; time is limited when consumers are scanning aisles. Your pack might be lucky if it gets a glance. Our supermarket shelves are the noisiest they’ve ever been.
Tell us about your work for Monkey spiced rum. What insights enabled you to redesign the brand’s packaging?
We wanted to tell a better story. People engage with stories (as long as it’s a good one) more than product benefits, especially in the spirits sector. You need certain things to enter the party with spirits, the bottle needs to look fantastic and stand out on any shelf. In Monkey Rum’s case a custom barrel bottle design and monkey embossing were necessary. We brought the fun by designing hidden messages and meanings into the label and bottle design that fans of Zane Lamprey would know and could trade as social currency.
What advice would you give to start-ups when developing their packaging designs?
Disrupt the market – look at what your competitors are doing and do something different. Find a reason that they will talk about you and send a website link to their friends. Firstly though, employ somebody who knows what they’re doing. Brand designers and strategists study for a long time and they understand the art of selling products.
Minimalism is a key packaging design trend at the moment – how do you get the right balance between designs being too cluttered and not having enough information?
Minimalism is certainly a trend that we’ve seen for a few years now. There’s honesty and subtly to minimalism that people like – clarity of message is seen as being trustworthy. The perception of minimalism is that is was a design trend born with new and innovation products and services… things seen as “hip”. This is something that’s filtered through many marketplaces.
Getting the correct balance is important but is a fine art. Many brands rely heavily on their packaging to say four or five things – this is bad practice. Let a message or piece of comms breath; be confident that it’s the right one and don’t compensate by saying too many things at once. It’s a fine balance… in the food world, packaging needs to become far more informative. People want to know what they’re eating, where’s it come from; why is it difficult for big food brands to tell us where it’s from?
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