Design is increasingly being treated as a top-level strategic tool. Experts discuss its metamorphosis, the effect of technology such as QR and AR and the implications of redesigns
Alexandra Phelan, head of brand DNA, Paddy Power
Michael Gillane, brand unit director (cider), Heineken UK
Andrew Barraclough, vice president of design, GlaxoSmithKline
Nicole Goodwin, group marketing manager, Jagermeister
Anthony Ingham, vice president - luxury and design brands, EMEA, Starwood Hotels and Resorts (owner of W Hotels)
Adam Long, brand manager, Westland Horticulture
Andrew Barraclough (AB): My role is only 18 months old, but design is now seen as a strategic enabler for the business. We are a large pharma company, which historically has not leveraged its brands as much as it could have done compared to Procter & Gamble and Unilever. So it’s about recognising that design is a real differentiator in becoming a fast-moving consumer healthcare company. GSK is on a massive design charge. We are going through an evolution to inbed design thinking in everything we do. My challenge is about building a new function and competence within the business.
Alexandra Phelan (AP): Strong design can only contribute to the overall success of a brand. There is not always an immediate, tangible return on investment, but over time the positive effect of good design to the overall equity of a brand becomes apparent. This has a knock-on effect on consumer perception and, in turn, purchasing behaviour.
Michael Gillane (MG): In the UK, research from the likes of Bases and Packmaster has shown that ‘above’ versus ‘below’ average packaging design can swing [sales] volume by up to 20 per cent. It is probably even more important now because the media environment is so cluttered packaging has to work even harder. It’s also important to understand that great packaging builds brand equity, which in turn boosts longer-term sales. With Strongbow, for example, we completed a big redesign last July, which included fruit imagery for the first time. This has driven up people’s overall impression of quality and modernity by double digits according to research we carried out with Packmaster.
Nicole Goodwin (NG): We’ve not changed the Jägermeister bottle design for 80 years and that means that consumers recognise it easily. It stands out on the shelf because it is an iconic brand and people know what they are looking for. When you’ve got a good design and a strong brand it helps to boost sales because people are not just buying into the iconic visual but everything else that goes with it.
MG: Not that long ago, packaging design was left to the juniors to cut their teeth on while the ‘big boys’ focused on above-the-line work. Packaging was the poor relation in the communications mix. That view is changing on the whole as consumers interact with it more often than any other touchpoint from the brand. Great marketing organisations treat packaging design as both a strategic and creative discipline and apply at least the same ambition and rigour to design development, evaluation and execution as they do to other elements of the communications mix.
Anthony Ingham (AI): Each W Hotel has an individual design personality drawn from the local context and design collaborations, with W’s ‘DNA’ serving as a consistent thread. W Hotels strives to develop cutting-edge, forward-thinking design, inspired by location and executed through collaborations with both emerging and well-known creative talents.
AP: It’s really important to be consistent for consumers. It’s one of the cornerstones of building a healthy relationship. Obviously brands have to adapt to the channels they communicate through, but the core brand message and voice must remain the same and all visual identifiers should be consistent. We had some big inconsistencies before we redesigned our brand visual identity [at the end of last year]. Our logo in retail, for example was Paddy Power but online it was paddypower.com. We now have one brand mark that will appear across every touchpoint. We have also introduced sub-brand logos that are consistent within the architecture, so consumers can tell it’s all from the same stable.
Adam Long (AL): Consistency of message is key across all channels and consumer touchpoints to ensure the image of a brand is maintained. Consumers don’t think of online and offline separately and so the design, image and message of a brand must remain consistent.
MG: Packaging as a two-dimensional, inert experience is a thing of the past. QR and AR might be replaced by another technology in five years’ time but the basic principle that we need to start building interactivity into packaging will increasingly be the norm. Whatever the technology is, the key to its success is to make sure it adds value to the consumer rather than just going for gimmicks. We have had success over the past 12 to 18 months using QR and AR on the Bulmers ‘Experimenters Wanted’ and the ‘Perfect Summer’ campaigns. We had around 50,000 interactions across those two campaigns, which was much more than our initial expectations. QR and AR will play an increasingly important role for Bulmers this year.
AB: It’s about what kind of experiences you want to build for consumers. There is a danger with using technology that because we can do it, we should. It has to be relevant to the brand, to the product and to the experience you want to create. QR, AR and this convergence of technology will be increasingly used as we go forward and it is high up on our agenda - it’s something we are working with and developing.
NG: We have tested QR codes but the results have been fairly disappointing, which could have been because of the content or because consumers don’t really understand them, and we’ve stayed away since. However, AR is interesting. We are looking at possibly integrating it into campaigns in the future to bring the brand to life. But first we need to do the basics well, since we’ve gone from not talking about the brand above the line to doing quite a lot. We will then look to create intrigue and a reason for consumers to want to interact.
AI: Mobile is Starwood’s fastest-growing booking channel with revenue up 138 per cent year-on-year, so it is an important channel for W Hotels. QR codes and AR provide a low-cost and efficient means of driving people to specific, tailored mobile content. They also make a fantastic tracking tool, allowing us to understand more about who is engaging with our brand. By using QR code data, companies can see the number of people scanning the code, the device they are using to interact with the content and what they are doing on the webpage they have been driven to - information that is invaluable.
AL: People expect immediacy in digital media and as such QR codes have had little effect on the whole as many give a disappointing consumer experience because of poor connection speeds. However, QR, and AR in particular, have the opportunity to add value to the consumer by providing an experience that cannot be achieved by packaging.
MG: On a big project like a brand transformation, particularly for brands that have a complex architecture with several products in the range, we could be spending between £500,000 and £1m just on design and consumer qualification work. Bringing a new design to market will also incur additional costs in terms of writing off the old design and the transition, which should not be underestimated. For a total brand redesign we would be looking to get return on investment within one to two years.
AP: Paddy Power turns 25 this year and we thought it was time to take a look at our brand visual identity (BVI) because it didn’t really speak about the brand that we have grown into. We have developed a new identity that has mischief and entertainment at its core.
There are a couple of immediate visual indicators such as having the logo at a slant, which is very representative of Paddy Power coming at things from a left-field angle. We also developed a range of mysterious interventions, like the small sketches that pop up at certain moments, and that’s just about entertaining and having a bit of a laugh. They will all begin to come to life when we introduce the new BVI online.
AL: The re-usable spreader [on the new Aftercut Even-Flo product] features unique ‘spreader ball’ technology to apply lawncare products evenly across the lawn. We worked with Webb deVlam, which used its consumer insight techniques to gain a clear understanding of how we could improve the experience and effectiveness of our range and how products in the gardening sector are viewed and used.
AB: The communication of what design is within the business is ours. If you ask most people, they would probably say design is just packaging and that for me massively undervalues and under-utilises design. Design can be strategy and it plays an important role within innovation. A large part of my role is building a team of global design management, which we have in the US, China, India and the UK, but it’s also about educating and building case studies and spreading the word of design. It’s about imbedding design into the marketing function and changing the dynamic in the way we partner with marketing. [GSK has recently appointed The Brand Union to handle its new global corporate branding and communications brief.]
NG: We want to continue to drive growth for the brand in what is a competitive market. We will also be building on the new marketing campaign and showing people that there is more to the brand than just the [Jäger]bomb [a shot of the spirit drunk with Red Bull]. We are not trying to move away from that necessarily, and we are very grateful for it, but we want consumers to realise there is more to us as well.
Scandinavian smoothie brand Froosh, which is considering a UK launch, was struggling to make an impact and considered closing four years ago before a brand redesign turned its fortunes around.
The brand launched in 2004 but faced fierce competition from the likes of Innocent (part owned by Coca-Cola), Chiquita (part owned by Danone) and German brand Bramhults in the Nordic market. When funding ran out in 2008 it was bought by a management team led by chief executive and chairman Brendan Harris and backed by Unilever Ventures. The first thing the new team did was tackle the brand image, which Harris says failed to communicate the brand message.
After defining a strategy, Froosh brought in agency Pearlfisher to develop a design that reflected this proposition across packaging, website, retail fridges and all other touchpoints.
Harris says: “In markets such as ours there’s a default positioning that all brands have - if it were a person it would be a sandal-wearing hippy with a beard. We went down a different route. We wanted to come up with a cheeky, mischievous and quite a risqué approach to branding that was much more like a naughty schoolchild than a hippy.”
This personality manifests itself through the slogans that appear on the side of the bottle, such as ‘better than botox’ and ‘live longer than your friends’. Froosh’s packaging is its primary communication method and these “manifestos”, which are all in English, change on a regular basis to encourage curiosity in the brand.
Consumers post images of new labels on Facebook, which has sparked discussion, and many write to the brand suggesting new slogans such as ‘live long enough to see your grandkids grow up’, which is due to appear shortly.
“It is meant to be tongue in cheek. As long as it’s about health or taste we are happy of the input and it has generated a lot of interest among our target consumers. It keeps consumers excited in the brand,” says Harris.
Following the relaunch, Froosh saw a 107 per cent increase in total volume sales across the Nordics and the company claims to have recouped its design investment within the first six months.
Harris concludes: “We got an instant sales uplift when we put our new branding out to market. Our competitive position was almost transformed overnight. We gained market share very rapidly and it has been that way since 2010.”
The brand is now growing 60 per cent each year in the Nordics.