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  • Posted by: Dyfed "Fred" Richards on Monday, August 1 2011 03:55 PM | Comments (0)

    July is National Ice Cream Month, a perfect reason to celebrate this flavorful, icy treat in my monthly Design Perspective. The joys of ice cream transcend geography and generations: From a creamy vanilla topping, a slice of apple pie, to rocky road dripping down a cone and over the fingers, enjoying ice cream is a universal experience. Who hasn’t dropped whatever they were doing and raced out the door when they heard the jingling bells on the ice cream truck as it made its way up the street?

    In recent years ice cream’s appeal as a meal-ending dessert has broadened to that of an anytime indulgence. The resulting explosion in the number of local, regional, national and global ice cream brands is nothing short of remarkable. In some ways, the market emulates the microbrewery beer industry, with its proliferation of local players. I reside in Cincinnati and am fortunate to live within walking distance of an ice cream parlor that features one of the local brands. This brand has a consumer following whose loyalty borders on fanaticism; to suggest that any other brand of ice cream is superior is regarded as sacrilegious. This devotion is akin to how passionate and territorial consumers are about their local beers. It stirs something deep within us; a desire that is difficult to describe but easy to ignite. It also helps to propagate a never-ending debate: Which ice cream brand is the creamiest? Is hand-packed superior to pump-packed? Do add-ins enhance or detract from the primary flavor? Does ice cream taste better in a cone or cup? I guess we will have to keep sampling to know for certain!

    The design language of the ice cream market generally adheres to themes of location, ingredient, heritage, or indulgent stories. Local brands place great pride in their roots, often featuring area landmarks or a color palette specific to their town or city of origin. Sometimes they use a family name as the brand name; this helps build the story behind the brand. Regional brands more often than not began as local brands but their packaging has evolved over the years to make the brand look bigger and more commercial. Unfortunately, this design approach can have a downside: Consumers invariably compare the new version to the original and may decide, “It don’t taste like it used to.” National brands employ power branding and all of the graphic tricks of the design trade; all-American nostalgia reigns supreme within this category. Finally, global players strive to communicate consistency and brand value. 

    While the usual ice cream category clichés abound there are some innovative players who excel in their branding and packaging. For me, Haagen Dazs is a key global player, not only because its ice cream consistently uses high-quality ingredients but because it expertly manages its key brand equities. I have cited this brand on many occasions as a best-in-class example and not just in the ice cream category. As any great brand should, Haagen Dazs builds an exceptional consumer experience around its brand, from the instantly recognizable name itself all the way to the worldwide perception of its premium status. Haagan Dazs’ branding elements are as pure as its product ingredients: Keep things simple, clean and consistent, and play to the category language. How does Haagan Dazs do this? The company consistently uses four of its key brand assets – logo, color, pattern and ingredient story – across all consumer touchpoints. Any additional elements either speak to the category, the event, the category language or the delivery mechanism. It’s a sweet recipe for brand success that other ice cream brands would love to replicate.

    The Haagen Dazs Principle

    At Interbrand we frequently use an approach we call the Haagen Dazs Principle. It is based on the simple idea of leveraging four of a brand’s key assets – in this case, logo, color, pattern and ingredient story – and delivering them consistently across all touchpoints, no matter the media. Once these four assets have been identified, additional contextual messaging can be added without detracting from the ability to identify the brand and its core. This enables a brand to maintain consistency, differentiate itself from competition and continually accrue brand equity. Interbrand’s proprietary process focuses on identifying these media-agnostic equity elements and helping our clients and their agency partners activate them in the marketplace.

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  • Posted by: Dyfed "Fred" Richards on Tuesday, May 10 2011 03:14 PM | Comments (0)

    As brandchannel reported, the Australian government has recently announced moves to become the first country in the world to adopt plain packaging for cigarettes. This means removing logos and branding – as well as featuring graphics meant to disgust and shock the prospective buyer, along with a related health warning.

    I would argue that Australia’s strategy isn’t likely to stop anybody from buying cigarettes – just as a similar strategy isn’t likely to stop anybody from buying bullets. If someone is intent on buying a product with known negative side effects, “scare tactic” packaging is not likely to deter the sale. However, this approach does set a potential precedent for categories as extensive as household products, lawn and garden, alcohol, pharmaceuticals, and car care.

    Any product that could be deemed lethal beyond its intended use might fall into the same situation as cigarettes in Australia. Requiring that such a product be branded in a manner that articulates its negative side effects is a dangerous path to follow, as the negative can actually become a positive to some consumers. Such has been the case in movies where the villain – for example, The Joker in “Batman” – becomes more attractive to audiences than the hero himself. Also, what about the potential of the anti-brand becoming a brand? To see how this can work, simply look at the MUJI brand, which deliberately pursues the pure and the ordinary, and offers products that avoid unnecessary functionality, an excess of decoration, and needless packaging.

    I believe that Australian consumers will eventually become immune to the arresting images and statements inherent in this scare tactic packaging and that it will have absolutely no effect on anyone who wants to smoke. Consumers begin to accept the visual language of any given category over time; this then becomes the visual stimulus for the category rather than a deterrent. Frankly, while other categories may be less disturbing than cigarettes in terms of product content, their packaging is just as off-putting in terms of visual stimulation and bland thinking. Yet, consumers welcome this visual language into their lives and homes every day.

    It is clear that the Australian government is hoping to stun consumers into not purchasing cigarettes. However, my guess is that this negative packaging approach will merely slow sales in the near term and they will rebound later. If the government really feels this strongly about the product, then why not ban cigarettes altogether? That would send a far more profound message than this cosmetic approach.

    In the end, consumers only know what they know and find it very difficult to articulate why they like or do not like a particular product. Even in flash card exercises or focus group sessions (e.g., “Do you like this image? Would you purchase this brand?”), they typically reference the language with which they are familiar. Keeping this in mind, the Australian government’s scare tactic packaging, designed to be a deterrent, may instead become part of the category vernacular.

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  • Posted by: Dyfed "Fred" Richards on Thursday, April 14 2011 02:36 PM | Comments (0)

    As a homeowner, I make a series of seasonal pilgrimages to my local home improvement store to purchase the necessary tools and supplies to tackle all of the jobs on my “honey-do” list. Like any man, I enjoy the sights and the smells of a hardware store, where you can pick up painting or gardening advice along with your bag of 10-penny nails, and stroll up and down aisles containing everything from toilet fixtures to gas grills.

    After spending considerable time in hardware stores, I have noticed some common design denominators for product categories. One eye-catching practice: Tools and tool accessories are, for the most part, colored yellow and black, red and black, or green and black – traditional colors to signify danger and/or strength, dominance, and vitality.

    Black paired with a vibrant color can never be ignored. The combination creates the ultimate “power” duo; it’s the de facto color palette for tools and signifies that the product means business, is robust and is made for men – you know, real men who understand tools. So powerful is this palette’s pull that some brands intent on breaking into the tool category default to it in an effort to belong – which does nothing to help them stand out from their more established competitors.

    Beyond the instinctive, primal associations the male subconscious has for these strong color palettes, they also serve a practical purpose. For years, contractors have used bold colors to help identify and differentiate their tools from those of other contractors on the job site; also, to protect their investment from theft and loss. Contractor sales comprise 25 percent of the revenue for large warehouse stores and, furthermore, contractors spend considerably more per visit than “regular” consumers. In fact, they were at the tip of the spear in driving the success of the warehouse store format.

    It is no surprise that the marketing approaches which have proven successful in the hardware category have not changed much in the last decade. But do they have the power to sustain, or even grow, the market? Home improvement stores and their product suppliers may need to retool their traditional, color-based branding practices so that their brands speak to new shoppers (including females!) without alienating their core audience.

    One possibility – particularly in today’s challenging economic times – is to appeal to instinctive consumer emotions such as safety and security. To do this, marketers need to don the mantle of consumer and ask some new questions of their brands and products: How can this help me save money on home repairs? Reduce energy bills? Keep my family safer? Make living with less easier to bear?

    Consumer watchwords have shifted from “power” and “prosperity” to “practical” and “priority.” Hardware brands, therefore, need to focus more on their products’ purpose rather than their potential to impress the neighbor across the hedge. Add a dash of color? Sure. But remember to talk to consumers about what really matters: how the brand can contribute to their family’s safety, security and financial well-being.

    Color and Instinctive Design

    Brands create consumer pull; however, the psychology of brand purchase decisions is far more instinctive than rational. In fact, 95 percent of purchases are based on an unconscious decision; on emotions rather than logic. Understanding the shopping decision-making process is key to orchestrating buying behavior. By leveraging brand, design, consumer and shopper insights, companies can develop powerful, instinctive packaging designs that connect with shoppers’ key emotions and produce as much as an 80 percent conversion rate. Color is one of the design techniques that Interbrand uses to instinctively delight and connect with the shopper and consumer. Among others are telling stories, creating characters, playing with numbers, signatures and scripts, and opening ceremonies.

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  • Posted by: Dyfed "Fred" Richards on Thursday, March 17 2011 02:01 PM | Comments (0)

    Hoisting a pint of Guinness beer has become synonymous with celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, “the friendliest day of the year.” What is it about Guinness – this creamy black liquid with froth on top – that makes the brand so unique and enables it to unite the world and turn everyone Irish, if only for a day? Beyond its taste and history, Guinness does a masterful job of managing and leveraging brand equities to generate extreme loyalty among current customers and attract new ones.

    I am a Guinness loyalist and, when given the choice, drink a pint of the dark over any other beer. But even I am mystified at the number of people who, on March 17, choose Guinness even if they don’t really like the taste or don’t drink it during the rest of the year. I cannot think of any other brand that commands such a response; sure, we drink champagne on New Year’s Eve, but no one brand has become identified with that holiday the way Guinness has with St. Patrick’s Day.

    Brand Excellence, Personified
    My Cincinnati cohort, Creative Director Jamey Wagner, cites three reasons why he believes Guinness has achieved and maintained brand excellence – heritage, brand management and unique experience – and I agree. Let’s look at each of these elements in greater detail.

    Heritage – Guinness is one of the oldest brands in the world, having just celebrated its 250th birthday. In 1759, Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000-year lease on an abandoned brewery at St James’ Gate, Dublin. It cost him an initial £100 with an annual rent of £45. Although traditional ale was brewed there at first, it wasn’t long before a new dark porter beer was tried and, after its tremendous success, the now famous stout. Guinness’ longevity is quite impressive, especially when you consider how some brands ride the crest of the trend wave and then fall into obscurity and die. Guinness’ romantic heritage also contributes to the fervent devotion of its brand loyalists.

    Brand Management – Guinness has stood the test of time, in part, because it has carefully managed its equities and resisted the urge to overextend itself into sub-brands that don’t resonate with its brand promise. Guinness’ equity strategy is simple, yet effective: identify the core brand assets and leverage them across all touchpoints, all of the time. Black as the dominant color, the harp as logo and a unique opening ceremony are all symbols of the elite club to which Guinness loyalists belong. Similar to Apple and Starbucks consumers who flaunt their white headphones or white coffee cups as they walk down the street, brandishing a Guinness bottle or glass conveys a statement of belonging; of understanding the brand at a deep, emotional level.

    Not only has Guinness skillfully managed its brand equities over time, it applies them consistently around the globe. Of course, there always will be purists who believe that a pint in Ireland is better than anywhere else in the world – thicker, creamier and better tasting – a fact borne out in Evan McHugh’s 2008 book, Pint-Sized Ireland: In Search of the Perfect Guinness. According to another of my Cincinnati co-workers, Account Leader (and fellow Guinness lover) Will Kladakis, author McHugh travels the country searching for the perfect pint of Guinness. Through his tale, we learn that throngs of beer enthusiasts flock to Ireland every year with the intent to enjoy a Guinness prepared by experts in its native land. Bartenders, locals, and tourists alike all offer advice on exactly where to find the proper pour (and EVERYONE has an opinion).

    While I, too, love raising a pint in Ireland, I find that no matter where I am, Guinness delivers on its brand promise…be it in Sydney, Cape Town or Hong Kong. In fact, Interbrand Design Director Rene Chen reports that Guinness is THE “black beer” in Hong Kong and is perceived as a cool, high-end foreign brand served in pubs, bars and clubs. Originally positioned as a masculine brand – Guinness even has a Chinese name, 健力士 (jiang li shi), which means “a very powerful and masculine man” – women in Hong Kong increasingly enjoy Guinness, in part because the brand is perceived as being healthier than other beers.

    Unique Experience – The Guinness brand experience drives a visceral, interactive and expressive relationship with its consumers. The visceral relationship manifests itself by the excitement one feels when first encountering this brand; the beer’s color, smell, the sound of its pour. The interactive relationship begins with the all-important opening ceremony: The pint arrives and the consumer…waits. Let me state that again: The consumer waits. The cascade of bubbles within the glass has to settle prior to that first magical sip from the glass; there has to be a perfect separation of liquid to creamy head of bubbles. The pint is inspected for a clean head, the glass is raised to the mouth, a sip is taken and the glass is returned to the countertop and inspected again.

    The visceral and interactive relationships comprise a rich, robust brand experience which, when repeated, fosters consumer loyalty and drives an expressive relationship with the brand: If you are loyal to Guinness, you are eager to share the experience with others. In a bar, this relationship becomes obvious when other Guinness consumers subtly acknowledge the ritual first pour and reaffirm their exclusive club membership. (If you belong, you know what I mean.) What truly fascinates me, though, is the number and diversity of Guinness loyalists I meet and talk to. These are not your average “dudes” drinking some fashionable lager from a trendy, over-designed bottle; they are real people of all ages and backgrounds. For example, my grandmother once told me of a trip she made to Ireland with some girlfriends after the passing of my grandfather and how much she and her friends enjoyed spending an evening in the pub drinking Guinness. I was sharing my club membership with a lady of some 80+ years old! From a consumer segmentation perspective, how many brands can boast such a broad demographic?

    Jamey Wagner related a similar bonding experience he had at an Irish pub in San Francisco. The bartender was of Irish descent; when asked why she thought Guinness was so popular, she posited that it was due to consumer word of mouth and the love everyone has for “usquebaugh,” which literally means “the water of life.” I couldn’t agree more.

    Props to Diageo
    Having acknowledged the power of Guinness’ social network to propel the brand to glory, I also must give considerable credit to Guinness and its parent company, Diageo, for getting the beer’s branding recipe precisely right. They make full use of Guinness’ many assets and triggers to engage the consumer: history, storytelling, unique experience, tasteful merchandise and more.

    But the transition to brand stalwart has not always been easy. Prior to expanding the beer’s distribution to include supermarkets, Guinness executives had to solve a true marketing conundrum: How do we get our unique experience out of the pubs and into consumers’ homes? How can we replicate the thrill of the opening ceremony if the pour comes from a can or bottle instead of a tap?

    Innovate and win
    Any brand that hopes to stand the test of time, to remain relevant and grow market share, has to embrace the process of innovation – and Guinness did. It was one of the first beer brands to develop a “widget” inside the can to activate the beer when air pressure punctured it. The technology seemed magical and impossible, but since it delivered on its promise, consumers maintained their trust in the brand. Guinness effectively bridged the gap between pub and home, the opening ceremony was repeated in living rooms around the world, and sales grew apace. Marketing genius!

    Whether it’s a freshly poured pint, a unique slender bottle, or a slightly chilled can, holding a Guinness in your hand provides a unique experience that evokes heritage, membership and deep respect for a “real” beer. And with that first sip, you begin to feel that you, too, can be Irish for a few delicious moments. Let’s raise a glass to this masterful brand. Cheers.

    Guide to GUINNESS®

    • Profile: Crafted for more than 200 years, GUINNESS EXTRA STOUT is descended from the West India Porter known as Extra Superior Porter. Famous for its Irish origins and exceptional color, this most prestigious of black beers is brewed in more than 50 countries and enjoyed in around 150 worldwide.
    • Variants: Guinness Draught, sold predominantly in Europe, North America, Japan and Australia, is available as Guinness Original, Extra Cold, Extra Smooth and most recently as Guinness Red. Guinness Foreign Extra Stout is the original export stout and the key Guinness variant in the Caribbean, Africa and Asia.
    • Sales: Guinness is the world's leading stout, selling 11.1 million 9 litre case equivalent units.*
    • Top markets: Great Britain, Ireland, Nigeria, United States, Cameroon
    • Tagline: Pure beauty. Pure GUINNESS.®
    • Fast fact #1: The origin of the word stout goes back to the term stout porter or “strong” porter.
    • Fast fact #2: The perfect Guinness “two-part pour” takes 119.5 seconds.
    • Fast fact #3: New to Guinness? The brand’s website offers videos to demonstrate how to properly enjoy the beer out of a bottle or can.
    • Fast fact #4: When a Guinness managing director got involved in an argument about the fastest game bird in Europe during a shooting party in the 1950s, he realized that there was no reference book that could easily supply such an answer and one that could prove to be quite popular with the public. His hunch was right; today, Guinness World Records is considered the global authority on record-breaking achievement. In fact, the book now holds a record itself: It is the best-selling copyrighted series of all time.
    • Source: Diageo and Guinness websites (www.diageo.com and www.guinness.com)

    *Figures are volumes for year ended 30 June 2009 excluding ready to drink. Position source: Impact Databank, September, December 2008 and February 2010.

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  • Posted by: Dyfed "Fred" Richards on Wednesday, February 23 2011 03:53 PM | Comments (0)

    My awareness of the lip-gloss and lip-care category is much greater than it was a few years ago, courtesy of living in a household with three women – most notably, my seven-year-old, gloss-loving daughter. Growing up in Britain, the selection of lip-care brands was slim to none, and their packaging used design cues that were too feminine for my taste, so I did without. After moving to the United States in 1993, I discovered a few more brands – all of which had either a feminine or functional package design – which I purchased to soothe the chapped lips that accompany Chicago winters.

    While the lip-care market has expanded considerably in size and sophistication over the past decade – glosses and balms in sticks, tubes and pots abound – the category’s packaging remains uninspired. In general, lip-care brands are over-packaged: large-format blister cards dominate in an effort to carve out as much real estate as possible in what is primarily an impulse category. Descriptions of added benefits such as shine, flavor (Thank goodness, we can now choose something other than cherry!) and SPF levels from 15 to 45 compete for consumers’ attention. Other obvious cues that comprise the category language include red lips, ripples or droplets of water, flowers, and ice-covered mountains. I suppose the higher up the icy mountain you intend to go, the more SPF you require.

    Most surprising is the growth of the branded/licensed lip-care category. It seems that no brand extension or flavor opportunity is spared in an effort to entice younger, flavor-adventurous consumers. The array of licensed brands in my daughter’s possession at any one time is staggering. They range from the prerequisite Hello Kitty gloss to a multitude of cereal- and soda-flavored lip-care brands. Who knew that people desire to have the scent of their favorite cereal or soda continually wafting up to their nose? (Interesting side note: Virtually absent from the licensed lip-care category are brands synonymous with other aspects of health care and repair; toothpaste, mouth wash, bandages and the like.)

    Despite all the lip-care flavor and shine innovation taking place, there seems to be little or no innovation in terms of the stick itself. Yes, roller balls have been around for a while, and we have seen the advent of the “slimmer” stick. Beyond that, the same old screw-based lipstick format continues. I would also hazard a guess that the sticks themselves, like that dab of mustard on your plate, are never totally consumed. Lip-balm sticks, like ballpoint pens, are all too often discarded in favor of an impulse purchase at the check-out counter, primarily because you cannot locate the stick you currently own. Perhaps this provides an opportunity to innovate: How about a clip-on rubber cover to ensure the lip balm stick is always at hand, similar to what Purell created for its hand sanitizer bottles?

    Is there also an opportunity for innovation at shelf? Does the package have to be so large for a product so small? I understand that the oversized packaging is designed, in part, to combat theft, but surely in this digital day and age there are alternatives. Could the lip-care category learn something from more sophisticated adjacent categories such as cosmetics? I think it’s time for some lip-smacking-good lip-balm packaging!

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