Design and packaging

28 May, 2012

“During a recession, quality remains key in terms of the product itself and the perception of the brand.” 

False economy

So what does that all mean when you get to the drawing board? 

Packaging design agency Stranger & Stranger’s founder and creative director, Kevin Shaw, says producers should avoid making cuts when consumers rein in their spending. “When consumers started spending less, some producers reacted by demanding cheaper packaging, for example, two-colour labels. This is a false economy. At a time when it is harder than ever to get yourself noticed on the shelf, cheap-looking packaging isn’t a winning formula. Thankfully, the good ones know that.”

Design Bridge design director Asa Cook suggests the recession could be one reason for the surge in interest in Irish whiskey brand Jameson. In fact, according to Impact Databank’s latest figures, sales of the Irish whiskey in the US grew 29% during the first half of 2011. Cook says: “The recession has caused consumers to gravitate towards brands with a slightly more down-to-earth feel and a genuine reason to believe. One example of this trend is the success of Irish whiskey brands such as Jameson. Irish whiskey is typically more down to earth and relatable than scotch whisky, which can be perceived as elitist. 

“Brand owners are certainly investing in design as the most effective return on investment, but they need strong thinking so their products really make sense to their consumers. People know when they are having the wool pulled over their eyes and I can’t see that changing in the near future.”

But it doesn’t pay to play it safe all the time. Cook’s colleague, Design Bridge creative director Graham Shearsby says that in difficult times, brands should “actively encourage a culture of risk to keep pace with developments in emerging markets”. 

Shearsby talks about a Diageo project the company worked on – Mahiki Coconut, a liqueur which is the brainchild of its namesake bar in London. He says the project “re-drew the boundaries in its approach and speed, breaking all of Diageo’s launch protocols”.  When I ask how so, Shearsby says: “It was groundbreaking for a brand to use three different designs for one liquid.  When we presented to the founders of Mahiki, we saw their faces light up and we knew we had hit the nail on the head. It was right first time, the concept was right and the big idea was right.”

He adds: “Brands need to recognise opportunity in risk and to deliver bold, forward-thinking, category-leading results.” 

Green flag

Many new words and phrases have crept into our vocabulary over the past few years. Had you heard of a carbon footprint in 2005? What about lightweight glass? And wine in Tetra Pak? Are green issues still an issue or have we got bigger, financial fish to fry? 

To use the car analogy again, even high-flying BMW has sat up and taken notice of the green curve. The company announced in January that, as the official automotive partner of the London 2012 Olympics, it would roll out low-emission petrol-electric hybrids or electric vehicles. According to the BBC, some 4,000 BMW cars, motorcycles and bicycles are to be on the streets of London this summer.

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