Things I learnt at SBMadrid 2018

On October 8 and 9 I was at the conferences of SUSTAINABLE BRANDS Madrid. The event, organized in Spain by “Quiero cambiar el mundo haciendo marketing “, the agency of Sandra Pina and Jose ILANA that, in this perfectly organized edition, has brought speakers from the level of

  • The one and only Philip Kotler (insightful and inspiring at 87)
  • Lisa Pike from Patagonia
  • Julie Droulers from BodyShop
  • Antonio Espinosa, charismatic founder of AUARA
  • Cyrus Wadia Sustainable Businesses & Innovation VP at Nike
  • Susana Hidalgo, from REFUGEE WELCOME
  • Vincent AVANZI, who introduces himself as “Chief Poetic Officer”
  • Dr Phra Shakyavongsvisuddhi, rector at World Buddhist University

There were lectures and debates in which, rather than green washing policies, authenticity stood out, the desire to change the world of the speakers sharing ideas and illusion …

It is impossible to share the ideas and emotions of these days, but here i share with you my list of key learnings:

  1. Dr Phra Shakyavongsvisuddhi, on his lecture: “what capitalism can learn from buddhism” leaves us with three striking reflections:
    1. Buddhism: people before profit
      capitalism: profit before people
    2. Sustainable development is an oximoron
  • The ABC is Aware of risks
    Balance your acts
  1. Jeffrey Franks, IMF Europe Office Director, to the question of if he had to choose only one priority he answered “we can not just choose one, but if we had to choose, we should address the climate change”.


  1. Antonio Espinosa, impacted by a trip to Ethiopia after finishing his studies decides to “do something about it” and founds AUARA, a water brand whose benefits are intended to make drinking water accessible.From Antonio I keep these reflections :
    1. Sustainability is “holistic commitment”: it is not about having a sustainable aspect, it is trying to be coherent in all the dimensions of the project.
    2. “people do not buy things because they are sustainable”
  • “people are the key to success”
  1. Lisa Hogg: He explained the story behind TOMS, a company whose purpose was “using business to improve life of others”. Starting from the evidence that not everyone can buy shoes, the founder set up a shoe brand with a “one for one model”, that is, whenever a pair of shoes is sold, the company gives shoes to a person in need.thence, similar models replicate: from sight repairing, ensuring safe births, getting drinking water or sunlight.The company has distributed 86 million pairs of shoes among other actions.“the more money we make, the more impact we have” concludes Lisa.
  2. Sue Garrard former EVP sustainibility at Unilever makes this shocking comment: “I am allergic to CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSABILITY”, that sounds like legitimate the rest of what we do”… Well I agree, there are companies that seek a Bcorp seal without trying to behave according to these values.

She commented that: “we start with individual purpose and we see how to match it with the company purpose”, sounds very idealistic from a Multinational company of this size.

Another phrase by Sue: “if you are not scared, you are not trying hard enough”

  1. Bodyshop regains its activist dimension and has collected 8.3 million signatures against “animal testing”

Philip Kotler confirms it by explaining that his new book is called BRAND ACTIVISM: the marketing guru who already signed our student books affirms that this is the future although he recognizes that “brands do not want to risk their business by taking a stake” (


  1. Cyrus Wadia from Nike tells us the “moonshot” of the multinational:“DOUBLE THE BUSINESS, HALF THE IMPACT”it sounds like an authentic challenge (they want to double the business), but it’s impossible … although Nike seems to have had a powerful, real and sincere reflection, hence their three results:


  1. Making “knitting shoes” from a thread of synthetic material avoids the losses that traditionally occur when cutting the material to make a shoe, here everything is woven in the shape of the shoe
  2. Presented another shoe model made of skin residue
  • Cyrus wore a hoody made of PVC from recycled bottles


  1. Richard Roberts from Volans tells us their plans to accomplish pushing back global warming, not stoping it but reducing it... and his proposal is direct and definitive: “the new carbon economy” should “kidnapp” more carbon than it emits !

    Among other solutions:

    1. What we eat has more impact than the cars we use. Passing the “meatballs” from Ikea to Veggie Ball for example would have a real impact on global warming. In other words, being less carnivorous already allows reducing the impact on global warming.
    2. He explained that some constructions can be made with bricks in which carbon is stoked to remove it from the atmosphere.
  2. Vicent Avanzi, who holds the “Chief Poetic Officer” position, has read to us a poem-manifesto-lecture about the future and our own capacity of doing positive things. From this I’ll share two phrases:
    1. « the companies of the future should care about the outcome and not only the income »
    2. “the future will be magic or tragic according to how we act in it”


And now we have to go from inspiration to action, which is not easy, but after being in these days, I have to admit that it is possible …

Knowing all of this, I invite you to contact us and have a conversation about how Little Buddha Brand Design can help your brands and companies to be more sustainable.

The future of branding

As far as branding is concerned, the only constant is change. Branding is a beast that never sleeps, whose standards and codes continually evolve and it is our paramount responsibility as a brand design agency to keep up with this perpetual evolution. Needless to say, this is an incredibly tough challenge to accept, with today´s marketing landscape shaken almost on a daily basis by new trends to assimilate, an undisrupted flow of information blasting through new-age media, up-and-coming technology to monitor and possibly adquire, and an overwhelming short general attention span, dictating an insane recycling tempo when it comes to the branding game.
With all these variables, it is incredibly easy to lose track of what´s going on and thus always a good idea to frequently regroup and analyze what the future may hold for you and your branding workforce. Here is a sneak peak at where branding is mainly headed in the next few years. And you will see, more than only focusing on techniques and methods, you will need to primarily work on your philosophical approach towards branding. Remember, this is a non-exhaustive list, designed to inspire you to be pro-active and keep up-to-date with branding ever-changing requirements. Don´t forget to frequently do your own research. Let´s get started…

Branding as a form of activism

We are living a time of tremendous political and cultural disruption but that doesn´t mean that companies will stop trying to sell you stuff. Pretty much at the contrary, they’ll often use this general upheaval and will recuperate the social activism behind it to capture your attention. Designing will, of course, play a major part in that and will reflect the fact that brands need to start raising their voice to join the chants of protest. To Melanie McShane, head of strategy at Wolff Olins in New York, activism is a business imperative. “With the rise of political authoritarianism, brands will face fundamental choices,” she says. “About whether to take a stand on issues that offend them and their users, risking the wrath of politicians and their acolytes. Or stay quiet and seem complicit.”
Also going hand in hand with the public´s repulse regarding lying and fake-truths from established institutions, brands will also absolutely need to adapt and change their game plan towards a new apex priority: generate trust. Honesty should (finally) reign in branding.

The Future Of Branding Is Debranding

We are not talking about just visually debranding a packaging or a store to just look cool. Minimalism is nice but we want to take you way deeper here. After years of over advertisement, society is indeed on the brink of reaching a tipping point in consumerism. We have been saturated by senseless branding messages for decades, literally poisoned by tactical marketing campaigns solely aimed at having us reaching us within our wallet… In the eye of the public today, branding is now only a tool, used to expand the servitude of the consuming masses. It is time for branding to get real! To take a step back and let the product do the talking.
“The brand that screams the loudest no longer commands the most attention; the one that offers something genuinely useful does.” – Jasmine De Bruycker for

Get familiar with new techniques and platforms

As the digital and social media revolution is now behind us and should now be under control within every corporation, we can start looking a what´s next. Here are a couple technological leads that could take over soon as the next big things in branding:
Virtual Reality. It is tough to predict what the marketing applications of VR will be after the current newness/gimmick phase we still are facing. But there is absolutely no doubt the 360 immersive, playfull platform opens up an immense field of opportunities for marketers worldwide once it truly gets a wider footprint within the markets.
Artificial Inteligence. AI is invading the marketing world as brands find practical uses for computational intelligence and cognitive machines that learn as they go. Just as personal assistants like Siri and Alexa can simplify some aspects of our lives, AI can streamline some of the marketing process. For example retailer American Eagle worked with chatbot developer Pandorabots to create an AI-powered bot that converses with consumers about buying and caring for lingerie through messaging platform Kik, outsourcing and automating the brand´s unique tone of voice directly to the consumer in the process. Artificial Inteligence is constantyl pushing boundaries of what is possible to do branding-wise and automated chat solutions are just the beginning. Stay tuned.

3 trends in cosmetic packaging design

Cosmetic packaging is currently one of the healthier categories within the packaging sector, showing steady growth results since 2015 and also planned to maintain this upwards dynamic throughout the next few years. As per, the global Cosmetic Packaging Market size is indeed expected to reach USD 35.6 billion at a CAGR of 5.2% by 2022, a trend going hand in hand with the increased demand for luxury and beauty products.

In order to fully capitalize on this bright future, it will be of the utmost importance for all industry players to fully understand the newest trends dictating this market. From all reports and surveys available, we have handpicked three main trending axis to follow:


  • Eco-responsible packaging

The changing lifestyle consciousness and rising consumer preference for eco-friendly products are increasing, in particular within the beauty sector where the outside shell of a product must now at all cost reflect the core intention of reaching a sustainable beauty.

From that standpoint, beauty and personal care brands keep favoring recycling packaging options, moving towards green materials as consumers become more demanding in terms of sustainability. A clear example of this is Burt’s Bees Lipstick, launched in July 2016, with a squared lipstick packaging boasting a distinctive honeycomb shaped lid. This packaging is 100% recyclable polypropylene, and is composed of 60% recycled materials. Another good example is Switch Fresh Deodorant, a wonderful new creation claiming to reduce deodorant plastic usage by 96% through a unique refillable deodorant system. That type of initiative signals a new and meaningful era for beauty products.


  • DIY Beauty and Smaller packaging sizes

Internet giant Google recently released its 2017 beauty trends reports and one of its biggest outtake is the fast rising of DIY-labeled beauty products, offering their customers the possibility to customize their own cosmetics experience and treatments. This trend is particularly intense within the Masks and Maskings subsector, which fully adopted the DIY language that resonates with the up and coming generation. Here’s a good hint from Google’s report that you can´t fail to use the right terminology to better reach target audiences: “Searches for beauty products that specifically include the term ‘DIY’ are growing by 38%”.

Here´s the perfect case-study, exemplifying the codes of the DIY beauty trend in its marketing and packaging execution: Oleum Vera, a brand owned by Canadian company MMTUM and whose core statement is to reconnect their customers with the sense of ownership of their own appearance. The brand indeed aims to “provide women and men with the ingredients and knowledge they need to re-appropriate their body care routine and tailor it to meet their unique skin and hair needs, with the kits’ high customizability setting them apart from other DIY products currently available on the market”. The result of that powerful initiative is 6 alluring personal care kits allowing their users to treat their individual needs in a unique, personal way. Discover the brand here: Oleum Vera.

In addition to the DIY craze, the cosmetics category is also seeing an increase in the use of small packaging sizes, which facilitate consumption in terms of portability, and allow a wider range of consumers to access premium brands which also offer high-end products in these formats. Euromonitor International’s 2016 beauty and personal care research shows that packaging in the range of 0-50ml grew by 5% to reach 589 million units in 2016.

  • New age digitalization and men’s increased awareness

Millennials are showing incredible maturity when approaching their cosmetics and beauty products purchasing these days. This generation makes highly-educated decisions as per their skin care buying habits in particular and widely favor prevention products than treatment products. “This new generation understands that it’s easier to prevent than reverse signs of aging and in general seems to seek products that promise to improve their skin health over the long term, not just cover up blemishes in the moment,” explains Zoe Leavitt, a tech industry analyst at CB Insights. Millennials are thus keen to favor buying into powerful concepts from low profile brands supporting their values over blindly following legacy beauty signatures.

Men also are also showing an increased cosmetics awareness and won’t knee-jerk a care product purchase when confronted to the basics marketing cues that have been prevalent in the industry until now. Informative and refined packaging is thus to be preferred above stereotypical or “medical” styles.

As in other sectors, digitalization and technology will still be a huge factor of changes in the beauty and personal care industry, and this will impact the way we approach packaging. New purchasing formats with the use of mobile phones, new apps that help consumers test and try products such as color cosmetics, or customization of packaging through digital platforms will allow consumers to personalize their packages and final products.

Design Trends for 2018

A design agency has always been touted a magical place where furiously creative geniuses (the wizards of our times) are constantly given the mission to be reinventing the present and forecasting the future. Whatever happens, as a design agency’s creative lead, you must always look ahead of the curve, be extremely reactive to new trending styles or even better: be pro-active and try to push the limits of innovations day in day out. Most importantly: you cannot in 2018, under any circumstances, be left behind on this race towards the future and be lingering around as a ghost of the past.

Or can you ?

We, as many experienced players in the design industry, are every passing year more convinced that our jobs as design agencies have actually more to do with getting influenced by the past rather than trying to decipher what an imaginary crystal ball specialized in design could tell us. One simple way to prove this: just look around you. Yes, actually do it right now, don’t be shy… Now, how many objects, furniture, art, or products do you see in your direct field of vision that could be linked to past influences, traced back to proven retro lines or vintage designs, forged in pure nostalgia of times past, or naturally influenced by eras when things used to be simpler? Bar technology products, chances are that you couldn’t count them using the fingers of your two hands if you tried.

A famous Spanish saying maybe gives us the reason why past designs are constantly being recycled into modern life: « Mejor malo conocido que bueno por conocer ». Literally: One bad thing that you know is worth more than something good that you don’t. Translated to the world of design agencies out there, this means that you shouldn’t be afraid of sometimes looking back and assimilate what has been done (and possibly failed) in years past rather than blindly searching and probing for the next big thing. Relying on tried and true graphics, lines or techniques could be far more relevant at times than scratching your head to figure out what groundbreaking innovative features your project needs to adopt.

And that’s the point we want to make today. The role of a design agency in 2018, through the execution of its projects’, is equally one of a curator than one of a creator. Don’t get us wrong here: we certainly don’t mean that the creation process has to be toned down in favor of a constant rehashing of past features. But it should instead always be interlaced with a careful analysis of our predecessors’ work (be it one month or three decades ago it doesn’t matter. To ultimately fuse this chronological input, totally or partially, into the finalized design is a key trait of all top design agencies. Indeed, take the time to study the past, that’s how you recycle design and blend the best from yesterday with your muses of today.

You’ll see there a few examples of long forgotten styles making a comeback in 2018. Such as:


Corrupted glitchy images, “ruined” graphics, and color channel effects are going to stay during 2018.

Double up

During 2018 we will see a rise of double exposure designs which will stand out from other techniques. Double Exposure, Double exposure duotone and double light, a hybrid between double exposure and duotone will astonish us all. The trend has been around for sometime, in the form of normal duotone, which will be taking the lead out this 2018.


Negative space:

Interaction between typography and composition elements will be seen a lot in 2018, mostly when the elements come from the back and mix into the front, reminding us Escher drawings in some examples.


It is hard to say that Illustration will go out of style, since it adds significance, imagination and talent to every design. In 2018 illustrations are going to be seen in combination with other graphic design trends such as negative space, 3d structures, the “double” trend and some other techniques.

One of the most interesting trends is comining pictures with drawings, since it gives an edgy look to the photo. Besides this trend, I also want to highlight the papercut trend. Inspired by the actual papercut technique, it gives texture and depth to designs.

About Typography:
Typography will be highly imaginative this year, even though this isn’t a new fact, actually. Typography has been evolving from the classic styles, to new creatively experimenting with shapes, lights, negative spaces, real-life elements, cropping and other techniques, like 3D modelling.


On top of guiding through dos and don’ts of moving visuals, customized graphics and layouts, the key outtakes there are: “Generic is the one thing you don’t want to be in 2018” and the need to adopt authentic elements as a goal for 2018.

«2018 will be a year of modernizing graphic design trends from the past and diverging from the (literally) flat design landscape of recent years. Minimalism and simplification will stick around, but expect to see some old favorites make their return to the limelight »

What to Expect in 2018?

2018 is already looming ahead and some shifts in strategy and execution will need to be observed. Those changes, you guessed it, will need to be planned as early as possible. Indeed, our newness-greedy marketplaces will keep on dictating minimal marketing life-cycles and faster campaign change-ups than ever before in 2018.

Agencies/brand/concept teams should all currently be jockeying for pole position to kick start 2018 with a bang. That being said, you are probably currently also busy wrapping 2017 in a positive fashion and, as a consequence, you might find it difficult to mix year end’s peak in activities with pro-active planning for the new exercise.

Don’t you worry, we got you covered. With the few trends we gathered below, you’ll get the gist of what’s to come in 2018 in marketing and packaging.

1.    So fresh and so clean

We will all need to take it a step further in terms of sustainability. Customers are now extremely sensitive to how products fit sustainable standards, including packaging methods. This automatically implies impeccable selection and execution materials-wise but also clean and clear delivery of the sustainable, eco-friendly message atop product wrappings and packs. Flexible and light packaging options need to constantly be preferred over historically eco-burdening solutions.

This becomes so important that we think that 2018 is the year where re-usable packaging options will become a product trend. One example: there’s a whole new buzz going on at the moment claiming that Tupperwares are out, that glass-based food containers are in. Have a look at this slideshow effectively illustrating this.

2.    Keep up to date with the law and regulations

There are early signs available that laws and regulations will be stricter than ever in terms of products call-outs and this will mechanically force packaging makers to be as transparent as ever regarding contents descriptions. For example, a new European legislation currently being drafted will impose to include unitary code in packaging of prescription medicine and experts advise that these type of regulations usually translate quickly within other sectors including the food industry.

Our two cents regarding laws compliance? Always keep an eye out for laws updates and plan for a team-wide legal refresher every year. The beginning of a new year is always a good time to do so.

3.    Change the game, be creative.

As mentioned earlier, product lifecycles as shorter than ever. Consumers’ attention spans are extremely divided and request loads of effort to be captured. This is the industry’s biggest challenge these days: how to drive people towards an idea, a concept, a product? That is our job in 2018 to find more answers than ever to this question. How to keep things fresh and interesting these days?

Get inspired, continuously. Be aware of what’s going on around you and seek new ideas always. Communicate your enthusiasm to your clients. Build and create furiously. Convey excitement to the consumer. Think outside the box, literally!

4.    Increased Focus on e-commerce packaging

Online business penetration is at an all-time high and won’t stop growing in 2018. Related to this, the digital consumers’ expectations regarding their online orders also have stepped up and packaging is becoming a key player in the online shopping experience. Indeed, online consumers receive their online orders with such high expectations these days that the act of boxing out a fresh new product has almost become cult-like. We thus cannot fail in facilitating the best possible consumer experience as package makers in 2018. Customizable digital prints for each order needs to be made possible.

5.    Marketing at large

Going outside the packaging world, 2018 will be an intense year for marketers. Digitalization of the markets will once again be the name of the game, with visualization and imagery in particular being more important than ever and convert more visitors into shoppers than ever before (brands using videos to introduce their products now grow their revenue 49% faster than those who don’t, as per Aberbeen Group’s latest research). Marketers worldwide are also collectively holding their breath to see if Virtual Reality also full catches on and become the next big game changer for consumers.

Other trends to explore digitally in 2018: native advertising, artificial intelligence and big data-driven campaigns, tapping into micro-influencers’ niche impact.

Consumers will also be more driven by experience than actually purchasing. The fear of missing out is one of the biggest interest impulses for a millennial and therefore you will have to think more in terms of creating a wholesome experience rather than just a product to purchase. This is called experimental marketing and will be another main road to explore in 2018.

From Product Experience to Consumer Experience

Consumerism culture moves at a frightening pace. It all goes so fast that it is easy to forget where we were merely ten years ago. Let’s just take a moment to consider all the transformations we have witnessed in the past decade, from a consumer’s perspective.

Meet Rachel from California. Rachel was 24 in 2007, and because she was passionate about discovering new products and finding new ways to express her personality on a continuous basis, her Saturdays were usually spent walking the high street, paying her favorite shops a visit. Whether it was clothes, self-care, food or technology products, she was rarely looking for anything in particular when she entered a store. She was only waiting for inspiration to come while avidly browsing everything in sight. Touching, feeling, watching, even smelling or hearing the myriad of products meticulously displayed on shelves ingenuously designed to catch every single ounce of her attention. Inevitably, her inspiration ended up being triggered by a beautiful item which she then felt compelled to purchase, as if programmed. And when she was done bagging her new treasure, she would get on to the next shop and repeat the exact same routine.


She would find this whole experience relaxing, soothing, empowering even. Retail therapy at its best! Or was it really?

Fast forward to 2017. For Rachel, like for the rest of us (regardless of gender, age, social class, religion or race), the game has changed. The frantic, if healing, product hunt just doesn’t cut it anymore. The therapy is mainly done online now and we approach stores differently. Stores can’t just be a line-up of products anymore… Especially that we learned that the smartest buys are to be found online more often than not. When it comes to stores nowadays, we do expect the unexpected. We all want more. Whatever it is, we want more!

Luckily for us: brands, marketers and retailers all have realized by now: while a great product experience might still be important, a true consuming experience is going to be even more critical to a company’s success in the near future.

What’s the difference? In a traditional store 10 years ago, the focus was strictly set on product experience: everything was made to drive visitors towards their assigned product categories and convert them into purchasers. We were cramming products and merchandising in our core target’s throats to make a buck or two. All things considered, even the stores themselves were products!

Today, because revenue is increasingly being made online, the emphasis for our traditional brick-and-mortars channel is equally shifting to be creating a fulfilling, meaningful consumer experience. We are slowly going from product-driven, money-making boxes (Ka-Ching) to feeling-inducing bubbles (Wow!). The goal is not necessarily to make money on the spot anymore but instead creating feelings of comfort, pleasure and connection between the brands and their consuming muses.

And this is why there is a new, incredibly refreshing naturalism trend going on within our consumers’ culture. As always, this trend started with flagships, the strongest weapon in a company’s arsenal of stores and which are all morphing into giant laboratories as of late, testing and researching which is the correct formula to take shoppers to new levels of excitement. And should a formula work in those flagships, then it will mechanically cascade down towards the rest of the chain. The Apple genius store concept remains the epitome of the new-age, experience-first, product-second era but there are plenty of equally awesome examples to take our cue from nowadays. Case in point: the new Samsung 837 store in Manhattan is simply mind-blowing: product-less, stock-less, 100% digitally integrated, boasting an art gallery and a café, among other cultural features! Simply put: an incredibly immersive experience, sponsored by Samsung. This is a clear case of prime real-estate being used solely as a mean to reinforce brand image. But how is this model sustainable? How is this type of concept profitable? Simple: it is not. But it doesn’t matter! The business will be made online! Let the awesome shop concept do the talking, people will follow, friend, tweet and pinterest you. You’ll convert down the line if you do it right.

As a business leader, there is a new mindset to adopt, if you haven’t done so already: The retail square-foot ROI should not be calculated in terms of revenue anymore but in levels of social engagement.

That being said, you also must make sure that your digital consumer journey is slick and matches the firepower of your in-store groundbreaking concept though, or you risk jeopardizing this new model entirely. Sticking with this example, let me just guess that, Samsung being Samsung, this variable is covered too.

It is not only the tech sector that is leaning towards turning their stores into sensorial experiences. The whole retail vertical is impacted by a new wave of concepts. Even hotels and supermarkets are tagging along. “Boutique hotels is the fastest growing segment of the hospitality industry”, as per, simply because they respond to the growing need of the public to be exposed to an experience rather than to a product. Supermarkets are also engaged in a race towards experience enhancement, and the ones pulling it off and satisfying their customers’ needs, from entering the premises to checking-out, are the ones that will squash the competition, innovation after innovation. “I could stay an entire day in a Target store but can’t get out fast enough of a K-Mart” Daniel Newman, Forbes.

Getting back to Rachel… She is now in her thirties, and has grown with her favourite shops, matured alongside them. She might not be aware of it but she is an important person. As far as consumerism is concerned, she and her generation is about to have an important choice to make. Retail specialists and brands marketers indeed all concur: the next 5 years will decide our lifestyle as shop-goers for decades to come. It all boils down to one question: will Rachel value products over experience while raiding the streets on a Saturday afternoon? Well, the choice might seem tough but data tells us that she has already made up her mind… She is sometimes nostalgic of the shops she spent so much time in during her youth but she would never trade 100 shopping days she had 10 years ago for a single one in 2017!

She is having a lot more fun today.