My 20 Do’s & Don’ts in Branding and Packaging
If you are involved in a brand management role in branding, packaging projects, from new product launches, minor to thorough 2D and 3D brand redesign projects, local, global and everything related to how brands express their positioning, unique differentiators and personality in a product container displayed in a physical shelf or in an e-commerce site, this might be interesting for you.
After 20 years experience in the front line at leading CPG behemoths like Reckitt Benckiser and PepsiCo, here’s my take about do’s & don’ts in branding and packaging projects. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. This is simply my list.
This is also my gratitude to all the extraordinary professionals I have encountered throughout my career that have supported me in delivering fenomenal branding and packaging solutions. Immense pride in seeing them sitting on shelves and e-commerce sites across the globe.
And thanks to Bertrand and his team at Little Buddha for offering me the opportunity for sharing these thoughts. Looking forward to partnering with you in the future!
- 1 Do your homework.
- 2 Trust the experts.
- 3 Listen to sales and other functions in the company (R&D, manufacturing).
- 4 Engage buyers from key retailers.
- 5 Write a bullet-proof brief.
- 6 Brief when you are ready.
- 7 Get alignment with key decision makers on the brief.
- 8 Pitch different agencies when needed, but not by default, all the times.
- 9 Be mindful of all the deliverables.
- 10 Set up a validation plot.
- 11 Make your briefing presentation to your agency as if you were proposing to your partner.
- 12 Seek for internal approval.
- 13 Assess the work in its real context.
- 14 If remote stakeholders, invest in mock-ups.
- 15 Trust your gut.
- 16 Don’t just trust your gut.
- 17 Choose your battles.
- 18 Be the guardian of the process.
- 19 Close the loop.
- 20 Do enjoy it.
Do your homework.
There are things you can’t delegate, like asking your agency to come up with your strategy. Be clear on what the brand strategy is, who your target is, what you are trying to achieve and what the actual branding/packaging project should deliver.
Trust the experts.
Unless you are a branding, product, packaging, industrial designer by training, believe me, there are experts you can learn so much from. Gain advice, support, and expertise from internal design teams, planners and strategists in agency side when approaching a branding and/or packaging project.
Listen to sales and other functions in the company (R&D, manufacturing).
What they know about what has and has not worked in the past can be very useful.
Engage buyers from key retailers.
Make them feel part of the change, not just the ones receiving a final output with zero saying in it.
Write a bullet-proof brief.
Not revealing any secret: a good brief should include background, strategic details like marketing objectives, target audience, brand positioning, market research and key insights, competitive set, key objective of the project, creative mandatories, deliverables, timing, budget, research plot and action standard based on it.
Brief when you are ready.
If research results might impact your brief, wait until it is ready. Change of direction once brief has been delivered will undermine your agency big time.
Get alignment with key decision makers on the brief.
Discuss and align upfront what success looks like, what is it that you are trying to achieve, what specific KPIs will determine a winner option vs other options.
Pitch different agencies when needed, but not by default, all the times.
Gathering different points of view at important stages of a brand life cycle can be invigorating for the brand. But doing it when unnecessary can be frustrating for agencies and a waste of time and money.
Be mindful of all the deliverables.
Surprises like unexpected changes in die-cuts, medium or substrate, adaptations to geographies or regulatory updates, can cost money, time if not everything included in the deliverables.
Set up a validation plot.
The more complex the project, the more robust the research plot will need to be. Consider qualitative and quantitative, users and non users, key geographies.
Make your briefing presentation to your agency as if you were proposing to your partner.
Engage them with the vision for your brand and make them fall in love with your brand and your project.
Seek for internal approval.
When seeking for internal approval start presenting to stakeholders reminding key objectives and success factors first. Then discuss whether key objectives and success factors have been met or not. If discussion goes around gut-feelings, good luck: unless you are the CEO, your gut will always be smaller than the highest stakeholder’s gut.
Assess the work in its real context.
Forget about judging from a laptop screen. Get it on your mobile, in the product page in amazon.com. Get muddy, go to the shelf, place the work and compare to current, to competition. What looks great on a screen can be completely lost in the shelf of supermarket.
If remote stakeholders, invest in mock-ups.
And share physical stuff. It can go a long way for buy-in.
Trust your gut.
No matter how advanced Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning will be, until CPG companies still sell packaged goods to human beings for them to use and consume them, your gut still counts, and that can’t be replaced by any algorithm. You know your brand, your consumer, your competition. Similar to a movie, a book, a painting or a piece of music, branding and packaging is in a way a sort of art. What’s your reaction to it? How do you feel? What motivates you when in front of it?
Don’t just trust your gut.
After your gut, start checking objectives, success factors, are all the deliverables met?
Choose your battles.
Give up on that minor change in font type or size of a particular claim. Fight for what makes a change in delivering or not against your objectives.
Be the guardian of the process.
Obsessively ensure timings are kept. Agree on timings beforehand, don’t try to squeeze them afterwards. Be fair to the agency (=be fair to yourself).
Close the loop.
Set up a process and a team to make sure that what was once approved on a mock up and everyone loves (you, your boss, the boss of your boss, consumers, sales, key customers), comes to live as accurate as possible in the printing and manufacturing stages.
Do enjoy it.
Branding and packaging projects are a fantastic opportunity to bring to life what a brand stands for and make it visible to millions of consumers and stakeholders. What an exciting project. Enjoy the ride!