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 basedesign.com

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.

Naming: mistakes to avoid

Like choosing a name for a baby usually turns up to be a nerve-wracking exercise, putting a name atop your new brand, product or future company can also be a puzzling thing to do. First of all, let us help you relax and put things into perspective: like newborns, there probably isn’t just one perfect name your business could bare, but many. That being said, that doesn’t mean there is no bad choice you can make as far as naming goes, at the contrary. Keeping with the children comparison: pretty much everyone has a kid in their surroundings whose first name make eyebrows raise or heads turn, and not for good reasons. Smoothie, Saruman, Brutus, Adolf… Those are all unforgiving, dubious names that will attract a lot of unnecessary negative attention on the poor child and which could have easily been avoided with a touch of common sense, sensitivity and research. Same goes for your future company or brand initiative: know which are the existing pitfalls and avoid them like the plague. Here are six of them:

1. Skipping multilingual research
You may start your business on a local scale or plan to only distribute your products on a domestic market but we suggest that you consider the big picture within the naming process, which might include an international expansion or development on the long term. That means that you absolutely need to consider how your final top 5 options perform under the translation test before deciding for a name. “What? Is that really important?” You bet! Ask that question to the glorious marketing teams behind the launches of the Toyota Pajero in Spanish-speaking countries, the Opel Ascona in Portugal or Nordic Mist in Germany (wanker, vagina and trash, respectively… poor choices indeed), and the financial departments who add to budget the recovery operations.

2. Going for a generic name
Going for a generic name such as Natural Cosmetics is a low-risk, low-rewards approach. Indeed, you won’t expose yourself to any bad first impression and you’ll gain visibility by being bang-on descriptive about your products attributes but you also won’t be able to create a special hook from the consumer or to generate identification. We suggest to always try to go a little bit further than simply being generic and show personality and character through your naming process. Afterall, your brand name could end up itself being induced in the generic realm, like Zodiac, Jacuzzi, Kleenex or Q-tips.

3. Endless names
Long company or brand names are harder to remember, to write and to connect with. This is a no go, pure and simple. Plus, long names are a problem for digital marketers as characters limits are set for online domains registrations, SEA campaigns and social media postings. You also don’t want your public to start abbreviating your name, it is not a good look. Keep it short.

4. Going for a meaningless name
A name void of meaning for its creator is just… sad. Aim for a name that sounds good, create a consensus internally and more importantly, that resonates within the soul of the whole team behind it. It needs to encapsulate, in a few letters, the scope and values your company claims to represent. Here’s a few great examples to follow: Verizon (a mix of Veritas, latin for truth and horizon), Reebok (running and training manufacturer, named after a speedy African Antilope), Sharp (The Japanese manufacturer is named after its first-ever product designed in 1915: an ever-sharp pencil).

5. Making things unnecessary hard
We already briefly touched on that issue in mistake number 3 but we really want to make it clear here: the naming process needs to put simplicity as one of its cornerstones. You want your name to roll off the tongue rather than creating confusion as per how to write or pronounce it.
Still, it gives personnality, ownability: While American beer brand Budweiser or the beverage brand Schweppes, had to apply marketing budgets to educate their targets on how to pronounce their names correctly, they never considered going to a simplification of their names.
When Häagen Dazs brand was created from scratch in the US, they made up a name that would sound scandinavian for american people. They did not opt for the simple, rather the opposite : they looked for an extraordinary foreign upscale name… and no one get confused when they ask for an ice cream.

6. Not considering the legal aspect
Last but not least, never forget to submit your naming options to a legal sanity check. Indeed, you simply don’t want to be spending time, energy and money developing your brand image on- and offline only to receive a cease and desist notification from an unbeknownst member of your competition who apparently claimed copyrights on the exact same name as you, only a while ago. Naming functions on a first-come first-served basis, so do the smart thing before any launch project and contact an intellectual property specialist sooner rather than later.

There’s thousands of fun stories online surrounding brand naming failures, please follow our advices above and make sure you don’t become part of this hall-of-shame. To conclude on this topic, we’ll just leave with a few wise words:
“To have a bad name is the best help you can offer your competition”
Naseem Javed, President and CEO, ABC Namebank.

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 marketresearchfuture.com, 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.

9 reasons to update the corporate identity of your brand

A full rebranding is always a challenging, dizzying task to consider. But it doesn’t matter how much work, time, effort and money it implies, sometimes this daunting process cannot be put off any longer. Let’s highlight what are the situations that might trigger your company’s next corporate identity make-up.

 

1.     Your brand image needs refreshing

A plain need for novelty or for a more modern image is often the main drive behind a corporate identity upgrade. But what timeframe are we looking at with which frequency should a company look at revamping its image? On average, companies update their branding identity every seven to ten years. You want to look at your own timeline and if you haven’t performed any identity upgrade in that many years, chances are you need to get moving. Note: this seven-to-ten year window varies depending on your sector and competition. Be aware of what’s going in your sector and be quick to react if needed.

 

 

2.     Undergoing corporate acquisitions

That is also one of the main causes of rebranding, and also one of the most obvious. A union between two entities brings naturally and almost 100% of the times a change in image and identity. Under these particular situations, not only the company as a whole gets an opportunity to upgrade in brand images, but it is also more often than not an absolute must, if not a legal requirement. Same thing applies in the case of a schism between two corporate entities.

 

 

3.     Leadership shifts

Also a common root cause for corporate identity upgrade, the introduction of a new CEO, directors or high-end executives is often a period of deep reorganization and a great opportunity for companies to refresh their legacy and cornerstones, including their identity attributes.

 

 

4.     Milestones. Anniversaries.

Let’s take an example here, with German suitcase manufacturer RIMOWA, a company that just celebrated its 120th year of existence with a complete and profound makeover. Learn more here.

This is not uncommon for companies to take advantage of a new milestone to look into potential image upgrades. Why not do the same and use your next round-number anniversary to look into upgrade possibilities?

 

 

5.     Winds of change

If you monitor closely your sector (you definitely should), you know how swift your competition and/or target audience tends to adopt new standards. If you get the feeling you are entering a period of cultural change within your industry, smartly get a corporate identity committee up and running within your marketing department and empower it to report opportunities to adapt your image to the current shifts within the market. Here are a few examples of fast image changing sectors and categories where this tactic pay big dividends: food delivery, consumer electronics (especially computers), printing, cosmetics.

Like it or not, times change, and markets change with them. Adapting your logo, corporate identity visuals or retail environment will help to give your brand a boost, and can help propel your company into the changing future of your industry.

 

 

6.     Bad Reputation

Everybody knows the time-old adage ‘No one is perfect’. But as much as we cling to it as a life saving device through troubled times as individuals, it, unfortunately, doesn’t work with a business. When a company’s reputation is bad or drama hits your brand name, don’t expect anyone to forgive and forget. In these settings, you need to quickly move on and go for a complete rebirth. Following a time of crisis, internal changes are usually the first to be implemented: new product range, new strategy and even new personnel or leaders. But that is not enough unfortunately. You also want to look at shedding your company’s old, tainted skin in order to signal to the public that you have pleaded guilty to your past flaws but that a new dawn has come for you.

Famous and successful post crisis face-lifts: McDonalds, Nike, Kobe Bryant.

 

 

7.      Boring image

This might be subjective but it is actually the prime reason why a company should need to update its corporate identity. Sometimes there’s just no getting away from the fact that your branding has become boring and forgettable. Out with the old and in with the new as the saying goes. A rebrand can put a new spring in your company’s step, and helps to retain existing customers as well as gaining new ones. Not sure how you fare in your consumer’s eyes? Then don’t waste any more time and get in touch with a rebranding specialist to get a full image assessment and action plan.

 

 

8.      Adapting to emerging demographics

 

The older a company is, the greater the chance of its being perceived as “stale.” It’s a generational thing and sometimes, a brand simply needs to adapt to shifts in demographics. That starts with identifying and profiling the new target and adapting yourself to its standard and habits. In the US, Target is a perfect example of that type of move. The superstore chain was thought to be a low-end, outdated discount store and, seeing the emergence of rival Walmart, went into a full rebranding frenzy. They started by launching partnerships with millennial influencers, signed exclusive deals with designers such as Isaac Mizrahi, Mossimo Giannulli and Michael Graves and restyled their logos and corporate communication material. Now guess where the newer generation prefers to shop in the US?

 

 

9.     Expanding out of your domestic market

Depending on the industry, a company can be associated with a specific geographical region and that might be beneficial for the brand. Think about Belgian beers or French red wines for example, no need for them to adapt their styles and communication to their export markets : it is precisely that which makes them in-demand, a much as the product itself. With that being said, that local traditionalist approach to product identity doesn’t work in many sectors other than food. For instance, a European clothes retailer better adapts its visual language and identity before starting to enter, say, the Japanese market.

 

 

There are obviously more turning points in a company or a product’s life span when corporate identity can be revisited. As a rule a thumb, just keep one thing in mind: as far as corporate identity is concerned, the only constant is change. And you must keep an eye open at all times, continuously spot opportunities to improve your image and never be afraid to pull the trigger on a full corporate make-up should you hit one of those turning points.

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:

Experimenting:

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.


Illustrations:

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 »

Packaging Trends for 2018

Happy new year! 2018 has finally arrived and we want to wish you a very intense and prolific year.

Let’s start the year by establishing what’s at stake in the next 365 days, as far as packaging design is concerned. It is always of the utmost importance to enter the battlefield prepared and knowing what’s looming ahead.
If you follow us, you probably had a glimpse of what’s coming up in 2018 in our latest article:

Here’s the jist of our message back then:

“Product lifecycles as shorter than ever. Consumers’ attention spans are extremely divided. It thus becomes the marketing 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. Our simple answer is: Get inspired, continuously. Be aware of what’s going on around you and seek new ideas always. Remember that your job as a designer is more one of an artist than one of a project manager. Communicate your enthusiasm to your clients. Build and create furiously. Convey excitement to the consumer. Think outside the box, literally!”

This is it for the motivational speech for 2018. Now, let’s focus on the packaging specifics you’ll need to make yours throughout this year:

Trend #1: New Age Execution 

There’s a clear push from the marketplace to create a new style of attire around products: more fun, more dynamic, anything but something fresh and new! Lush is the perfect brand to illustrate that, their packaging options have indeed become the epitome of the new “Anti-packaging” era in 2017, which will explode in 2018. New material combinations (cork, recycled cardboard…), norm-breaking concepts and executions, eco-friendly designs matching the public’s newfound interest in helping save the world WHILE consuming…

Get on board! This is the truly where are things headed: bold initiatives that renovate packaging and excite the consumer.

Trend #2: Know your key targets

Product and packaging designers are entering an era where two consumer groups are to be catered to, namely: the survivors and the selectionists. The survivalists represent the fringes of the population struggling to make ends meet (students, millennials, retirees…) and for whom the perceived added value of a product is key within the purchasing process. For them, special attention needs to be put on costs, simplicity and functionality.

On the other side of the spectrum, the selectionists are the more wealthy among us. They aren’t so bothered about spending their money and trigger their buys solely based on quality, exclusivity and premiumness.

Make sure you know your public and understand which group you are targetting within the early stage of each and single one of your design projects.

Trend #3: Personalisation and e-Commerce

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. Indeed adding a personalized message or logo to the packaging helps to build stronger customer relationships, enhancing the overall experience with the brand.

Trend #4: Refreshed visual palette

It is an incredibly difficult task to predict what tomorrow is made of but through observing the industry’s latest movements and the latest customer’s reactions, we feel really strong about a few visual trends heading into the new year. Below you’ll find a few keywords, each tied to a visual inspiration, which will dictate the market in 2018:

Simplicity / Minimalistic

Mastering the minimalistic mood is one of your main to-do this year. Classic simplicity has a double advantage: it is visual extremely appealing but is also a way to merge the two consuming groups seen in trend#2 around a single product!

– Doodles

Doodles are the hip way of creating excitement these days and all age groups seem to have adopted them as an accepted visual style. Get these funky graphics and typography skills ready!

 

– Emphasis on Headlines

Make a concept jump at your audience’s face by using bold packaging typology and/or using the trending « Movie poster » visual codes.


– Pastel

Pastel tones never truly leave the packaging design landscape but there are seasons when you truly feel the soothing colour range becoming a dominant force. 2018 will be one of them.

Follow us through 2018 for regular trend updates!

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 hotel-industry.co.uk, 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.

The face of retail is changing

The face of retail is changing and it’s about time that we all started accepting this change.

Yes, in the past a company may have just needed to stock their shelves and open their doors in order to have customers flock inside and make purchases. Now, however, this simply is no longer the case. Why is this happening? Well, the word internet serves as a substantial explanation. However, deeper explanations can be found. Technology is rapidly advancing, changing the game and of course this is changing the way that we shop.

Modern-day retailers have to make sure that everything that they sell inside their brick-and-mortar stores are also available for purchase both online and inside mobile apps. Not only this, but they have to make sure that they are also running effective eCommerce options alongside, or in many cases instead of, the marketing of physical stores. This means that stores have to have options available to deliver the goods that we buy directly to our front doors and also be prepared to manage negative feedback when things go wrong on social media.

This is because, as customers, we are getting more and more demanding while our tolerance for failure is getting to the point where it’s virtually non-existent. We’ve seen the birth of customers who expect a seamless shopping experience whether we decide to buy on or offline. As customers now want the ability to do shopping online pretty much anywhere, for example while we’re on the train home, tapping on our smartphones or tablets. Likewise we also want to be able to do our shopping during our lunch breaks at work using our computers.

This explosion in different technologies is transforming the our shopping behaviour as a whole as well. We no longer find a product inside a shop and then buy it, instead we’re happy to spend more time online tapping away on our keyboards searching for the lowest possible price for the same product. We’ll spend more time online reading product and company reviews on websites such as Trustpilot ad and of course, we’ll demand that we have free options to return products if they’re not up to our expectations. If we do experience a problem, the first place we tend to voice our anger is social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

This also means that retailers now need to think about ways in which they can satisfy our demanding nature and please us unforgiving shoppers. This has led to an increase in companies who are struggling to ensure that they continually deliver a high level of customer service with customers, no matter how the customers try to interact with the company.

One example of the effects that this is having is the changes that are currently happening over in the United States. Just take a look at the sales figures across February and March and you’ll see that they’ve suffered the biggest slump for more than two years according to data that has recently been released by the US Government.

In this report, the US Census Bureau said that, overall, sales had declined staggeringly, by more than to two-tenths of a percent in March alone. Although this downturn had been expected, the sales figures were worse than predicted and this is believed to be a huge reflection of the changing landscape that’s currently happening within the States.

Business Insider recently commented that the changes reflect a retail apocalypse and it has led to a slew of bankruptcies and store closures up and down the country. In total, some 3,500 stores are expected to shut their doors for good in the next few years and these stores include some of the US’s major retail outlets including Macy’s, Sears and Kmart.

The changes are believed to be a result of the changing technology and the demographic shifts that are changing the way we do our shopping. At the heart of this change is millennials, those people who reached adulthood at the turn of the century, who are now more comfortable with using technology than they are in entering physical outlets.

Jack Kleinhenz, NRF Chief Economist said: “They’re more comfortable with new technology. They’re not buying stuff like we (Baby Boomers) did when we were in their age group. They’re on a different pathway in terms of their careers and their spending. And that’s changing how retailers are responding.”

This biggest change to affect retail shopping in the past ten years is the rise of eCommerce and, more recently, a rapid rise in the popularity of mCommerce (purchasing goods on your mobile phone). These two combined make it easier for us consumers to buy what we want when we have the urge to buy it. We no longer have to wait until the weekend where we have free time to head down to the nearest shopping centre, instead we simply pull out our smartphone, shop around for the best price and then buy online.

This is also combined with faster and cheaper delivery rates whereby we can buy something online and receive it the next working day for the same price as fuel.

These changes have led to many people believing that the coming years will see more brick-and-mortar stores clothing down across the United States. Not only that, but this has led to fears that we could also see the same happening soon in Europe. Huge, American-based stores such as Amazon are making it easier for us in Europe to buy anything online and receive our goods with minimal delay. This means that we no longer need to visit high street stores and therefore we’re beginning to see more physical stores closing and eCommerce and buying online becoming more and more popular.

The rise of the responsible consumer

You can’t have missed it, consuming responsably has become, more than just a mere trend, a real way of life for a growing number of people. After a series of revelations, scandals and accusations towards the food industry and with the rise of environmental issues and policies, consumers have started to feel more and more concerned about what they eat and how it is produced.

According to a study that was recently published by Havas Worldwide ‘Superbrands 2016: consumers and future business models’, which surveyed more than 10.000 people from 28 countries, 58% stated that their awareness concerning social and environmental impact of the products they consume has increased in the last years.

As well as this, 53% of them stated that they don’t allow themselves to buy products from companies that have a negative social or environmental impact.

The rise in demand of more responsible brands presents an opportunity for them to find new ways of competing thanks to this commitment. Consumers are becoming more conscious of the long-term effects of their daily purchases, this awareness makes them look for ally brands that allow them to live a more eco-friendly and healthy lifestyle.

Regarding this whole context, companies have a major role to play and they can also take advantage of it. Indeed, showing a true environmental or health commitment is now a boon to improve the likeability of a brand. The British brand Innocent for example, well known for their 100% natural smoothies and juices that are now organic, has managed to create real bounds with their customers through funny quirky communication, packaging that reflects the values of transparency and ethics made of recycled and recyclable materials, and true commitment with projects against global warming.

Therefore, if ethical and healthy products have turned into a new sales argument, be careful not to be accused of “green washing”! Certainly, the customer doesn’t like to be fooled, this is also why governments have implemented labels and certifications such as “green label”, “organic certified”, ISO 14000 norms …, to ensure the reliability of the products.

In Little Buddha, we recently worked on the branding and packaging of the Danish ecological tea brand Pickwick. Have a look!