• Home
  • Uncategorized

Category: Uncategorized

Packaging for the zombie generation

I love sports, dancing, skating, running… And healthy eating goes with it. This however has stopped me in my tracks, confused and perhaps a bit bewildered.

What were they thinking? Is it a promo merchandise goody for the latest apocalyptic movie hitting the screens? Or did I miss the band wagon of runners fashion etiquette? Or is it leftover stock from a yet unpublished branding exercise episode of The Apprentice?

Eventually I was ready to move on, Spring in my step and fuel your 10k hours left of the shelf. 

scary, not yummy, perhaps I'm not zombie enough!
scary, not yummy, perhaps I’m not zombie enough!

Nice idea, sack the art worker 

When the agency placing this advert for the saucy fish co got a copy of the magazine on their desks they must have had one of those moments…
How can this happen in today’s tech savvy world? Get a discount for the next one! What a shame.

print magazine artwork error

print magazine artwork error
Taking the biscuit – with crop marks

Icons conquering the world 

 Just to start the year – has it really been that long? – a nice little detail showing how a brand icon can blend with a standard icon to create a new meaning. 
Get switched on by Actimel. 
I like it!

Egg on your shop display designers!

(Or the POS department)…


What a shame! Someone in the display section of this major high street retailer really missed an opportunity. These egg timers have all the promise of making an eye catching product in the kitchen department. Why not try to feature them with an equally eye-catching display? Egg cups anyone? Or even better an egg box to be truly authentic with the amount of egg timers and different colours available.
I found this egg packaging endearing: behance – though just an open egg box would have been fine…
Lovely simple egg display…

A simple egg box would have done...
A simple egg box would have done…

Branding doesn’t stop with a good product and messaging. The packaging is just as important – and if there is none in a retail environment, POS or display design takes on a crucial role in expression that brand message. Looking at the shelf now it says bright and will fly around the house. Not sure.
If it was neatly displayed, and looked organised, that would be more my cup of tea. Kitchens get messy without anyone doing much of anything! If you compare this display to any of the  Joseph Joseph brand, I am quite certain they would have made a feature of the holder as much as of the product.
Ladle stand..

Chopping board file…

Ad hoc” tea infuser design with stand – no dripping, rolling off or mess after use

Branding is in the detail. And those little extra details can make all the difference in the busy shelves or high street shops…

Branding, packaging

Pandora – and that Valentine’s ad with just a bit too much flesh…

It’s made me stop every time I walked passed, which may be considered a good thing in the world of branding and advertising, but this advert has actually lost its charm for me.

I can’t decide if it is the strange nose like bit on the top of the ad or the background looking far too much like flattened skin with a ribbon and items spread across it. It’s just not working for me! It clearly can’t be skin because it would seem very peculiar to spread a number of bracelets across someone’s tummy and still have that much space left in-between without showing any limbs.

Oh well, Valentine’s is over so hopefully there will be another less curious advert appearing there instead.

Is it skin? Is it a nose? Whatever it is, it's not making me want to get near it!
Is it skin? Does it have a nose? Whatever it is, it’s not making me want to get near it!

post-office-branding-nessness post-office-branding-nessness post-office-branding-nessness post-office-branding-nessness

Sticks Together Nicely – Simple Post Office Brand Graphics

My advertising tutor at Central Saint Martins always talked about ‘ness-ness’ of things, about finding the essence of a subject matter and then visualising it in an engaging and simple manner. (Hello Clive!) Such adverts or brand messages have an innate honesty within them which may be the reason why they are often far more successful than complicated (and convoluted) displays.
This banner stand reminded me of the ness-ness tutorials. Using stamps to carry messages seems rather apt for the post office and whilst it’s probably nothing to shout about, the banner design feels appropriate and invites being read. We like!…

Nice use of ness-ness in this banner stand graphic

advertising, Branding, graphic design

SME Branding Lesson #20 – Function Over Form or Form Over Function?

I’m on holiday – thus the rather sporadic and short entries – but I always look out for anything branding related that can help my SME clients.
This one is a tricky one – it’s a design issue for sure but one a brand manager has to handle. Does your brand identity have to be forced onto every object even if it distracts from its clarity and even destroys its legibility?
Brand guidelines generally contain rules on how not to distort, change, discolour or deconstruct a brand icon or name – but perhaps we need to add another rule and send it to supermarket giant Sainsbury… How not to space out your brand name or website address!
Especially if people won’t consider your business a household name (yet) clarity is paramount and designs such as this example from Sainsbury can do more harm than good.
Sometimes it’s perhaps better not to feature a name or logo if it is confusing and detrimental to a brand – or find a different brand vehicle, pardon the pun…

brand management, graphic design, SME, vehicle design

Jamie Gets The Chop — Well, Nearly…

It might be just me but when I saw this packaging of people brand Jamie Oliver’s knife selection, I had to smile. For one, I am not sure if he’s such a pink guy but mainly the head is a bit close to the knife’s edge! A bit of Henry VIII maybe?
It would have been nice if, when they did the packaging design, they played with the presence of the knife and what the product does to try to link it visually to the brand.
It seems like a missed opportunity I hadn’t expected from the otherwise ‘super brand’ Jamie.


Levi Roots Has a Brand Message…

Sometimes I feel like officially complaining about the undervalued state of the branding and design industry.
Lament lament – every now and again the BBC does us a favour.
In the latest episode of The Apprentice – You’re Fired, Levi Roots explains that it was all wrong because of the marketing and the branding. Not just about the spelling mistake of the brand name, but about the visual messages not coming across.

Bellissimo Spelling mistake
Cringe factor. Wrong brand. Wrong brand message. - Photo from BBC

Levi nicely pointed out the importance of a professional image especially when dealing with other businesses in the trade industry.
They didn't get the message across.

Thank you Mister BBC and Levi Roots! Apart from the entertainment, it is very nice to be in a sector that once in a while is appreciated as a key factor in the success of a business. Made my day!

brand management, Branding, typography

I love this diagram – just wished I could include somehow the ‘unattainable triangle’ of speed, quality and price.

SME Branding Lesson #8 – Be Great and Stay Great Especially When You Are Wrong

It takes a long time to establish a brand and to become publicly known to the extend of some of our high street retailers, such as Marks & Spencer, John Lewis or Habitat.
It’s also a known fact that it is hard to ‘stay on top’. But what amazes me is the amount and magnitude of schoolboy errors such incredible brands make on a branch level.

M&S Logo Reflection
Diffused Brand Perception. Photograph: Christopher Thomond

We went suit shopping for my husband a while back in one of the largest Birmingham M&S stores. Anticipating the quality and service the brand promises, we were disappointed to find a badly organised suit section without any mirrors and with badly displayed garments that did not look in any way cared for.
We went to the changing rooms and frankly, by that time we were so frustrated with the experience that we thought it may help to talk to a floor manager to point out a few things and to ask for some assistance. Behold, we did find someone – but the lady was chatting to her colleagues that she just rushed past us explaining she was too busy to talk to us.
We thought it was a glitch in the brand matrix… We did not get a suit.
A few days ago we went shirt shopping (slightly less sophisticated) and it was a repeat just in a different town. The shirts on display were no longer clean, fresh and pristine looking but instead covered in a sprinkle on dust (and it wasn’t sparkly star dust) which made them appear dirty and old. They were laid out like a thrown together pile and the shop floor appeared uninviting, abandoned and unloved. When my husband made a member of staff aware of the dust bunnies and the fact that you could not find any system in the display of sizes, they just pretty much shrugged their shoulders and left him to it.
He didn’t get a shirt. But this time, he lost something else – the trust and positivity about the brand. Next time he needs either a shirt or a suit, M&S will be very low on the list of shops to invest his time in.
Costa coffee cup
I had a similar experience in Costa at a service station. (Nothing to do with shirts.) It was the weekend and we were driving down to Devon on a Friday night. It was cold and rainy. We sprinted into the service station with toddler needing the toilet and baby not wanting to stay alone in the car. I ordered a takeaway decaf coffee and the lady took my payment with my card and only realised when she came around to fulfill the order that they had run out of decaf coffee. She then asked me to wait and looked around the shop for a while to see if she could spot any more hidden away somewhere. After an uncomfortable long wait she asked someone else to check. They confirmed that unless I had a caffeinated coffee they could only refund the money.
Fine – I can’t take caffeine – so I expected my refund swiftly and was looking forward to putting baby back in his seat. But no – a refund to a card can only be issued by the manager. Someone went to find out where he was and returned after another long wait saying he had some stock to look at (no kidding, start with decaf coffee powder) and would be around 15 mins. It is then that my acquired English politeness went out the window and in came the German resolute warrior baby held fiercely as a weapon. A short exchange of ‘this is unacceptable…’ and I was about to march myself to the manager.
What saved the day was a quick-thinking – well, he did have quite some time to anticipate this and figure it out  but nonetheless – colleague who had overheard the discussion and concluded the lady give me back my money in cash and they could sort out the paper work later without me hanging around.
This may seem a bit of a long-winded way of making a simple point but I hope it illustrates a difference in approaching customer complaints. M&S were clearly not trained or authorised. The guy at Costa might not have been either, but he did have the guts and the compassion to do something to help me out.
Especially if you are a small business, it is super important to try to react to a ‘crisis’ or mishap in a professional manner that will re-instate any damaged trust in your brand. It is often the case that only in a crisis or when something unexpected happened a brand has the opportunity to show its true colours, the brand values that matter to consumers and clients. And in a lot of cases, if the company reacts in a forthcoming, professional and just manner, they will find an increased sense of loyalty and appreciation from the customer.
It can of course go the other way.
Here are just a few thoughts to consider when dealing with a brand crisis – be it a simple error or a major PR disaster:
1) Be Fast
It’s no good starting to respond weeks later when you get around to a customer’s complaint or concern. Be quick and you stand a much better chance to be in their good books again.
2) Be Compassionate
We are all humans, despite being hidden behind technology at times. Put yourself into their shoes and see how you would feel if something went wrong for you. Even if you can’t offer an outright easy solution – and even if the fault may not at all be yours but ‘user error’, showing compassion gives your brand a human voice and helps the conversation.
3) Be Genuinely Honest
If it was your fault, own up to it and work on a solution quickly. It is usually much better to own up when an issue is still resolvable then to put up the defenses and turn it into a much bigger thing. Trust relies on honesty and trust is one of the cornerstones of a successful brand. Being honest about an error is as important as being genuine in  your response so be careful how you react especially if tempers start flying high.
4) Be the Solution Provider
You thought this may happen, so you’ve written a plan (a long time ago…). It’s no good having strategies written out about how to deal with customer complaints if nobody bothers to adapt them – or has the ability to act on them with confidence. Train your staff to deal with different situations. Think of ‘what if’ and of potential answers. Try to ensure your client feels his issue matters to you and you are working on a solution.
5) Be a Fast Learner
You’ve resolved the issue and all is well, your client or customer has stuck with your brand and the future looks great. Repeat the mistake and you may not find yourself in such a good position. Bad news travels fast – even faster with social media tools – and when something appears to be happening time and time again, your brand risks creating a mental divide between what it appears to stand for and what it actually does. Prevention is the best medicine. After that, it’s vigilance once a problem has been identified.
Hope this helps!

brand management, SME

After Kodak, Can Old Brands Survive by Re-inventing Themselves?

Kodak logo
Kodak is the latest brand struggling for cash and has filed for bankruptcy protection. The photographic pioneer has over 130 years history – and they seemed to have made a successful transition from old school film and cameras to digital when digital cameras started to go mainstream – with the Kodak gallery as just one example of building brand relations with consumers and offering new products and services online. The problem there is a crowded market – newer and more modern looking versions of online digital photo printing companies have emerged and even the rather dull looking Picassa seems to have much more appeal. There are the obvious competitors including snapfish, photobox, digitalab and bonusprint and of course the almighty iPhoto.
It seems that their aspiration to become the new digital printing specialist, and their strategy to sell printers, even without making any money on them, to later gain profits on the sale and servicing of inks and parts, seems to have over stretched them somewhat and they are now trying to shed assets they can spare.

Loosing that Kodak moment

It may now cost them dearly that they did not focus more on increasing their brand value – more than 10 years ago, branding specialist Interbrand ranked Kodak number 16 of the most valuable brands in the world, estimated to be worth around $14.8 billion. Since then, the Kodak brand has fallen in both rank and value. 4 years ago it no longer appeared in the top 300 list with an estimated value of only $3.3 billion.
I am also not convinced by their strategy to become a digital printing specialist – is this really a future-proof market? With the emerging tablet market, reading news, books, etc and viewing photos has become so much simpler and more accessible already, with progress in the digital market how much of a need to print will there be?
Would it not be wiser to use the brand value they still possess and team up with another company to create something innovative and different, still capturing ‘that Kodak moment’?
We will have to see what they do about it now and if this latest move will help them to re-invent themselves with a good enough market share to thrive once again.

An innovation race – can Filofax still compete?

Filofax still occupies shelf space at WHSmith – but will it last?

I came across Filofax a couple of months ago when browsing through WHSmiths and I thought ‘must research what their brand strategy is as they have become largely irrelevant with the rise of smartphones and tablets as digital organisers and diaries…’ And just as I sit down now to look into it, I am finding press releases regarding their new strategy. It all sounds very clever and positive… but it does make me wonder if it is a short term fix without a long term vision for the brand.
Jon Morse at Filofax says in an interview:
“With so many working days spent at a computer, we have seen many customers crave the tactile feel of pen to paper. Filofax offers the user a quiet, private moment and a solid hard copy of personal information.
Our strategy is not to compete with technological advances, but rather, to position ourselves as a fashionable, luxury paper-based product for those moments away from the screen. We find many customers using both a smartphone and an organiser.”
Gordon Presly, CEO of the Filofax Group, comments, “Our collaboration with Temperley London for Filofax was a natural development given Alice has a real passion for Filofax and importantly shares many of the qualities of our customers, as a creative individual, successful business woman and mother with a busy and fulfilled personal and work life. We were intrigued to give Alice full rein to create a bespoke collection that would give birth to her vision of the perfect Filofax for others to use when juggling busy lives, yet with a desire to look stylish. We take a long term view to our partnership with Temperley London as part of a wider fashion focused strategy, positioning Filofax as the ultimate lifestyle accessory for creative and self-fulfilled individuals.”
It seems an interesting repositioning strategy to aim at the luxury market – and collaborating with fashion designers such as Alice Temperley is an interesting interpretation of that strategy and allows to set a higher price point to the diaries, creating desire and establishing it as a sort of fashionista insider must have accessory. If this catches on with the young generation, and if their business can be profitable within the luxury sector (perhaps they could where they may sell less but for a much higher price and more margin), it may all be just lovely.
But I am a bit doubtful about the longevity of this strategy. Smartphones won’t go away any time soon. They come accompanied by an army of accessories – some luxury, some tat, so the ‘bespoke’ need in smartphone users is easily satisfied among a lot of different market segments.

Finding a point of difference

What does a Filofax do that a smartphone or tablet app won’t (other than the feel of the paper that you will curse when you have left it at your favourite hangout or in a taxi after a champagne reception at an exclusive art gallery…)?
With applications such as Evernote, where you can collect voice memos, notes, photos, videos, anything really and it is synced to your computer, with those invited to share the documents, and backed up, I can’t shake the suspicion that Filofax is going to be a victim of technology just like so many other brands that have vanished from our high street.
It is amazing how the brand has managed (and keeps doing so) to cling on to the executive and gift market – one can hardly describe this with ‘by re-inventing themselves’. It is more of a sense of familiarity, tradition and safe choice for the ‘more mature’ generation, but if they are sufficiently enthused brand ambassadors to pass on that passion for a paper diary to the next generation is to be seen. This Filofax site gives some great insight into the passion of the brand followers.

Hesitation – for and against the brand

I can’t see myself carrying one around a Filofax as well as my smart phone. It used to be quicker to just leaf through a paper diary and jot a note down but the latest models of smartphones are so interactive and easy to use, it takes longer to find a pen that writes than it takes to instruct SIRI.
As for the ‘creative individual’ – I do not leave the house without one paper based product which I use for gathering thoughts and observations; my sketchbook. But it would be hopeless as a diary and I would not see the point in spending a premium on it as a fashion item. When it comes to a sketchbook, for me personally, it is content over form.
However, there is the element of social and business etiquette where it may be frowned upon to pull out your iPhone or Blackberry during a consultancy meeting or a presentation to a client, but it would be acceptable to scribble notes in a branded, leather-bound diary. This is where I still see relevance for the product, and certainly for the brand, given that they offer well-designed, bespokable inserts to the leather cases.

So, what could a long-term strategy be?

Could they bring back production to the UK and make it a true luxury brand that becomes an executive status symbol? Perhaps they should also re-visit their website design to create a more luxury feel and to better translate their current brand strategy.
Certainly the luxury brands have many advantages of premium and budget brands. They are less likely to be hit by economic fluctuations. They play with the human basic instinct – which include ‘envy’ in some shape or form. They become status symbols we use to align ourselves with a certain group of people we want to belong to – they are tribal and due to the price factor this can be a very exclusive tribe that is a great aspiration for those not part of it.
Linking to the fashion industry – and making it more about the ‘outside’ and working on the ‘inside’ to be extremely customisable and clever could be a good strategy after all.

Another thought for long-term innovation

The BlackBerry Porsche is just one example of a collaboration of brands

Whilst I would not invest in Filofax even with their new strategy, here is a thought that I find much more exciting (and challenging of course). Mr Letts develops a product with an Android tablet that is created to service future Filofax lovers – with bespoke diary keeping software.
That way, the leather bound, high quality, board room suitable tablet cases would be the link to the old. The bespoke software – it will need to be excellent – would be the link to the new. Bespoke collaborations are nothing new – remember SMART when Mercedes-Benz has not yet pulled out and the Blackberry Porsche is just a recent example.
It will be interesting to see where the brand is in a year’s time – and if they want to hire me, I am available from March onwards 😉

Brand Strategy, differentiation

Standeazy has a press clipping!


We made it into the Christmas guide of B7Living magazine! It’s only a small feature, but it’s a start and reflects the feedback we get from those that have seen the phone stand in action – a nifty little gadget…
What was interesting to see from a PR point of view was that we had increased sales from within the reach of the magazine for about two weeks which enables us to put a value on to the piece and can become part of a marketing strategy.
Happy Christmas!

PR, Standeazy

You know you’ve made it as a brand if…

… you are part of this game from Drummond Park. It’s a Trivia board game that includes 400 cards with 1600 questions and has the aim to identify images and answer questions based on logos, products and packaging of the UK’s most well-known brands.
I’ve not been inspired to buy it to find out who’s in it – but from the packaging it looks like the major household brands are featured, including the likes of Heinz, Birds Eye, Walkers, Pampers, BMW and National Express.

Logo Game
Brands in a box - and the consumer's mind

It does make me smile considering how brand savvy we are these days – enough to persuade a games manufacturer to release a whole entertainment spiel surrounding brands. Are you in it? Should you be in it? Maybe it will have to go on my Christmas wish list!


Great Framework…

Whilst I will always be the first one to point out amateurish signage or posters in shop windows as detrimental to a brand, I did have to smile about this one. It’s nothing special, but somehow it just works being subtle and a bit ‘Smile in the Mind’.
I like!


Press releases that are being read

… and for today’s Standeazy revelation? Having just written a press release for Christmas and how the stands are a perfect little stocking filler, it did occur to me that perhaps I need to take a different approach to let people know about the product.
It has bugged me for a while now that the only seasonal variation is that of the ‘occasion’ you may want to buy the phone stand for, so I am now going to explore writing about the people behind the product, the process of how it existed and issues surrounding the use of stands – perhaps this will add some variety and interest to the releases and attract some journalist to discover just how clever the little cards are…


Ecademy and How to Write a Pitch

So what does a product need to go to market? A brand analysis. Tick. A strategy for its brand positioning in the market, its proposed dialogue with stakeholders, its social media engagement. Tick. A brand identity that captures the essence of the brand in a visually engaging manner. Thick. A website to start the dialogue (and sell the product). Tick. Packaging, a system of distribution and after sales care. Tick. The list goes on and there are more ticks in place – but also some big gaps appear on the scene.
A PR strategy. A way to contact buyers of B2B and B2C outlets. Search Engine Optimisation. Presence in relevant forums. Independent reviews of the product. And all this with no budget. Meet my Monday morning task list. No point in trying to run before I can walk , so this morning I concentrate on asking questions relating to approaching buyers.
I have long been a blackstar at Ecademy and the community has always been very helpful and professional, so off to the forum I go and ask my question. The answers are useful as always. There is a series of videos by Mike Harris talking about how to structure a pitch. I have a skype conversation lined up for Tuesday to chat to another blackstar about this – she did mention she thinks it’s a brilliant product so that is very encouraging.
Another reply from the owner of a merchandise business suggests that it will be very hard to pitch the product (the Standeazy phone stand that is) because the market already has a lot of different phone stands. So without having been able to view the videos talking about how to structure and develop a pitch, here is my attempt to explain why Standeazy is perfect as a promotional gift:

Proposed Sales Pitch for Promotional Gift Buyer

Standeazy phone stand abstract design with iphone and samsung
It's great for displaying a brand or message on the tab (here featuring the standeazy name)

What is it? Standeazy is a universal phone stand for smartphones or devices such as the iPod Touch with a special mechanism that makes it stable, yet portable and very easy to set up wherever you are. (Patent pending.) Standeazy is manufactured in the UK, made from Priplak® Polypropylene and is identically sized to a credit card which makes it easy to keep in your wallet.
Why should you care as a promotional gift seller? There are thousands of promotional products for the technology sector, at different price points and with different branding opportunities. However, Standeazy provides a unique credit card sized flat surface ready to carry the message of small or big brands – and because it fits in the wallet and is used time and time again in public, in the office or at home, this message gets maximum visibility.
The tab holding the phone provides a prominent place for a key message or brand identity.
When folded flat, the Standeazy acts as a business or marketing card.
It connects a brand with the ever-increasing smartphone market, and with a sense of clever, customer-friendly, innovative thinking.
Standeazy is not just a gadget a client may brand as their own, it is a marketing tool that is as cheap as a well-made business card and as practical as an expensive standard phone stand for hands-free use of smartphone applications.
So what is that smartphone stand stuff all about? Smartphones are becoming more and more part of the consumer and corporate lifestyle. Standeazy holds smartphones with or without protective cases in landscape or portrait mode.
This means, for instance, that hands-free video conferencing via Skype or FaceTime is possible wherever you are – without any expensive or time-consuming set up. In the office, apps such as Air Display greatly benefit from the phone stand, enabling users to shift toolbars or selected applications to one side without the need for a second monitor.
We’ve had mums and dads feedback that the stands are now an irreplaceable part of toddler entertainment keeping the little ones occupied with some kids’ videos whilst recharging the parental batteries – with the phone safely placed on the table, away from curious fingers.
We’ve seen our stands being used by patients in hospital watching videos as a diversion without having to hold their iPod – and by business people on the train watching movies on their iPhone to pass the journey time.
Being useful for both males and females, for professionals and families, young and old, Standeazy is an ideal promotional gift that is not seasonal and, unlike the majority of conventional gift items, displays a company’s brand/message ‘on the go’ rather than being left in the office or at home.
Solving a growing need of smartphone users for an ultra-portable phone stand, it gives your client a unique platform to address their stakeholders be it as a giveaway at an exhibition, a direct mail item or a ‘welcome’ gift.
———-the end———-
I am bracing myself for much appreciated feedback. I am not sure if this is too short, too long, too inconcise, if I need to mention the costs, the reviews, order times, etc. Curious to see what comes back…

marketing, PR, Standeazy

Get in touch

We'd love to have a chat – feel free to drop us a line at info@essence-design.co.uk

Copyright © 2020 Essence Design Ltd