Effective Packaging Design: 5 Do’s and Don’ts to help Relaunch a Large Portfolio (& Brand Architecture) Successfully

Are you planning to launch or relaunch an extensive product range or are you tasked with modernizing a big family of products that have started to look a bit dated? Are you managing a large product portfolio, which over the years has started to look fragmented and would you like it to turn it into a harmonized and consistent looking family on shelf? Does your product portfolio appear scattered across different areas of a supermarket and are you planning a re-branding exercise to help increase your brand’s visibility in trade? Or are you looking to leverage the opportunities of a big re-branding exercise to turn your brand into a credible authority in the segments it operates in, providing higher chances of success for new product launches or future line, range or brand extensions?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions then you’re working on a brand architecture project and the 5 do’s and don’ts I will be discussing below might help you manage your brand relaunch more effectively.

#1 – DON’T REDESIGN A LARGE PORTFOLIO STEP-BY-STEP (OR YOU’LL END UP SPENDING YOUR BUDGET MULTIPLE TIMES)

Cost are always an issue when considering a large range redesign and understandably so, as agencies can charge you a hefty fee for designing multiple product ranges at once whilst also developing an architecture solution that works across ranges, all at the same time.

Be wary of the agency’s client service person who tells you it’s OK to redesign your range step-by-step, its likely you’re about to be taken on a ride on the agency’s money train!
Sure it seems like a smart thing to do, spend a little and spend in steps but not only are you giving away your negotiating power when discussing budgets for smaller parts of a bigger project, you’ll also likely end up paying a premium for designing loose ranges one by one, which when multiplied by the total scope, will end up costing you much more in the end then when smartly combining things from the start.

Another thing to worry about when taking the step-by-step approach is that you might end up with a solution that works on 1 range but not across a wider portfolio. Or worse, a completely inconsistent solution that doesn’t allow you to leverage the many benefits a strong architecture solution can provide. Guess who will pay for mistakes made along the way that were not considered part of the smaller brief the agency was working on? Exactly. You!

DO GET YOUR AGENCY TO FOCUS ON SOLUTIONS WITH THE END IN MIND, WHILST ENSURING THE AGREED METHODOLOGY COVERS THE ENTIRE PROJECT SCOPE, DELIVERING SOLUTIONS IN CLEARLY DEFINED STEPS

Because an architecture brief typically is complicated, do take your time to clarify objectives and priorities and plan your approach carefully.

A good approach to solve any complex problem typically breaks a challenge down into smaller chunks developing solutions step-by-step, just ensure the end is kept in mind from start to finish. Ensure milestones and deliverables throughout the various stages of an architecture project are clearly defined.

Whenever possible, work with someone you trust and ideally someone who you’ve partnered up with for some time to ensure both parties share a same long term agenda. If you are selecting a new partner let a few agencies prepare proposals and ask them to talk you through their suggested approach in detail. The right partner will not only take the time to discuss their best approach they will also make you aware of possible pitfalls and things to avoid.

#2 – DON’T RUSH INTO VISUAL EXECUTIONS

A beautiful finishing touch does not belong at the initial stages of an architecture solution or big range relaunch. An agency that presents you beautiful visual executions at the early stages of a large portfolio redesign might have their priorities mixed up, or might try to hide a weak architecture solution under a beautiful visual execution.

DO START WITH FUNCTIONAL SOLUTIONS AND SCHEMATICS TO ENSURE SOLUTIONS ARE FLEXIBLE ENOUGH TO WORK ACROSS THE ENTIRE PORTFOLIO
There’s absolutely no need to enter full concept and graphics mode early on in a large architecture project. You don’t decorate a house before construction has been completed either right?

Neither should architecture projects focus on aesthetics from the start. Ensure the agency is focused on presenting functional solutions to issues such as what area or zone on a pack holds branding messages, which area or zone contains sub brand or product differentiation cues and what area or zone deals with varianting.

Architecture solutions should typically start with planning pack layouts and the best way to do that quickly and easily is by using schematics on roughly outlined shapes.

Make sure your agency works right from the start of a project with a variety of extreme pack formats, so schematic solutions are developed in a pragmatic way with the end in mind, flexible enough to work across a large range of varying shapes, while maximizing the use of the space on a pack. What works on a single SKU big on screen might not look great on a different format, size or orientation.

#3 – DON’T JUST JUDGE ARCHITECTURE SOLUTIONS ON FIRST IMPRESSION

While it’s true that for many simple packaging jobs your gut feeling and first impression will go a long way, a complicated architecture solution often requires that you look at proposed design solutions differently.

DO CAREFULLY REVIEW DESIGN SOLUTIONS AT THE EQUITY LEVEL, AS WELL AS WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF THE RETAIL ENVIRONMENT
Since aesthetics should not be the focus at the very early stages here are a few other things you should be paying attention to:

When judging an architecture redesign, always make sure you judge the performance of individual design elements. Each could potentially be developed to become a key equity element for your brand, contributing to visibility and recognition; 2 important drivers for sales.

Evaluate how your brand’s colors perform? Does your logo tell your brand’s story, does it look modern enough, is its styling looking its best? Does a brand logo migrate easily off pack and is the logotype differentiated and unique? What about the treatment of subbrands, product or variant descriptors? Are they executed well and do their executions make sense. Are elements that belong together also grouped together so a pack is easy to read? How about that hero product shot or main visual element that should communicate your brand’s benefit story on the pack? What about other elements like perhaps that benefit icon you might want to campaign off-pack.

Make sure you prioritize which messages are most important and ensure these are seen and noticed in that order. Consumers read from left to right and from top to bottom in most parts of the world, so layouts should follow the eye for an easy and intuitive experience.

Make sure you are aware of category language, but instead of blindly following category language develop your own vision of what makes sense. Decide which elements are really important for a shopper and which category executions are best practice.

#4 – DON’T FOCUS TOO MUCH ON HOW YOU INTERNALLY SEE YOUR PORTFOLIO

It is not easy for many marketeers working on a large portfolio’s to consider your portfolio from a consumer point of view and to stay focused on that throughout a re-branding exercise.

Often solutions are checked against various internal KPI’s, requirements or other internal conditions, half of which are not relevant to the consumer at all. It’s fine to sprinkle a little of your own story over a relaunch, but understand a relaunch should not be focused on making the management board happy, for long term commercial success marketeers must stay focused on the consumer and solutions should ladder up to deliver superior value for them.

DO LET THE CONSUMER DEFINE SOLUTIONS AND KEEP THE SHOPPER IN MIND WHEN DESIGNING PORTFOLIO SOLUTIONS
The best time for some portfolio rationalization and clean up work is when you relaunch your brand. What strategically seemed like a logical extension based on available resources and capabilities at the time, now might be considered by your consumers a total misfit or a non-credible stretch of your brand. If certain SKU’S feel out of place, no longer fit your brand positioning or don’t contribute much actual value, delisting them might make more sense than relaunching them. Now is the time to take action and make decisions on whether a bit of a clean up is warranted.

Another important way to show your shoppers your redesign efforts are focused on delivering better value for them, is by improving range navigation and shoppability of your brand.

To do that, make sure you judge solutions on how easy they make it for a shopper to find a product, how easy they make it to differentiate between variants and how easy they make it to decode benefits or unique selling points of your products versus competition. Since every second counts at shelf, it’s also very important to know how quickly a consumer is able to achieve the above.

Still, too many agencies exist that consider packaging design solutions only in isolation while effective packaging always needs to perform in the context of its retail environment. Make sure you always see shelf simulations or use mockups and packshots of competitor products to develop the shelf look and planogram ensuring you can assess how solutions perform in reality.

If shelf strips or hangers block the bottom half or top half of your pack that vertical branding solution might make most sense. If a certain color doesn’t make sense in the category context but does allow your brand to pop out from the shelf and getting great visual impact it might not be such a bad idea after all.

Last but not least do some consumer profiling and make sure you wear different hats when evaluating solutions.

Do you want to reposition your brand to target a different audience? Then this requires you to reconsider how design cues and codes can make your product more relevant to them, do proposed design solutions help your brand enter their consideration set, capture  attention in the right way so you have best chances a new audience tries your product?

Are you addressing a dual audience where the buyer is not the user, for example a mum who is buying a product for her child? Ensure design solutions appeal to both, you might need to build cues into the design that triggers ‘pester power’ whilst ensuring the quality cues mums are looking for are incorporated as well.

#5 – DON’T SKIP THE BRAND BOOK

The worst thing to see happen to a newly relaunched brand is that design principles are violated right after a relaunch.

Once a project is completed marketeers typically enter execution mode and rush to prepare the launch campaign to introduce the new look and feel to the general public, very quickly the design principles for a consistent harmonized family look are forgotten and a new line extension might be developed that doesn’t follow the new style, or a new product range is added that is not very compatible with the new design system.

Different teams might start to go to work adapting artwork in local languages or are trying to figure out how to apply new designs to the context of their local markets and without clear guidelines extreme amounts of time and effort might be needed to police the actions of others working on the same brand.

DO SPEND TIME DEVELOPING A FEW BRAND >GUIDELINES TO ENSURE YOUR NEW RANGE SOLUTION IS NOT COMPROMISED WHEN DOING THE FIRST LINE EXTENSION OR PRODUCT LAUNCH
Spend some time putting a brief manual together that shows what the new design looks like.

Explains the key design principles behind the re-branding exercise and provide some application guidelines or templates on how to develop future projects within the same style.

Spend some time identifying the brand identity building blocks that together form the visual executions and explain how equity elements can be used when creating new custom design adaptations.

Develop some layout templates for typical pack sizes and formats that indicate what can and cannot be changed when creating a new variant or line extensions.

It sounds simple and might feel unneeded but skip the brand book and you’ll soon face another situation of chaos or disharmony that you’ve just spend months of time on, trying to fix. Ensure you build your brand with vision and direction as well as consistency and focus and a set of brand guidelines make life a whole lot easier.

Closing Thoughts
Now, by no means the above is an all-inclusive list of how to best run a large portfolio re-branding exercise but hopefully it gives a few ideas and pointers on what you should and should not do.

Developing a brand architecture solution on which to build a consistent family look is one of the more complicated types of packaging design projects and since the cost of the exercise usually are not marginal, it’s best to be prepared and spend time doing things right.

If you’d like to discuss how to best work out a solution for your portfolio relaunch in the right way, feel free to get in touch.

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