Audio in Branding

Logos and images are some of the most historically powerful brand identifiers, but with today’s overcrowded, sugar-rushed digital landscape, visuals alone are no longer enough to cut through the noise. The use of audio in branding is proving to be just as important as graphics for developing positive brand perception, creating a richer environment for users to interact with.

 

 

Audio technology has changed drastically in recent years thanks to artificial intelligence-powered systems like Amazon Echo, Google Home, and other voice-assisted devices. Amazon has already licensed Alexa into everything from speakers to toys, and many brands are looking at how to best utilize these devices to help sell their products.

Fashion brand Perry Ellis is launching an “on-demand styling service” using Alexa technology, which allows users to vocally ask for style recommendations based on occasion, location, weather, etc. The connected app can generate a rendered image, showing customers how outfit pieces would look together and directing them where to buy the products.

 

 

According to Perry Ellis president Melissa Worth in her interview with Digiday, the verbal questions captured by Alexa will also become an important source of consumer data for the brand. By learning what their consumers are curious about and what new trends they’re interested in adopting, Perry Ellis can tailor their marketing and product development strategies accordingly. This is another advantage of audio branding, that brands now have the opportunity to learn new information about their shoppers by allowing bots and other voice-enabled technologies to engage them in verbal conversation.

Podcasts also provide a unique content marketing channel for brands, one that can command all of their sense of hearing – unlike visual mediums, which must constantly fight for attention. GE, Tinder, Spotify, Virgin Atlantic, Netflix, and State Farm are just some of the companies that are experimenting with audio shows as a way to improve consumer engagement.

Other companies are taking advantage of podcasts by cross-promoting with established broadcasting networks. For example, Gimlet Media did a branded podcast series for eBay called Open for Business, and it quickly became the top business podcast on iTunes. The second season of the series launched in March.

 

 

On October 11th, Blue Apron is debuting a podcast, also in partnership with Gimlet, called Why We Eat What We Eat. Hosted by recipe maven Cathy Erway, the production will take an anthropological approach to the biggest food trends of today. Blue Apron – which has reportedly been experiencing a series of financial problems – is likely hoping that this marketing campaign will be profitable enough that they can cut back promotional spending in other channels. Last year, Blue Apron’s revenue gains significantly lagged behind their increase in marketing spending, and they have been dealing with criticism ever since.

Corporate podcasts are a natural extension of the branded content phenomenon. Written pieces have worked well for brands looking to make a meaningful connection with consumers, and podcasts are similarly inexpensive to produce. According to Forbes, “the cost-to-value ratio for podcasts is incredibly low…the average CPM for a successful podcast can be between $20 and $45, compared to $1 to $20 for web ads, or $5 to $20 for TV.”

Brands that rely on purely visual mediums of engagement are going to lose out. By taking multisensory media approaches, companies can become a more integrated and important part of their customers’ daily lives.

Top 5 Designs from the Fast Food Industry

How do you enhance the customer experience when it comes to fast food? Whether it is a viral campaign or innovative packaging, great fast food design can boost sales and even make people feel better about what they’re eating.

We know that great typography, color schemes, and the overall feel of fast food packaging can improve the dining experience for customers, but some designs really go above and beyond to take the meal to the next level. Here are five creative fast food designs that we think break the mold.

Burger King’s Proud Whopper

 

 

In celebration of the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade, Burger King debuted a “new” menu item called the “Proud Whopper.” While it was really just a normal Whopper with a colorful wrapper, some customers noted that they tasted flavors that aren’t typically present in the signature sandwich, such as sweetness, making a case for the relationship between packaging and the placebo effect.

The wrapper doubled as a rainbow peace flag, with bold copy proclaiming that “WE ARE ALL THE SAME INSIDE.” The campaign was a viral success, with over one billion media impressions and $21 million in earned media amongst seven million views. It also had 450,000 blog mentions and became the number one trending topic on Facebook and Twitter.

Dunkin’ Donuts Chameleon Cup

 

 

Dunkin’ Donuts worked with designer Tiago Pinto to come up with a solution to a problem that plagues many coffee sellers: how to communicate that the beverage could be dangerously hot in a concise, attractive way.

They wanted to add value to the customer’s experience while making sure that design played a central role in the message’s execution. They came up with a brilliant coffee cup that warns drinkers when the beverage is too hot. A temperature sensitive paint is activated when the temperature of the inside of the cup rises above 70°c. When the coffee cools, the cup turns to Dunkin’s normal white cup and iconic logo.

 

Pizza Hut’s Blockbuster Box

 

 

Is there a more iconic pairing than pizza and movies? Ogilvy Hong Kong recognized the value of this match and created a genius marketing endeavor to combine the two with the Blockbuster Box.

The Blockbuster Box contains a special plastic “pizza table” that keeps the greasy goods away from the walls of the box. The table has a built-in lens, which can be slotted through a perforated hole on the side of the box.

Once you’ve inserted the lens into the side of the pizza box, you’ll need a smartphone to power the experience. After you place your smartphone in the center of the Blockbuster Box, the lens will magnify your smartphone’s display and project it onto the wall.

 

McDonald’s McBike

 

 

With fast food’s general focus on the drive-thru, it can be easy for quick service restaurants to neglect their bike-riding customers. McDonald’s is there to make sure that cyclists can enjoy the same nuggets as their driver counterparts.

McDonald’s blatantly ripped off by a concept created by Master’s student Seulbi Kim from Rhode Island School of Design, though version features an additional slit that allows the customer to slide the box through handlebars.

According to her portfolio, “Seulbi created the project as a means to carry fast food more effectively and reduce fast-food packaging by 50%”. She told Business Insider that she was not contacted regarding the bag she designed. “It’s cool to have my design out in the real market but also not really cool to have it copied without my permission,” she told Business Insider. McDonald’s could not be reached to comment on the product design.

 

Taco Bell “Eat Your Words”

 


Canadians are passionate about food, especially the items south of the border that are just out of reach. When Taco Bell announced its new Doritos Locos Taco in the USA, mouths and stomachs across the country were united in a glorious tastebud party. Canada was not invited to that party, and they weren’t afraid to express their frustrations over social media.

Tweets like “Every day that goes by that Canada does not have the Doritos Locos Taco at Taco Bell, I die a little more inside” and “Sure #Canada we get free medicare and shit. BUT wheres the taco’s with Doritos as a shell?” were pouring in.

From those tweets the “Eat your words” campaign was born from Taco Bell in collaboration with Grip Limited agency. Once the Doritos Locos Tacos did finally arrive in the North, it was Taco Bell’s chance to literally make them eat their words. Acquiring marginally-advanced laser technology, they etched some of the more colorful social posts onto the actual taco shell itself.

The campaign went viral, countless DLTs were consumed, and even marked one of the greatest moments of some people’s lives.

Next time you are out grubbing on fast food, think of ways that designers could make it a better experience for customers and let us know if you have any ideas.

8 Trends from Natural Products Expo East 2017

Last weekend, we took a trip to Baltimore for Natural Products Expo East 2017, where hundreds of exhibitors came out from all over the country (and, in some cases, the world) to show the industry what they have to offer. While events like this are a magnet for unique, one-of-a-kind products, there were still some emerging trends that caught our attention. Here are eight trends that we noticed beginning to sweep the natural foods category:

Alternative Ingredients for Special Diets

 

 

Can’t have dairy? Fronana and Revolution Gelato are here to make sure that you can still enjoy a creamy, frozen treat. Can’t have meat? Jackfruit is finally coming into its own as a remarkably meat-like option – the samples of BBQ pulled jackfruit from the Jackfruit Company were practically indistinguishable from chicken or pork. Can’t have eggs, wheat, fish, milk, soy, shellfish, peanuts, or tree nuts? The dietitian behind Crunchy Kitchen feels your pain. After developing severe allergies following the birth of her daughter, she and her husband developed a line of wraps and waffles that feature plantains as a primary ingredient and are free of the top eight allergens.

Kombucha

 

While kombucha has been rapidly growing in popularity as a bottled beverage, we weren’t anticipating the sheer volume of kombucha brands present at the expo. Flavored with everything from lavender to cola, we are getting far more varieties of the fermented tea than we’ve ever seen before. If the expo is any indicator of what’s to come, we could soon see kombucha move out of the niche health space and expand even further into the mainstream.

Sap Drinks

 

 

With the demand for natural sweeteners continuing to grow, beverages that feature ingredients like maple and honey are taking off. Maple also pairs well with fruit, giving producers a wide range of options for flavor combinations.

 

Nuts and Seeds

 

 

The rhetoric around nut allergies is changing, and it’s probably not a coincidence that we are now seeing more and more products featuring nuts. For those whose systems can handle them, nuts are a very healthy snack that can be eaten raw or, increasingly, used as an alternative to dairy.

 

Organic Eggs

 

 

One of the more surprising trends that we noticed was a push for organic eggs. While several brands were selling eggs in traditional cartons, some brands are highlighting the specialness of their product by using alternative packaging, like bags.

 

RTD Coffee

 

 

With McDonald’s selling bottled McCafe drinks, the market is clearly embracing ready-to-drink coffee. Most brands are attempting to differentiate their product in some way, whether in packaging (ie., selling in cans rather than bottles), flavor profile (ie., removing the bitterness for a softer taste), or properites (ie., combining the coffee with an energy drink).

 

Squeezable Pouches

 

 

It’s arguable that brands like Yoplait pioneered this area years ago with products like Go-Gurt, but with the success of GoGo Squeeze (both with consumers and with valuable corporate partners), many more brands are coming out with drinkable products in pouches. Some brands like Once Upon a Farm have developed more traditional products like squeezable fruit blends and puddings, while others are using the packaging for more unusual snacks. Serenity Kids, for example, is using the packaging for savory meat-and-vegetable pastes.

 

Tea

 

 

Possibly due in part to the popularity of kombucha, tea also made a major splash at the show. Instagram favorite Fit Tea was there, as was Moonshine Tea (which partners with children’s charities), and Cusa Tea. Like the RTD coffee category, tea brands are setting themselves apart by offering some kind of added value. Fit Tea is for dieting and detoxing, for example, and Cusa Tea is a convenient choice as a premium instant tea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yum: Ruby Chocolate and the History of Chocolate Innovation

On Tuesday, September 5th, 2017, Swiss chocolate manufacturer Barry Callebaut announced in a press release that they had invented a brand-new type of chocolate. Called “ruby chocolate” after its natural rosy pink coloring, the candy is said to be wildly different from traditional milk, dark, or even white chocolate in both flavor and appearance. Despite having no fruit flavoring (which might be expected, considering its hue), Barry Callebaut has said that their new chocolate has a smooth, berry-like taste.

The inventors of the chocolate have described the product’s coming launch as an attempt to “satisfy a new consumer need found among millennials – hedonistic indulgence,” fulfilling that desire simply by being exciting and different.

The attractive color definitely doesn’t hurt the candy’s chances in this market, as young consumers have a history of embracing colorful foods. From rainbow bagels to black ice cream to Unicorn Frappuccinos, snacks that have a bold aesthetic are an in-demand commodity in the Instagram age.

Some have questioned whether or not it’s a good idea to mess with such a classic and beloved treat. The love of chocolate seems to be such a universal feeling that is has practically become cliché, and many consumers have a strong emotional investment in the sweet. From the Mayans to today’s trick-or-treaters, countless generations of enthusiasts from around the world have indulged and been delighted by the confection.

 

Chocolate has been around for centuries (early evidence of chocolate consumption has been dated as far back as 1900 B.C.), but the current trifecta of milk, dark, and white chocolate is a far more recent development than you might expect.

White chocolate was first launched by Nestle in Europe in the 1930s. It purportedly originated as a means of using up excess cocoa butter, as the product is made with a very high cocoa butter content. Today, cocoa butter must account for at least 20% of a white chocolate bar for it to legally qualify as such.

It wasn’t until 1948 that Nestle brought white chocolate to the U.S. on a mass scale, beginning with the almond-filled Alpine White chocolate bar. The bar was well-received and was available to consumers until the 1990s, when it was eventually discontinued.

Nestle was also involved in the creation of milk chocolate in the mid-1870s, as Henri Nestle, who invented powdered milk, helped inspire his friend and neighbor Daniel Peter to start adding milk to chocolate bars. Together they formulated the first successful milk chocolate recipe, which would go on to become a sensation.

Chocolate bars themselves had only been invented forty years prior to Nestle and Peter’s breakthrough, in 1847. Joseph Fry, in discovering a chocolate formulation that could be molded and would hold its shape, brought “eating chocolate” into the world, which had previously only known of chocolate as an ingredient in beverages.

All of this is to say that such a radical shake-up in the chocolate world is not as far-fetched as it may initially sound. We don’t yet know when ruby chocolate will be made commercially available, but it is entirely possible that it could change the game in ways we can’t yet imagine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Experiential Marketing Works So Well

When Frito-Lay announced that they were opening a Cheetos-themed restaurant in Tribeca – lead by celebrity chef Anne Burrell and running for three days only – the response was predictably mixed. “Is nothing sacred?” wrote Chris Matyszczyk, covering the restaurant for Inc. While some felt queasy at the thought of eating “Cheetos Sweetos Crusted Cheesecake” or “Cheetos Meatballs”, many others were intrigued by the gimmick and were willing to give Burrell’s concoctions a try.

For campaigns like this, it barely even matters if the meals were actually good. It was a very creative endeavor that earned a ton of press for the brand, and it’s unlikely that anyone (apart from a few die-hard Cheetos fans) went because they truly believed in Cheetos’ potential as a gourmet ingredient. Folks went for the novelty, because it was fun.

This wasn’t the brand’s first time at the experiential marketing rodeo. Last year, San Francisco-based agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners helped bring the “Cheetos Museum” to life, showcasing uniquely shaped snacks that resembled everything from seahorses to President Abraham Lincoln. The stunt won the brand and the agency five Lions at Cannes 2017, a huge victory for both.

 

Experiential Marketing

 

Experiential marketing – creating unique, short, in-person branded experiences – has become a very popular tactic over the past few years, and there are a number of reasons why this strategy has such a strong track record. First, it accomplishes what brands often strive for in marketing, which is to create a sense of urgency and immediacy. These types of experiences typically only run from a few days to a few months, instilling in consumers the idea that they have to pay attention and act right away, or risk missing out.

 

Secondly, the condensed time frame allows brands to go over the top and be extravagant, because their retail leases are very short. The overhead for something like the Netflix pop-up hotel – with themed suites that pair with the company’s original programming – would be enormous if it didn’t have an extremely limited run. Additionally, as department stores around the country struggle to compete against online retailers, commercial real estate groups are seeing short-term leases and pop-up deals as secure financial investments.

A cultural shift has influenced consumer-spending habits. Young people are putting more of their money into experiences than they are material goods, meaning that CPG companies that can serve up an experience with their product have a distinct advantage with millennial consumers.

 

Social Media IRL

 

Some brands have used experiential marketing as a way of proving that they understand their customers on a personal level. A great example of this is Kotex, which opened a pop-up shop for a weekend in 2016 that exclusively sold merchandise meant to make the experience of menstruating easier for women. Inspired by a college student’s blog post, the store carried comfortable clothes, snacks, beauty products, and other relevant items.

 

Last year, Ikea U.K. also used branded experiences to give its fans exactly what they’d asked for on social media. 100 Facebook users who liked a page called “I wanna have a sleepover in Ikea” were invited to make their dreams come true with massages, manicures, and hot cocoa, spending a night at the store in the bed of their choice.

Fruit of the Loom creatively used experiential marketing to address poor brand perception. Crispin Porter + Bogusky dreamt up a luxury pop-up lingerie boutique called “Früt”, highlighting the quality of Fruit of the Loom’s products despite their affordability and generally unspectacular packaging. The true nature of the products – that they were not from some chic, vaguely-European luxe brand and were, in fact, regular Fruit of the Loom panties from a plastic bag – was concealed until customers got to the check-out counter, at which point the false logo on the wall spun around to reveal the brand’s real identity.

 

Hit Cafés

 

While branded experiences have proven to be an effective marketing tool, few have been as successful as the Chobani Café. Transcending the short-term format, Chobani has managed to launch several permanent cafes – one in Soho, one in Tribeca, and one in Texas’s Woodlands. Fellow breakfast staple brand Kellogg’s just announced that following the success of their cereal café, they are also expanding into a more permanent location in downtown NYC, which will be “significantly larger” than the company’s current Times Square spot.

On some level, it makes sense that food brands like Chobani, Kellogg’s, and (maybe) even Cheetos would succeed in the restaurant business, as millions of fans are already familiar with their products. However, color authority Pantone proved that a brand that typically has nothing to do with food can create a hit dining experience when they debuted their seasonal Monaco café in 2015. The café was successful enough that they brought it back in 2016, along with a second Paris location. The Pantone Café serves food and drinks in bold tones, inspired by (and named after) real colors that Pantone has identified.

 

Pantone has already entered mainstream cultural aesthetic, with their trademark color chips appearing on mugs, t-shirts, watches, phone cases, and even USB flash drives. Beyond that, however, most non-designers have no reason to ever interact with the brand. Physical experiences like cafes and pop-ups give companies like Pantone the opportunity to be accessible to a wide, nontraditional audience.

 

Pop-Ups and Branded Experiences for Digital

 

Pop-ups are particularly great for online retailers, as it closes the distance between the brands and their consumers. In a moment of unity between a disruptive e-tailer and a major department store, the Herald Square Macy’s hosted a pop-up Etsy shop in 2016 with a rotating variety of curated goods. 22-year-old eBay launched a futuristic London pop-up last Christmas that used “bio-analytic” technology to analyze customers’ facial expressions in response to gift options, and made recommendations on what they should buy. Even Amazon has used pop-ups as a way of allowing people to interact with their electronics and get answers to their tech questions from a staff of experts.

 

 

Other types of digital platforms, like streaming services, have been getting into branded experiences as well. It is a natural fit for storytellers – after all, Disney has been teaching the world about the profitability of complementing beloved media works with immersive physical experiences for over six decades.

 

In the past, this meant theme parks and gaming. In the digital age, this can mean anything, from the most technologically advanced attractions to the simplest exhibitions. In 2015, Hulu made an exact replica of the Seinfeld apartment set to promote the series, which they had just acquired for streaming. It featured original items by the show, including some set pieces and the jersey worn by Patrick Warburton’s character in a season 6 episode. Seinfeld is one of the most venerated television series in American history, and Hulu chose to create an unpretentious display that would interest new viewers, while avoiding gimmicks that would alienate the original audience.

 

This year, South by Southwest featured several interactive media experiences. AMC created a pop-up “Los Pollos Hermanos” restaurant (Breaking Bad’s fictional fast-food chain that served as a front for a massive drug operation) to promote the new season of spinoff series Better Call Saul, and Showtime recreated the “Double R Diner” from Twin Peaks in celebration of the series’ revival.

 

 

Last October, Netflix took over more than 200 coffee shops around the country and transformed them into pop-up “Luke’s Diners“ to commemorate the 16th anniversary of the Gilmore Girls premiere and to get fans excited for the revival miniseries. The event drew massive crowds, as hundreds of viewers lined up early in the morning to get free cups of coffee and check out the replicated décor, including signs and cardboard cutouts of characters from the show.

 

Musicians and Pop-Ups

 

It isn’t just visual media brands that are building physical spaces for engagement. Fans were delighted last year when singer Frank Ocean finally released his long-anticipated sophomore album Blonde, handing out CDs for free at surprise pop-up shops in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and London. This came just months after Kanye West opened a pop-up shop in Soho to sell merchandise for his album The Life of Pablo. Unlike Frank Ocean, Kanye announced the plans for the pop-up ahead of time, and fans stood in line for several hours waiting to get in.

 

Just over a week ago, Drake opened a new flagship store in Toronto for his own brand, OVO. The location is special for fans (it’s only about ten minutes from where Drake grew up), and over a thousand of them started lining up early in the morning the day before the store opened. OVO (October’s Very Own) also has locations in New York and Los Angeles.

 

Getting Creative

 

Experience marketing can be a little bit harder for brands that already operate with quick, face-to-face interactions with customers. For a brand like Krispy Kreme, a restaurant or pop-up retail store wouldn’t make much sense. The solution that they found was clever – an ATM that dispensed Nutella-flavored donuts, a new limited-edition flavor that the company wanted to promote. All of the proceeds from the ATM went to Teenage Cancer Trust, creating even more incentive for passersby to use the machine.

 

While a Krispy Kreme ATM is a dream come true for many, experiential marketing isn’t always light. Some brands, like Delta Airlines, Nike, and Glade, have developed very conceptual installations that are meant to add new depth to their image. Delta’s exhibit at the 2015 TED conference in Vancouver – inspired by travel writer Pico Iyer’s talk on the “art of stillness” – involved placing an orb on a pedestal in a glowing room. Titled “Stillness in Motion”, the experience was created to connect the ideas of calmness and productivity with Delta’s efforts in in-flight technology and modern accommodations.

 

 

Nike, as a leading athletic brand, tends to heavily focus their branding on celebrating the human body and the feats that it can accomplish. At Milan Design Week 2016, the company partnered with ten modern artists to explore “natural motion” through different mediums. Some pieces in the exhibition were practical, often including Nike products or objects that were clearly inspired by them, while others were much more abstract.

 

Nike was not alone. Seven years ago, fellow apparel brand Levi’s put up a temporary installation in San Francisco, its home base. Part of its “We Are All Workers” campaign, the fixture underlined the company’s commitment to local communities. San Francisco was also home to Levi’s print workshop, which aimed to produce works and projects for the greater community.

 

 

 

 

Air freshener brand Glade also got conceptual with their 2015 “Museum of Feelings”, which contained a series of trippy rooms that corresponded to a specific scent. Each scent was meant to evoke one of five tailored emotions: optimism, joy, invigoration, exhilaration, or calmness. As smell is the strongest sense for memory recollection, Glade’s bold plan was to curate a series of pleasant, dreamlike experiences that visitors could relive every time they smelled the correct Glade product.

 

Brands like Glade are arguably best suited for experiential marketing campaigns, since scent – which is what they actually sell, whether it comes in the form of sprays, gels, candles, etc. – is intangible. Though their scents may be packaged, fully immersive experiences like the Museum of Feelings add an extra dimension to the way that consumers perceive the products.

 

 

Looking Forward

 

As for the future of experiential marketing, the most obvious factor to point to is the fast pace of digital technology. It can be expected that as virtual reality and augmented reality mature, they will likely find a home in experimental campaigns. The implication of mixed-reality tools is that they will be able to pull users into the brand story in ways that couldn’t easily be replicated in the physical world. More events will look like eBay’s pop-up, using newly developed technologies like artificial intelligence and bots to actively learn about consumers and alter their experience accordingly.

 

In line with recent trends, experiential marketing will also see a shift away from the standard practice of drawing people in to an event, instead reaching people where they already are. Places where large amounts of people gather every day – subway stations, street corners, etc. – will be increasingly viewed as prime real estate for campaigns. This is especially true of operations like the Krispy Kreme vending machine, which don’t require a huge amount of space compared to other stunts.

 

Livestreaming also continues to be popular, and while some brands still resist the format (live broadcasts are unpredictable by nature), it is likely that we will also see more of these events streamed online to encourage engagement with consumers who can’t physically be there. Since so many of these campaigns are temporary, brands will want to reach the widest audience possible while they have the opportunity. Brands are also realizing that there is a lot of charm in unpolished, DIY-style reporting, making the event feel authentic. Companies that continue to showcase their work only through expensive, professionally shot videos will soon seem a little cold and out-of-touch.

 

Virtually any brand can create an experience for consumers. While some may require more imagination than others, there’s no denying that branded experiences are a great tool for building relationships with audiences. Unlike other some other popular brand campaign styles, experiential marketing hasn’t seen oversaturation or obnoxiousness. This may change as copycat campaigns are bound to eventually emerge, but for now, it is still fun to see how creatively different brand interpret the strategy.

 

Brand Stories: Alex and Ani

Alex and Ani is an accessories and jewelry company that offers eco-friendly, approachable products backed by influential content and powerful brand image. Founded by jewelry maker Carolyn Rafaelian in 2004, the lifestyle brand has shaken up the jewelry world by focusing on how the jewelry makes the wearer feel, rather than just how it makes them look.

 

The brand aims to design bangles, bracelets, necklaces, earrings, and rings, while enlightening the mind and empowering the spirit. The purpose of the accessories is to allow wearer to more easily and effectively express their own individuality.

The small Rhode Island factory basement venture started gaining traction in 2004 when they designed an apple necklace for Gwyneth Paltrow following the birth of her daughter, Apple. In 2011, the Paper Store chain built an Alex and Ani “shop within a shop” at each of its 72 outlets. Tom Anderson, Paper Store CEO, said, “some would call it a risk. But right out of the gate, we couldn’t keep it in stock.”

Wearing Positivity

 

 

The brand is targeted towards those who want to embrace a “positive energy” lifestyle. According to Brent Cleaveland, executive director of the Fashion Jewelry & Accessories Trade Association, the difference with Alex and Ani is that “they don’t really sell jewelry. They sell positive energy. The bracelet is just a vehicle.”

More Than Meets the Eye

 

Alex and Ani has found a way to market themselves as a lifestyle brand, rather than just a jewelry company. The brand has attracted just as many people through its products as it has through its powerful brand story and social media presence. This has really resonated with millennials, with some even following the brand before ever making a purchase. Many have said that the fandom has reached “cult status”.

In fact, Forbes found that a majority of millennials follow their favorite brands on social media, so it’s an integral marketing strategy. The brand’s mobile app also offers positive lifestyle content and motivational quotes to help further their ultimate goals. Fans were so anxious for the positive boost that the app was downloaded 80,000 times within the first three weeks.

The brand also published an inspirational book to complement the brand image, called “Path of Life: Why I Wear My Alex and Ani”. Written by CEO, Giovanni Feroce, the book includes a collection of inspiring stories from customers about how their Alex and Any pieces have helped influence their lives. He said, “I put this book together to show the world that you can indeed offer products that are infused with intentions of love, peace and positive energy, made in the USA and eco-friendly.”

As Feroce put it, “We advertise Alex and Ani, but we don’t advertise what we do. I don’t care what we do. Alex and Ani is a brand. It has to do with quality, with what we put into it.”

 

Charity By Design

 

The brand has a large impact on the local Rhode Island community – where the jewelry is made – as well as a positive impact on the globe. The “Charity By Design” initiative has been wildly successful, with 20% of sales going to charity, for 20% of sales. This has totaled $44 million donated to non-profits across the globe, to date. The brand’s employees have also volunteered over 7,000 hours to different charitable efforts.

Capitalizing On the Millennial

 

 

Millennials are looking for personalized experiences when they shop, which Alex and Ani has capitalized on. The bestselling patented expandable charm bangles are available in thousands of iterations, or you can customize a unique piece, which makes it instantly more appealing to shoppers (and particularly, millennial shoppers).

 

 

Every bangle also comes with a “meaning card” and the app offers extensive information on the meanings behind different charms, so customers get an interactive experience with each purchase.

Still Gaining Momentum

 

In 2010, when Giovanni Feroce joined the company as CEO, sales for the year grew by more than 20 times its previous annual total. While there have been a string of CEOs and senior managers following Feroce’s departure in 2014, Rafaelian has since stepped back into the CEO role.

Currently, just over 10 million charm bangles are sold per year, with revenue soaring from $5 million in 2010 to just over $500 million in 2016. By the end of 2017, there will be at least 80 company-owned Alex and Ani stores.

Rafaelian has become America’s only jewelry billionaire and is #18 on Forbes’ list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women. Some have scoffed at Rafaelian’s method of consulting the stars before making major decisions, but it doesn’t seem to have hurt her yet. In fact, Rafaelian said her winning strategy is quite simple: “I don’t listen. Which is the best thing I do.”

10 Package Design Mistakes and Why You Should Avoid Them

Every designer has encountered some major package design mistakes in their career, so we’ve covered some of the most common (and unfortunate) ones below. Avoiding these common blunders can save your business time, money, and embarrassment later.

Test your packaging with your target consumer groups to ensure it is easy to open, eye-catching, and hits all the right marks. If your packaging doesn’t attract your target market or help your business reach its goals, it may be time for a rebrand.

1.   Overcomplicating Things

 

Simplicity is key to straightforward, streamlined designs. Making the design overly complicated will just confuse customers. You’ll want to leave enough pertinent information to answer your customers’ questions about your product, without overcomplicating or confusing things.

Kraft transformed their clean, long-standing iconic logo into a juvenile, flamboyant logo with nine opposing colors. This resulted in a more expensive, complicated design that just left customers confused. They eventually saw the error of their ways and redesigned the logo and branding to something that better aligned with consumer expectations.

2.   Excess Packaging

Excessive packaging is bad for everyone. Consumers respond negatively to waste, stores don’t like giving up so much shelf space, and the company is losing money on unnecessary packaging.

 

3.   Typos and Misspellings

 

 

This may seem like a fairly obvious mistake, but it’s more common (and costly) than you may think. Nothing breaks down your business’s reputation like a simple misspelling.

 

4.   Blurry Images

 

 

Sierra Mist’s rebrand efforts included a blur effect that just ended up making everything difficult to look at, which was a bigger problem than they may have realized. Based on a 2016 study by The Benchmarking Co. on beauty product packaging and beauty consumers, 83% of consumers said that the name of the product needs to be easy to read.

 

5.   Bad Placement

 

 

Sometimes, the placement of seemingly insignificant things can really throw off the whole design. As is the case with Pampers’ pull-off handles, bad placement can look humorous, phallic, or juvenile, which reflects poorly on the brand.

 

6.   Forgetting Your Loyal Buyers

 

 

Consistency is key to creating a strong brand image and brand loyalty. If your packaging isn’t consistent, it won’t match your overall vision and can leave customers confused.

As in the case of Tropicana, sometimes, big name brands veer too far off the norm and end up turning their backs on their loyal customers. Tropicana was attempting to make more “down to earth” packaging, but ended up with a design that looked more suited to a generic store brand. This left customers puzzled, and sales plummeted as a result.

 

7.   Difficult to Open

 

 

If a package is too difficult to open, consumers may choose a competitor’s product next time. In fact, this issue is so frustrating that it’s been given its own name: “wrap rage”.

 

8.   Outdated Design

 

There is a difference between vintage and just plain old. If your packaging is outdated, it can make your company seem old and insignificant as well. It’s important to keep up with the times so that your brand can continue to stand up to the competition.

9.   No Unique Traits

 

 

With an oversaturated market, it’s important that your product can stand apart from the rest. If your branding looks too similar to the competition’s, you’re missing an opportunity to reach customers from the shelf. While your branding should stay in line with your competitors, it’s important to find the unique traits that help you stand above the rest.

 

­10. No White Space

 

 

Leaving white space is a great way to highlight the most important characteristics of your product. It also keeps things simple and straightforward, so it’s important to leave plenty of it.

Top 5 Sustainable Packaging Designs

Designed in part to help combat the problem of overflowing landfills, sustainable packaging is better for both the environment and your bottom dollar. By reducing the quantity of an item’s packaging and reconsidering the materials used in its manufacturing, CPG brands are able to diminish physical and financial waste. Most importantly, as illustrated in the examples below, sustainable packaging can also be functional, unique, and capable of instantly attracting customers.

1. Tomorrow Machine

 


While some companies have attempted the edible packaging trend, few have been as successful as the concept series This Too Shall Pass. Designed by Swedish design firm Tomorrow Machine, the proposed bio-based packaging uses everything from agar-agar seaweed gel to beeswax. The firm’s vision is to “build a better world through research, new technologies & intelligent material.”

The raspberry smoothie packaging is made out of agar-agar seaweed and water, which shrinks when exposed to excessive heat and time.

 

The olive oil packaging is made of hardened caramelized sugar coated with wax. It cracks open like an egg and the package melts away when it comes in contact with water.

 

2. Innventia

 

 

 

 

Swedish research company Innventia partnered with Tomorrow Machine to create a line of expanding bowls and self-opening packages, which save space and are made of 100% bio-based and biodegradable material. The mechano-active material will react to heat and open itself to transform from a compressed package to a serving bowl once the internal temperature reaches a fixed point.

3. Saltwater Brewery

 

 

Traditional plastic beer rings are harmful to the environment, and particularly to the ocean. Saltwater Brewery worked to combat that problem with unique six pack rings that are not only visually appealing, but also biodegradable, compostable, and environmentally friendly. In fact, the rings are edible to help – rather than harm – the underwater life. Made partly of wheat and barley (which are also used to make the beer), they can break down easily and provide an adequate fish snack. The edible rings are also complemented by the IPA’s aquatic design and name.

4. Fitzroy Navy Rum Bottle

 

 

 

This unique bottle takes the adage “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” to another level. Design agency Fitzroy designed the luxe rum bottle packaging with unique bottle caps made from melted-down Coca-Cola labels. They turned old, discarded labels into something beautiful enough to be given as a gift. According to Fitzroy, the company is “giving the popular term ‘get wasted’ an entirely new meaning.”

5. Re-Pack Milk

 

 

 

This student project from Brazil reimagines milk packaging as a whole. Milk packaging is traditionally made of a range of different materials that can be difficult to break down and separate during the recycling process. This innovative Re-Pack Milk packaging separates the outer cardboard and inner flexible cornstarch bioplastic packaging for effortless recycling. It also has a simple, straightforward design that stands out among the competition.

7 Trends from the 2017 Summer Fancy Food Show

 

According to the Specialty Food Association, the Summer Fancy Food Show is North America’s largest trade show for the specialty food industry. As such, it is the perfect place to scope out what sorts of new tastes are being explored by brands, and what trends are emerging as a result. Here are the top seven flavor trends that we noticed after attending last week:

 

1) Meat-Free

 

From eggless mayonnaise to fish-less fish cakes (which are made up primarily of beans), vegan products were out in full force this year. As more consumers become aware of the environmental ramifications of meat cultivation, meatless alternatives are gaining a lot of attention.

With the push for more protein-rich goods that are free of animal products, we were surprised at how few brands were incorporating insects into their food. Known to be full of protein, not unpleasantly flavored, and far more eco-friendly than livestock, insect-enriched products would have seemingly fit right in at this show. It feels like every year we say that consumers are close to embracing the idea of eating insects, yet once again it appears that the industry still isn’t feeling the love.

2) Veggie Snacking

 

 

Not so surprisingly, vegetable-based snacks continue to serve as a substitute for fatty products like potato chips and pretzels. Crunchy brussels sprouts, popped lotus seeds, seaweed crisps, and beet crackers all offer consumers easy ways to bring more vegetables into their diet without sacrificing snacktime.

Notably, vegetables are now being combined with more sweet treats – Biena, for example, won a Sofi prize for their roasted chickpeas covered in caramel and chocolate. Several other brands showed up with some variation of sweetened sesame bars, which could be an alternative to granola.

3) Coconut

Coconut sugar, coconut clusters, even coconut-flavored cheese – everywhere you turned, somebody had figured out a new thing to do with coconuts. Many of these products were honored with Sofi awards, particularly those that are intended for snacking, like World Finer Foods’ GoCo Crunchy Coconut Bites.

 

4) Spiced and Textured Beverages

 

We first anticipated the spiced drink trend back when Pepsico announced their limited edition Pepsi Fire flavor. Our prediction was confirmed when the most beloved non-Starbucks drink on Instagram, Blk. Water, came to the Fancy Food Show with somewhat savory new flavors like “Spicy Black Cherry” and “Peach Mango Basil”. One of the busiest booths at the show was relative newcomer H2rOse, a beverage brand that infuses water with roses and saffron.

The show also featured a range of textured beverages, with several aloe drink, puree, and chia seed drink brands in attendance. Aloe-based beverages are often a little thicker than a traditional juice, with variations in “globiness” depending on brand. As soda sales slip, unique drinks like these have an opportunity to expand their market.

5) Beets

 

 

Last year, the Los Angeles Times reported that beets were going to be the next major superfood, and the trend has continued into 2017. Not only do beets give products an exciting, eye-catching color – which is helpful for standing out at an event like the Fancy Food Show, which features thousands upon thousands of options – they also are rich in antioxidants and nutrients. Love Beets came to the show with a variety of beet products, including organic beet juice and a mixable beet powder.

 

6) Cold Soup

Tio Gazpacho and Fawen are just two of the cold, drinkable soup brands that presented at this year’s show. With the beverage industry starting to pull away from sugar and playing with savory flavors, it makes sense that vegetable-heavy drinks would shine.

 

7) Allergy-Sensitive Products

In addition to all of the meat-free products at the show, a number of brands came with gluten-free, dairy-free, and nut-free snacks and beverages for intolerant consumers. New Jersey company No Whey! Foods presented an assortment of popular candy alternatives, like “Pea NOT Cups”, chocolate cups filled with sunflower seed butter rather than peanut butter. Many of the products in this category are also vegan and/or kosher, and incorporate other trendy ingredients like coconuts and agave.

 

 

Creative Titans: Herb Lubalin, the Father of Conceptual Typography

Born in 1918, Herbert Lubalin was a celebrated American graphic designer and typographer. Commonly referred to as “the father of conceptual typography”, he was responsible for introducing expressive typography into print advertising.

As a colorblind and ambidextrous designer, many of his works are in either one or two colors (usually red and green or red and blue). His own work was fairly reductive, so he had to put his faith in illustrators and photographers to create the full-color images. While some would view colorblindness as a setback, he was able to set his focus on letterform and layout, without being distracted by color. This resulted in some truly unique use of typography that had not been seen before, and would set new trends for emerging designers.

Herb didn’t always have a passion for graphic design. Following his education at New York’s Cooper Union, he worked as an accomplished art director for over 20 years. He wouldn’t begin his storied career as a type designer until 1970.

Popular Work

 

Herb Lubalin has a number of influential typographic works attributed to his name and is responsible for designing the Avant Garde typeface. Along with a number of popular logos, he is also responsible for admired poster designs and avant garde pieces. In 1974, he also created the publication U&lc (Upper and lower case), which showcased the International Typeface Corporation’s (ITC) typefaces (which he also co-founded).

 

Herb’s philosophy was “you can do a good ad without good typography, but you can’t do a great ad without good typography.” Along with mastering typography in advertising, he also specialized in subliminal logos and the use of negative space. His favorite work (which is also one of his most widely recognized) is a prime example of this. His award-winning logo design for a Curtis Publication, “Mother & Child,” illustrates the name with the suggestion of a fetus inside the logo.

 

Lubalin was able to express his eclectic side as the art director of three of Ralph Ginzburg’s influential magazines: Eros, Fact, and Avant Garde. There, he was able to combine his work as an art director with his work in typography. The magazines sadly went under due to obscenity charges filed by the US Postal Service against Ginzburg.

Design Strategy

 

Lubalin didn’t believe that what he did should be considered typography, but rather as “designing with letters”. He was inventive with type and really made words speak, referring to his craft as “expressive typography”.

Lubalin was a political designer who wasn’t afraid to say what he believed. He was a progressive liberal and worked on controversial pieces, like his work with Ginzburg. He didn’t take slack from anyone and was famously quoted as saying: “I’m my own client. Nobody tells me what to do.”

He was the recipient of a number of prestigious awards, including seven Gold Medals from the Art Directors Club, Art Director of the Year Award from the National Society of Art Directors, an AGI and AIGA Medal, a Clio, two honors from The Cooper Union, and the TDC Medal.

Lubalin subscribed to both modern and late-modern ideals, which he worked to seamlessly bridge the gap between. He passed away in 1981, but is still commonly regarded as one of the most influential graphic designers of the 20th century. He helped set the stage for typography in advertising and still serves as an inspiration to modern graphic designers today.