Packaging Inspiration from Other Design Mediums

While package designers are specialists, they often still draw inspiration from other visual mediums. Trends in fashion, architecture, sculpture, and painting have all had a profound influence on package design, demonstrating the close relationship between fine art and commercial design.

Take fragrance packaging, for example, which closely parallels the fashion industry, with flora and fauna for women’s perfume bottles and sporty or military-shapes for men’s cologne. When fashion houses release their own fragrances, the bottle design is often an extension of a design aesthetic that has been threaded through their apparel lines.



This often applies to other types of high-end cosmetics, as well. When famed shoe designer Christian Louboutin debuted a range of nail polishes, fans were delighted by the distinctly long, pointy wand, which was clearly inspired by Louboutin’s classic stiletto heel.



“There are as many different types of packaging as there are industries. For instance, there is a harkening to the Bauhaus and its influence on architecture and graphic design, specifically the grid based design templates, in the base theory of package design in general,” says Daniel Dejan, print and creative manager at Sappi North America, a leading provider of paper-based packaging solutions. “The other influence I often see is the influence of art, specifically painting and sculpture as a basis for packaging design—inspiration such as impressionist painters and modern sculptures. There was also lot of borrowing from the decorative arts.”

For example, Gold Leaf Design Group creates 3D sculptures of Charley Harper’s Illustrations. This packaging is flexible enough to fit a variety of box sizes and still manages to be very eye-catching.



Porchlight founder Greg Corey says that when it comes to the influence of architecture and fashion on design and packaging, based on art history and design movements of the past 100 years, art, architecture and design are directly related.

“It comes down to what is culturally relevant. Everything around us was designed and as each architectural and fashion trend comes and goes, the designs during that time reflect it,” he says. “With genres like Futurism, Cubism, Dada, Art Deco, Pop art, and others, these styles have been major influences in both architecture, fashion and packaging alike. Looking back at these artistic eras, we can pull from them and find what it represents today.”

Therefore, packaging around the actual product makes sense. For example, Apple products are sleek and modern, but also very high-end and luxurious. Corey says the packaging should reflect that and believes designing must be done with “the end in mind”, and that often requires a big picture view and a vision for how a design will look, feel, and function in the end.

“Creating in 3D is essential to effective packaging. Whether you’re thinking in 3D or using 3D software, if you are in this mindset, you are always going to be interested in shapes and construction within the architectural space,” he says. “When you start to inherently think in multiple dimensions, it allows you to design something that can work in structural box designs, on a flat label, or even on a mobile device.”



James Ollmann of Veritiv says that like many design mediums, packaging provides a platform for communication, expression, branding, identification and customer engagement.

“Depending on market positioning, packaging can support a range of consumer engagement from deep feelings to impulsive reactions to connecting entire product lines and brands,” he says. “Communication alignment or direct interaction of different mediums can quickly establish a more comprehensive connection.”

He adds that creative influences exist in many forms and from many sources, and both structural and graphic packaging design can be influenced by spatial relationships, dimensional perspectives, shadowing, light graduations, reflective surfacing and visual interpretations.

For example, structural beams, support columns and surface details within architectural designs can provide structural and visual inspiration for packaging design.



“Many designs are influenced by day-to-day experiences like interactions with humans, machines, nature and electronics,” he says. “Design mediums and creative inspirations are seeking connections. These connections are enhanced by selection of medium, shapes, color, light and texture.”

Dejean says all design media follow certain basic ground rules—the relationship between copy and space and the use of type and color.

“Web design learned from print design, and packaging design is following the same path. At its start, packaging was very utilitarian, but then it needed to rely on marketing and visual appeal to evolve,” he says. “There needed to be a certain level of engagement with the consumer. The basic ground rules and protocols that carry into every medium are predicated on balance, beauty and engagement.”

In his view, at the highest level, all art is influenced by other art and all designers look to other areas for inspiration.

“Consumer culture is so sophisticated now. Through digital, consumers see and are influenced by an extraordinary amount of art and media,” he says. “If designers know that the consumer is engaged by a certain type of visual, they want to be able to extrapolate that and use it in a different media form.”

Adam Kuhn, creative director with Bullhorn Creative, says packaging design is integral to a brand’s identity, combining the brand’s voice and look in one tactile, practical expression.

“With smartly designed packaging, a new product can be taken from a newcomer to a game-changer,” he says. For example, the company’s recent design for Sword endurance products in which it utilized a pared down wordmark, a black/white/grayscale color set, and language that is both matter-of-fact and charismatic, letting the brand speak for hard workers of all kinds—people who sweat.



Dava Guthmiller, founder and chief creative officer of San Francisco-based branding firm Noise13, says its crave-worthy, fashion-forward cell phone case packaging that the company created for tech accessories company Amber & Ash is a great example.

“The design took inspiration from trending colors on the runway to create this ultimate modern-meets-feminine packaging,” she says.

There is no formula for design inspiration. Creative individuals are reflective of experiences, interactions, interpretations, environments and perspectives.

Dejean says that haptics, or the science of touch, plays an enormous role in packaging design.

“The considerations that go into the type of materials, the quality, and the special effects all make an impact,” he says. “Technology has allowed for more sophistication in the packaging industry. Now, traditional print effects are migrating to packaging, such as embossing, foil stamping, and soft touch all prevalent.”

Brand Extension Series: Jack Daniel’s and the Spirit of America


For the first installment of our brand extension deep dive series, we’re looking at Jack Daniel’s and the many avenues that the brand has successfully explored.

With its image of rugged masculinity and tradition, Jack Daniel’s has managed to transcend the traditional producer-consumer relationship and reach a status that most brands only dream about – they have become an active part of their consumers’ lifestyles, and are, in many cases, a symbol for who the consumer perceives themselves to be. In this way, Jack Daniel’s is similar to other rebellious, all-American brands, like Harley-Davidson or Levi’s. However, among its peers, Jack Daniel’s has seen unprecedented success with its non-alcoholic products.



Because of its status as a lifestyle brand, Jack Daniel’s expansion into clothing and other material products feels natural. With such a strong brand character, it makes sense that fans of Jack that strongly identify with the whiskey would want to wear t-shirts and hats displaying the classic logo. The brand’s prominent presence in decades of pop culture has really helped in this area, too – from Jerry Lee Lewis’s country hit “Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7” to Ke$ha’s “TiK ToK”, generations of celebrities have publicly praised the whiskey.



But how does a love of whiskey and a rough-and-tumble lifestyle translate to mustard, marinade, or caramel purchases? The company’s first foray into food was nearly 30 years ago, when they launched the Jack Daniel’s Spirit of Tennessee Cookbook, with recipes that heavily featured the whiskey. In 2001, Jack Daniel’s owner, Brown-Forman, licensed the name to Heinz U.S.A. for the first line of sauces and marinades. The idea was that any customer, no matter where they were, could be part of the “Jack Daniel’s lifestyle” – which had come to encompass all things American (and, in particular, Southern), including barbecue.



The timing of this new product release was incredibly important for how successful it became. First, 9/11 created a culture of patriotic consumerism, where buying iconic products that were American-made felt like a responsibility. Jack Daniel’s represented the toughest, most down-home part of the quintessential “American Spirit”, making the brand seem very attractive to shoppers who wanted to support the values that the company represented.



Second, thanks to media like Sex and the City, feminine drinks were gaining a lot of social prominence in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. For many, embracing the Jack Daniel’s brand in all avenues of life was likely a reaction to that, a way of protecting an image and tradition that seemed like it could be slipping away.

Had that first line of sauces and marinades not been so popular, it’s unlikely that Jack Daniel’s could have carried the brand into such a diverse portfolio of products. Notably, the company has been smart with the way that they’ve leveraged the brand name and their existing product line. After all, Jack Daniel’s coffee seems less strange when you’ve already tried Jack Daniel’s cake, just as Jack Daniel’s cake seems less strange after you’ve had Jack Daniel’s praline pecans. The company has rarely produced a new item that didn’t feel like a natural extension of everything that came before it, and this growth strategy has made Jack Daniel’s the brand extension leader that it is today.

10 Trends from the 2017 Summer Fancy Food Show [Video]



In our first installment of our video series, we take a look at all of the trends that we spotted at the 2017 Summer Fancy Food Show.

For our written coverage of the event, check out our article at:





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.



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.





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.







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.

How CPG Brands are Strategizing for the Gig Economy

The major disruption caused by platforms of the new gig economy (ie. Uber, AirBnB, Etsy) has been widely reported, and it’s still too early to fully understand the long-term implications that it will have for relevant industries. Robert Reich, former labor secretary, called the shift “the biggest change in the American workforce in over a century” and reaffirmed its unpredictability. What we do know is that these sorts of platforms are impacting increasingly diverse fields, and that companies are facing the prospect of either conforming or becoming obsolete. After several years of the gig economy going strong, CPG brands are finally responding and catching up.



In mid-May, Mars began recruiting event hosts for a new multilevel marketing campaign called “The Cocoa Exchange”. In the vein of Avon or Mary Kay, “curators” buy kits of samples to push at parties, and are awarded a percentage of any online sales that result from it. Mars has collaborated with chefs to create a unique line of products specifically for The Cocoa Exchange, meant to pair well with wine and suit a party atmosphere better than the company’s existing options.


Direct selling like this, Mars has said, has been a fairly safe and profitable channel for the past five or six decades. Additionally, this strategy plays into two well-documented facets of millennial economic behavior – first, the “obvious demand” (as Mars put it) for opportunities to earn supplemental income, and second, millennials’ propensity to invest more in experiences than in material goods. These factors combined convinced Mars that an interactive, entrepreneurial program like The Cocoa Exchange would be able to thrive.



Other companies are taking inspiration directly from popular digital platforms. Deliv, for instance, is a five-year-old startup that works with major retailers to deliver in-store purchases directly to customers using crowdsourced labor. Known as “Uber for the retail industry”, Deliv has managed to avoid the turbulent legal environment that rideshare services have faced because they don’t compete with regulated industries, unlike Uber and Lyft, which have been accused of threatening taxi services. Deliv has enabled companies like Williams-Sonoma and Bloomingdale’s to offer an added-value service to their consumers and aide in competing against companies that deal primarily in e-commerce, for whom home delivery is a major selling point.



Some retailers – like Macy’s – are collaborating with gig platforms to offer new experiences to a shared consumer base. Last year the Herald Square Macy’s (the company’s NYC flagship store) hosted a pop-up Etsy shop in an area of the store known as “One Below”, a section meant to appeal to millennial shoppers. At any given time, the shop featured around fifty products (including things like household goods and jewelry, which Macy’s also sells) that were constantly rotated out in order to conform to a specific theme. Prior to working with Macy’s, Etsy also collaborated on smaller projects with retailers like Nordstrom and Whole Foods.


Another strategy that CPG brands are taking on is challenging gig platforms for talent. According to an article published this month by the London School of Economics, self-employment is increasingly common among those who traditionally have a difficult time transitioning back into the workforce, namely stay-at-home parents and retirees. In order to retain skilled workers and prevent flexible gig platforms from absorbing these types of candidates, many CPG companies are implementing return-to-work programs. Pepsico has been a leader in this with their “Ready to Return” initiative, which accepts professionals who have taken a career break for more than two years and provides them with ten paid weeks of coaching and mentoring before they start their new position. On their career site, Pepsico tellingly specifies that they are seeking associates who can “make an impact in the Age of Disruption”.


Economists and commentators also refer to the gig economy as the “on-demand” economy, especially when discussing it from a consumer behavior perspective. Similar to the concept of “McDonaldization” that was so popular a few years ago, the idea now is that companies like Uber are conditioning users to expect quick and easy service from completely unrelated industries. Amazon is also largely responsible for the on-demand economy, and big box stores are strategizing for how to compete. For example, Wal-mart just opened their first automated 24-hour pickup kiosk, which allows customers to place online orders (of at least $30) and pick them up at a designated kiosk in-store. Last year, they directly partnered with Uber and Lyft for a home delivery pilot program, comparable to what Deliv currently offers. Now with Amazon’s startling announcement that they have decided to purchase Whole Foods, retailers are feeling the heat more than ever, and we should expect to see even bolder experiments from unsettled competitors.



In an article for Food Dive, industry reporter Keith Loria warned against transitioning to independent contractor-based hiring practices, as some food companies may be tempted to do. After all, companies like Uber don’t have to pay for employee benefits, nor do they have to pay for downtime. However, Loria said, the food manufacturing industry can be physically dangerous for those not appropriately trained, as improper storage and cleanup can lead to serious health concerns for both workers and consumers. Many within the industry feel that this is too big of a risk compared to the rewards offered by making the change. Further, it is important to note that Uber and companies like it have come under fire for what has been perceived as a lack of corporate and social responsibility. Many young shoppers are paying close attention to the way that companies treat their employees, and throwing away prized benefits like retirement savings plans and health insurance could potentially lead to problems with public image.


The gig economy has already radically disrupted service industries like transportation and hospitality, and it is gradually creeping into the CPG sphere. Its presence is still relatively new there, and brands should learn from what has happened within the service sector and prepare themselves for what’s to come.