Design for brand – not channel

TesswicksteadGone are the days when all our products were sold in the same place in the same pack. Consumers now engage with a growing number of retail platforms, yet brands and businesses are still designing their products as if little has changed. The truth is, different channels have very different needs, from digital to club stores, from QVC to physical retail. Brands must learn to adapt to these evolving outlets; for us, this diversity of retail behavior is a strong argument for identity centric brand design.

Design is the common denominator when it comes to brand innovation, pick up and success but in order for brands to truly succeed in multiple channels, it needs to be design first, channel second, and not the other way around. As even more channels appear and vie for our attention, the need to address this becomes even more prescient. (Twitter is currently being hailed as the new QVC.) As flying stores continue to expand and innovate brand recognition for – and connection with – the consumer will become even more important.

And to have any sort of real and personal connection, we need to fully experience brands from the outset and this starts with the identity. Brands just need to realize the opportunity before it is too late.

It’s amazing how many brands still have packaging that’s designed to create fantastic standout on shelf but that is hard to identify from a phone screen, or design that includes intricate details that simply get lost online. And when it comes to the physical arena, and particularly the club sector, we see a rigid mass volume mindset that by and large leaves – and loses – the brand behind.

Private brands are actually increasingly ahead of the curve, matching the equity and trust of their national brand competitors, and many are beating a path to power by seamlessly embedding their brand within their digital experience and offer. And they are right to do so. We need to think of our world as a digital one and designers have to think in the digital space right from the start, but not to the detriment of the physical space or, more precisely, the brand identity.

The digital space is actually allowing brand owners to think about and work with their brand and packaging design in a whole new way. Rather than the pack having to protect the product, promote the product and inform the consumer about the product, brands can focus so much more energy on promoting it. What is lost in size (and the potential impact this creates on shelf) is gained in movement. Digital allows the brand to become animate – rather than just a replication of physical equities that result in static, online stamps.

And if we look at the physical arena, the club sector is one ripe for redesign and development. Sam’s Club has been cited as saying that it is losing out to the value offered by the dollar-store chains, but it can’t just be a question of value for any club store. Immediacy, clarity, brand recognition and, yes, creativity, also have a very real part to play in today’s consumer motivation.

Though value drives the club category, the block space could be better branded if we only considered the massive scale and shelf space that club products take up. Instead of sacrificing identity to the value offer, brands should consider how to innovate, looking at how their identity translates when scaled for club stores and furthermore, boxes, shipping containers, and collateral.

Great design works at its absolute best when all of a brand’s equities and impact come to life and reach their full potential across ALL retail and marketing channels, not just one. To give customers the 360-retail experience they now expect and desire, we need to look at designing an identity that has the flexibility to create desire across all the different channels. And there is a very real need and opportunity to create desirable, inspirational brand design for an integrated world: creating brand and packaging design with impact on-shelf, in hand, in mass and also online at 20 pixels.

Tess Wicksteed, Executive Vice President Pearlfisher NY tess@pearlfisher.com
Tess’s great talent is the instant ability to see the wood for the trees. As the creative force behind Pearlfisher’s strategic offer, she trades in originality, clarity and logic, getting to the point fast and delivering strategy that’s both creative and cohesive. A longstanding Pearlfisher person, Tess was Strategy Director in London for ten years before relocating with her family for a brand new challenge in New York.

As a literature student at York, Sussex and Cambridge Universities, Tess was keen to become first a clown, then a teacher. However, it was her belief that good culture matters that finally led to a career in design and an ongoing commitment to creating powerful brands that contribute positively to the world. Short and sharp in all things, Tess balances refreshing bluntness with disarming humanity. Her presence on a project promises fireworks – and guarantees results.



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