You may not know Mark Lehberg, but if you’ve ever shopped for toys you may have seen some of his packaging work. The founder and owner of Latitudes Marketing By Design is the creative and entrepreneurial force behind the promotional, marketing and packaging materials of clients across North America, China, Hong Kong, Europe, and India. From small U.S. multinationals (such as Hasbro and Crayola) to small local firms, Lehberg offers his clientele a one-stop shop that caters to all of their creative needs.
He has taken that packaging expertise and written “The Art of Package Design” due out later this year. Below is an excerpt from his chapter on “Branding and Product Loyalty”.
Part 1 ………………………………………………………..
Where did branding come from and why? To understand that we first need to identify what branding is. The name evolved from the use of a “brand” burned into the hide of cattle to identify their owner. Branding today is a name, logo, slogan, and/or design scheme associated with a product or service.
At the dawn of commerce, in the open market, people shopped for goods in a market, selecting the best fruit, produce, meat and household items. All of the products were similar, but some stood out above the rest. So the seller started to identify them with their own mark of insignia to identify them as different from their competitors. And as word spread of their superior quality, consumers sought them out. The “brand” had arrived.
In the 1660s, imports into England often cheated the public and the phrase “let the buyer beware” became popular. Inferior quality and impure products were disguised and sold to uninformed customers. Honest merchants, unhappy with this deception, began to mark their wares with their identification to alert potential buyers. This was the beginning of branding. In the 1860s packaging evolved when the Smith Brothers packaged their cough drops in glass jars. This was a novel idea – they used the packaging as a way to “brand” their products for consumers. They became, “the cough drops in the glass jars”. They were branded.
Official trademarks were pioneered in 1866 by Smith Brothers for their cough drops marketed in large glass jars. This was a new idea – using the package to “brand” a product for the benefit of the consumer.
In 1842, the state of Michigan required that logs have a special mark and be registered in the county where the logs were manufactured and cut into lumber.
The first trademark laws came into effect in 1857 in France, and in 1862 in the United Kingdom. And in 1870, the first registered U.S. trademark was awarded to the Eagle-Arwill Chemical Paint Company. Today, there are nearly three-quarters of a million (750,000) registered trademarks in the United States alone. Labels now contain a great deal of information intended to protect and instruct the public.
We may not always be aware of it, but trademarks are everywhere. A trademark is another way of distinguishing brands. Purchasing decisions are influenced by branding and also by trademarks. We realize the importance of branding to enhance product recognition and instill consumer loyalty. A trademark is a legal tool to protect that brand. It is also an important part of your entire communication strategy.
When we think of a trademark, we usually think of a logo. But it can be much more than that. A package design or layout can also be a trademark. For example, a package design that uses certain colors in a prescribed shape or form can be trademarked. It can be any recognizable and unique element in a package design. And a design trademark does not have to rely on language or alphabet.
The retail marketplace is very crowded and we use a variety of elements to make your package unique and stand out in the crowd. All of these elements are part of your brand and can be trademarked.
A branded or trademarked design is a valuable asset. It leads to easy recognition, not just on the shelf, but on websites and social media platforms. That quick brand recognition enhances your overall marketing efforts..
The old saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” doesn’t always apply. Certainly not when it comes to packaging. Branding is an effective tool to help distinguish your products from competitors on the shelf, online and in Social Media. It’s the first thing the consumer sees and is a huge part of the purchasing decision.
When someone creates a logo they think that they have created a brand. But this is an overused phrase. A brand is so much more than a logo. It extends to corporate brochures, web site, company vehicles, business stationery, signage, employee uniforms, product displays, catalogs, and product packaging.
Branding is a way for companies to stand out from their competition and be instantly recognizable in the clutter of products on a store shelf. Who hasn’t walked down the aisle of a store an spotted the Crayola products at a distance even before we were close enough to read the name? The distinctive yellow package with green accents is part of Crayola’s brand is part of our subconscious. And we all notice the brown delivery trucks of UPS without having to see their logo.
Branding gives a cohesive, unified look so that consumers/clients can identify the company’s marketing across a diverse range of media. In relation to packaging, branding can encompass your logo, the colors used as well as the layout of the graphics and how the products are presented at retail.
When creating packaging for a brand we need to have a wider view. As we design we have to ask ourselves how will we create multiple products using this layout? Which elements will encompass the brand and which elements will identify specific products. We can use elements such as a specific font for the title or header, as well as a section of the layout, such as a color bar, to identify the product within the brand.
So we do not design a package and then say, “OK, let’s use this for the brand or line.” We have to start that process before we design and keep the brand prominent and recognizable and identify those specific product elements as we design. When we think of branding we automatically recall companies such as LEGO, or Kellogg’s. But a brand doesn’t have to be a billion-dollar company or sold across the globe. A brand can be a series of products or just one. A brand is a trade name for a specific product and identifies the seller and differentiates it from its competition. A brand has come to mean more than just the product. It can be used to define a range of services or even a corporate philosophy. And it can get confusing with overuse.
On the subject of package design, a brand is more than a name. It is also the style of design of the package and how it is presented. A brand is meant not just to differentiate you from your competition, but also to have instant recognition for the consumer. This helps you market a line of products based on the success of a single item. People will associate your brand with the quality of a previous purchase. Other elements that tie into your brand after the package will be signage, advertising, store displays, stationery, vehicles, employee uniforms, etc.
There are many terms associated with branding and it can get a little confusing. Let’s explore a few of these.
Your brand identity is the elements of the brand such as a registered or trademarked name, the colors used, the symbols or graphics that make up the logo and other elements of the design of the packaging, signage, etc.
The elements or “identity” separate the brand from other companies in the marketplace. It also identifies an emotional response in the consumer. We associate the brand with product quality, or specific ideas and feeling about a product. Consumers will recall elements of the brand and recognize them on various media (packaging, web site, etc).
Creating a brand and using that over a range of packaging does not guarantee success. The products delivered under your brand have to stand up to consumer expectations and delivery of the “promise” of a trustworthy, reliable and quality product. If a branded product delivers what it promises to the consumer, then other products under that brand will benefit from the promise associated with the brand.
But like any other promise, a brand promise can be broken. And when this happened the reputation of the company and its products is affected and consumers will choose a competitor.
In packaging, a brand promise can be broken by design flaws such as:
– Promising a product that is superior to a competitor, but it is not.
– Over design of a package making it look more expensive than it is
– Copying of a competitor’s design to confuse the consumer
– Packaging structure that is difficult to open or use
– Type that is hard to read or poorly written
– Images on the package that does not resemble the contents.
As you develop and deliver branded packaging, people will begin to recognize the different elements of your design and if successful, will identify it with quality and value.
The consumer connects with your brand and associates it with quality, value, superiority to your competition. This is a measure of your legitimacy and reliability. The visual elements of your brand have become tangible assets and become your Brand Equity.
All the elements of your brand; your logo, colors, fonts, design elements, etc., are part of your brand equity and consumers will associate these with product quality and loyalty. In order to create Brand Equity, you need to deliver on the promises you make. This said Brand Equity is not developed overnight. You need to consistently deliver or exceed expectations and never lose sight of the value of Brand Equity or how easily you can lose it by not fulfilling expectations.
Brand Loyalty could also be translated a “Trust”. As you deliver quality products that stand up to your marketing hype, consumers will become loyal to your brand. They will have expected and received quality products at a price that they feel is justified. The shopping experience and the product quality and product support met their expectations. They will talk to friends and family in positive terms about your products and when shopping will be drawn to your products again and again because of the satisfying experience.
This preference for your products over your competitors (sometimes even if more expensive) is their Brand Loyalty, You will be seen as delivering a consistent product that meets or exceeds expectations.
Brand Positioning / Repositioning
Brand Positioning is when you identify specific characteristics of your product that help it to stand out from your competitors. Packaging design will call out different elements that are superior or unique.
Brand Repositioning is part of the evolution of your brand. After a period of time, you will want to look at your brand identity and update as your products evolve. One way to show consumers that your products have improved or evolved is to redesign your brand identity. That is a tricky process. You do not want to lose the elements of your design that have become identifiable with your product success, but you want to show a growth in your brand. This is a process that needs to call out new design elements but keep the look and feel of your existing brand. These changes can be small and subtle or more wide-ranging. But never lose sight of what you have built and do not lose your Brand Equity.