Packaging is the start of the holistic brand experience, not just functional gatewayBy: Sophie Maxwell, Published: Sep 19, 2010
Previously, I looked at the luxury landscape and the discreet vs excess approach to luxury branding. This polarization is also omnipresent in the wider world with the championing of overt branding vs the 'no logo' brigade. But, in-between these two approaches, is a new direction cleverly (and ironically) embracing the space in-between...
This new direction is about leaving room and space for the consumer and their imagination with more thoughtful, strategic and immersive brand experiences that - don't just allow the consumer to collaborate or co-create with the brand but rather - allow the consumer to impart their own story onto what they buy.
Global instability over the past few years has sent us seeking out nostalgia brands from our past that inspire, comfort and reassure. We have seen reaffirmation of our love for brands like Heinz, Fiat, Kellogg's...The feel-good qualities associated with these brands has provided a much-needed counter balance to the diverse and often-fragmented strands of our lives which are maybe not so readily interpreted or definable. And so, moving forward, we will be looking to reconcile this dichotomy by seeking experiences with brands that are more real and which are not afraid to leave questions unanswered and unresolved for us.
Launched last year, premium diamond brand Anon [ a Pearlfisher client ] was specifically created to challenge and stand out in a very tired and clichéd premium diamond jewelery market founded on the 'diamonds are forever' sentiment. Anon confronts this sentiment and turn it on his head by focusing on the person, moment or occasion rather than on the diamond. In this way, the diamond is marking the power of personal moments and stories and is more relevant and compelling for today's audience. The origami-style packaging allows the layers to be peeled back, focusing on human touch, discovery, depth and intricate detail.
But let's not get confused. Creating space does not mean less expertise or just simple minimalist expression. In fact, quite the opposite applies. Being – or becoming - one of the 'cool', simple brands with enough rich stuff behind it to still be a brand with integrity and meaning (as opposed to just a superficially cool and simply designed aesthetic) takes an inordinate amount of skill. And, whilst much discussed, Apple, of course, is still one of the most enduring and unsurpassed examples of a brand forging a new and emotional connection with its consumers based on intimacy, interaction, personal interpretation, involvement and individuality.
Apple's success is built on the fact that it does not bombard the user with technology or blind them with science, through either looks or actions. Apple gives its audience the emotional security of being part of a community but also presents a blank canvas aesthetic without ever imposing or being too austere. The multi-award winning packaging for the original white iPod undoubtedly simplified the opening experience of consumer electronics. It prolonged the excitement of owning the product and, if the product is all about music and sensual overload, the packaging was about a discreet and precise restraint – providing the very dichotomy on which our lives today seem to be founded. From identity to product design to packaging to POP, Apple allows everyone to be themselves and so has become the ultimate icon of the everyman.
But, of all the brand components, it is the packaging that puts the brand in our hand and which is the start of the holistic brand experience and not just the functional gateway to it. And whilst it is true that what the eye doesn't see the heart can still feel, when it comes to brands, it is the physical which can open up the mental space by cleverly and creatively directing or teasing out the story of the brand experience – and that all-important and desirable space in-between.