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First Do No Harm

by julia • May 24

A memorable presentation at last month’s FUSE conference was by Steve Ginsberg, Director of Design at Mars. He spoke about the scarefest among marketers caused by the Tropicana packaging disaster. (Personally, I think we should thank Peter Arnell in drawing attention to the power of packaging to drive sales, but the side effect is that already conservative brand managers are filled with fear.)

To calm the troops, Steve introduced some simple rules for brand design at Mars:

  1. First do no harm (understand your equities and protect them).
  2. If your packaging is broken (aka inconsistent with your brand’s positioning), fix it.
  3. If your packaging is dated, refresh it.
  4. If neither 2 or 3, then do nothing.

(Actually, only joking on this last one! What he really said, is build on its strengths, so you don’t end up at #3)

Steve also gave this deceptively simple formula for judging packaging effectiveness:

Notice. Does it get your brand noticed? Does it stand out on shelf?

Understand. Does it communicate what makes your brand different and relevant?

Remember. Is it memorable? Does it have the stickiness factor to keep people coming back?

He shared packaging updates on Skittles and M&M’s, but my favorite story was about how the Snickers packaging identity has evolved into a very successful ad campaign. The consumer insight is one of those brilliantly obvious human truths: You’re not you when you’re hungry. When you’re hungry, your mind wanders and you see Snickers everywhere, on top of cabs and at bus stops, teasing you with temptingly tasty words – all in that distinctive Snickers trapezoid and blocky italic letters. This is “packvertising” at its best.