A new era of branding

A new era of branding

John-Paul Hunter discusses retail and packaging design and the emergence of destination branding…


The high street has changed. Thanks to technology, consumers can be assured that their product and brand choices are available and can be delivered where and when they want, online, 24 hours a day. Changes like this don’t happen very often and it should be seen as an amazing opportunity.


Consumers are still heading to the high street but aren’t necessarily heading there to shop. They are looking to be inspired, looking for theatre and for information. Stores are becoming brand platforms, conveying their essence through a multi sensory world. It’s interesting that Angela Ahrendts who spearheaded Burberry’s digital marketing and ensured that this was successfully integrated into the store experience has now been poached by Apple, who pioneered the store-as-experience philosophy. Now that everyone has copied Apple, it seems that the company is aware that they will need some help to better the original model. You can see this model at work at all levels, from a boutique cycle store such as Rapha to a large DIY outlet. More than ever, understanding your consumer is critical. This isn’t just a numbers game, you’ll need to walk in their shoes, learn from early adopters and invite them into your creative process to make sure you give them what they want and what they don’t yet know that they want. 


Let’s go back to the DIY store and take a mundane purchase as an example. Say, paint. Think about what this currently involves – The initial excitement of upgrading my room. The indecision of what the exact colour and finish should be. How much do I need? Drive down to the store. More indecision once confronted with the paint aisle. No one to help. Too many brands. And finally, once I’ve settled on a colour, it’s not in stock.


Recently we had the opportunity to rework this experience for the paint brand Valspar, in conjunction with B&Q. Forget the pile of interior magazines, now the store becomes the source of inspiration. Thanks to the paint being mixed onsite, the rows of tins are transformed into engaging and evolving boutiques.

The consumer experience now plays out like this – The initial excitement of upgrading my room. Drive down to the store. Further excitement as I’m inspired and guided to the perfect colour choice. Satisfaction that the paint is available in the right quantity and finish. Fulfilment that the paint is the exact colour I was expecting once painted on the wall. Let’s paint the next room, I can’t wait to go back and use the facilities instore again.


This isn’t retail design, this is destination branding and I think it’s a template that could suit all manner of products. As the purchased product is taken home or delivered it needs to remain true to the holistic experience. Consistency is critical, if it falls down at any point the overall impression is spoilt. Here, design, substrate, and format must all play their part in sealing the brand expression – and the end product must be perfect!


With a sense of commodotisation, today’s consumer is discerning and on the hunt for authenticity, disregarding products that don’t deliver on their increasingly high expectations. Brands are looking to their pasts and their product truths and, as an agency, we are looking to tell these stories in just the right way.


For the past five years we have partnered with Bombay Sapphire, developing their Imagination positioning. On certain touch points this manifests itself as an emotional communication. However, this kind of expression is insufficient without greater depth and brand truth elsewhere. Conscious of this the brand has turned its attention closer to home and is preparing to welcome the public into its production facilities for the first time.

By unveiling Laverstoke Mill, the brand not only creates a stunning visitor experience but also puts down its roots within the consumer’s mind. No matter where they are in the world the impression of the brand will now run far deeper than the product itself. The location’s beauty (the mill features two stunning glass houses designed by Heatherwick Studios) and heritage parallels perfectly with the brand.


As I mentioned earlier, consistency is key, and we have developed a Laverstoke Mill house style that represents each of the aspects one can experience upon visiting the mill. The unique production process, the surrounding wildlife and the location’s history are all hidden within a lavish illustration. The viewer can discover the depths of the illustration just as they would encounter the same elements should they visit Laverstoke Mill. Prior to the Mill doors swinging open for the first time, consumers are invited to take a tantalising first glimpse of this through two limited edition packs.


Perfectly in tune with the brand’s aesthetic, yet enhancing it even further, this identity has been developed to provide a wealth of touchpoints for years to come. Just as the consumer’s world is evolving so is the need for holistic design thinking. The smarter approach is to elevate the design brief beyond one or two tactical deliverables. It really must be worth communicating and if it has real substance and depth than it should be able to transcend individual applications. This approach puts ever greater emphasis on cracking the ‘big idea’, get this right and the rest is easy. 



Stephanie Cornwall
Stephanie Cornwall