Designer’s Den

Designer’s Den

By Jo Saker

Altering branding or the look of a brand can be tricky and introducing a new brand into a competitive market is a minefield. True innovation is elusive. Over the years many brands have suffered through arrogance, believing the customer will always applaud what they do, or they have been complacent by ignoring a new competitor with new thinking.

‘Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow’, as written by William Pollard (1911-1989) an American Physicist and Episcopal priest.

Infamous examples of damaging complacency include Blockbuster, which failed to respond to the demand of Netflix by downloading, or Kodak which believed film was the way to continue, or Blackberry with its reliance on the keyboard.

Innovators will also have their brand propositions and products ‘interrogated’ by today’s dominant consumers. Social media is quick to condemn and opinionated Millennials & Generation Zers can drop you as quickly as they adopted you if you put a foot wrong in sustainability or communication by doing something they just don’t like. Uber, any companies that don’t pay tax and the entire plastic industry generally look currently vulnerable in the very public spotlight.

A minute change in a familiar design can create an explosion of comment. Pepsi has suffered in the past and Gap was forced to revert to its old logo when a design it has used for more than 20 years was replaced with a new look.

The once impervious Schweppes brand is hoping a change in looks with a historically inspired new bottle design and premium range of mixers will halt the relentless emergence of the Fever-Tree brand, which is seen more in keeping with the explosion of premium gins and vodkas.

There is added pressure for the need for FMCG brands to be instantly recognisable for both the internet shopper and the one who favours bricks and mortar stores. What stands out on a supermarket shelf because of colour, logo and shape does not necessarily have the same impact when seen as a postage size thumbnail on the screen of a smart phone.

Yet brands need to react more than ever if they are to continue to compete in an increasingly global marketplace and retain customer loyalty.

Successful innovation takes hard work and a dedication second to none. Having an eye (or two!) constantly on the future is essential to maintaining long term success and success requires incredible perseverance. It was the prolific American inventor Thomas Edison (1847-1931) who said ‘Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration’.

However, brands also need to be careful not to jump on the next ‘band-wagon’ without having a relevant product or motivating brand story. ‘Craft’ is one such current trend, which is proving to be a rather fat word, open to many different interpretations. In the main ‘craft brands’ tend to be more artisan in approach, made in smaller runs and with elements of traditional and hand-made production and packaging. Think cottage industries, craft ales, hand signed labels and single batch distillation. Whilst some of these new ‘craft’ offerings are excellent, some have rather forgotten the old adage that ‘behind every great brand is a great product’.

For anyone involved in marketing and design being part of any new innovation is both inspiring and memorable. Resting on your laurels, focusing on one successful proposition without accepting that something better can and will come along, often sooner than you think, is an all too easy mistake to make. Only targeting today’s consumer needs without anticipating how these will change in the future is another. And failing to upgrade technology and move with the times are equally fatal.

Stephanie Cornwall
Stephanie Cornwall