Archive for January, 2013

Investors in People accreditation renewed

by Alex Benady

Coley Porter Bell had its Investors in People accreditation renewed this week following a detailed audit by the awarding body.

Training plays a major role in qualifying for the award. In all Coley Porter Bell people participated in 47 different training schemes through the year. They ranged from digital training at a weekend-long Hyper Island Masterclass for the whole agency to finance courses for account managers.

One of the most innovative marks of the company’s commitment to its people was the provision of 2000 hours of on demand coaching.

Launched in 1991, Investors in People is the UK’s leading people management standard. It specialises in transforming business performance through people

The award shows that the company is honouring its obligations to its clients, its employees and its shareholders, said Emma Brock, head of client services.

“Because of the increasing involvement of procurement people in negotiating contracts, IiP has become a hygiene factor in running a marketing services business these days.”

But the benefits are considerable she added. “Investors in People makes staff more competent and more committed because of its emphasis on training and development. And because our people (both staff and management) are more competent, it creates a high performance environment. That’s good news for both our clients and our shareholders.”

Are engagement and brand mutually exclusive?

by Alex Benady

Can this product really be called ‘The Greatest Fires In History’”?  I suppose it could be one of those humorously long-form brand names like ‘So Long Sucker’ (ice pole) ‘I cant believe its not butter’ (margarine) and Mr Zogg’s Sex Wax (surfboard polish).  You just can’t tell from the images or the reporting of the product’s launch.

The press release says that the product is a paraffin block, or fire starter, although that isn’t at all clear from the pictures either .

Yes the gorgeous new pack for the paraffin block that dares not speak its name, seem to break all the rules of packaging. Most conspicuously, it doesn’t seem to reveal its precise meaning at a glance.

Obviously it’s something to do with fire. The images of burning cities; Tokyo, Rome, Chicago, San Francisco and London plus the line ‘The Greatest Fires In History’ usher you in the right direction But what? Matches? A fire mit?

Instead of being told, you have to make a deduction.  But if were a shopper, would I pause to find out? Or would I simply move on to something that screamed ‘FIRE STARTER’ in 45 Point and made its meaning absolutely clear?

Actually I like to think I’d spare time for this product. Whatever its name may be. That’s because it seems to have gone for engagement rather than what you might call conventional branding.

The designs are beautiful, unexpected and vaguely seditious. Images of burning cities, in which presumably many thousand of people died, will strike many as tasteless and insensitive. That’s only exacerbated by the line ‘The Greatest fires in the world. In your living room.

But at least it has got an attitude or personality and the attitude is rooted in the product.

All communication has a choice to make. It can try to explain its key messages what it wants lucidly and clearly. So readers/viewers/consumers can understand exactly what you are trying to say. The problem with that is that what you want to say may not necessarily be interesting to readers/viewer/consumers.  Do they really care that you only use the finest ingredients? Or that your product cleanses and refreshes? Maybe not.

An alternative route is engagement. Make your message so intriguing that people are drawn to it. The problems with that are firstly, you may fail to engage. Secondly, having engaged, people may fail to understand what you are about. Your brand. Your essence.

The fact that this work was created by JWT Amsterdam, an ad agency perhaps explains the emphasis on engagement.

I cant help thinking that the world would be a more interesting place, if more new products took this approach.ENDS

Walkers redesign reminds of impacts beyond packaging

by Alex Benady

As brand designers we tend to take an abstracted view of our work. It’s our job to ruminate on the technical and aesthetic aspects of the brands and new packaging we create. -Is the consumer insight correct?  Is the big idea right? Is there a big idea? Did we execute it as well as we could have? What about the colours and brand lock up? And don’t get me started on the kerning and leading.

As conscientious business partners our interest doesn’t stop when the design has left the building. We devote much time and energy to establishing and celebrating the effectiveness of our work.

But rarely do we consider the impact of our work beyond brand and sales. Especially the human impact.

Take the new packaging for Walkers crisps unveiled in Design Week yesterday. The new look –deeper and richer colours, nine renamed flavours and a graphic of a Union Jack carved on a halved potato, supports what brand-owner Pepsico calls  ‘The biggest flavour innovation around the product for ten years.’

But while searching for more information and insight about this undoubtedly significant innovation I stumbled across a story that appeared on BBC Lincolnshire last week.

‘Up to 90 jobs could go at a Walkers crisp factory under the firm’s plans to install new packing equipment’ ran the stand first. About 250 people are employed at the factory in Newark Road, Lincoln and now more than third of them may be made unemployed as a result of packaging innovations.

Obviously it’s not the new designs themselves that made them redundant, but the machinery that the new designs were created for.

Clearly for the workers involved the new packaging isn’t simply a technical or aesthetic matter. It is a visceral, life changing event.

As the leader of Lincoln city council put it: “Your heart has to go out to the individual workers and their families in terms of the impact of this when people have already been struggling with pressure on household incomes, and this is just added misery. It is very bad news indeed.”

Councillor Metcalfe’s words are a powerful reminder of the deeper social and economic function of our industry that goes way beyond the immediate impact on our individual careers or the profitability of our agencies and brands.

It’s not that the social function of brand design is to make people unemployed. If the new Walkers packaging sells well it will create jobs too. But one of the roles of brand and packaging design is to aid innovation. Not just product innovation but production and organisational innovation. These in turn lead to social change.

So while we are considering pantone references and holding devices, we should remember that our choices are not merely academic and aesthetic. They impact on the live of other individuals and society as a whole. For better and for worse.

Best new product and a Mobius certificate!

by Alex Benady

Chivas Brothers’ Blend whisky, designed by Coley Porter Bell has been named ‘best new product’ at the Duty Free News International awards. The duty free-only product launched in late summer 2012 is Chivas’ first new launch for five years. It beat off competition from Johnny walker and Jack Daniels products to scoop top place.

You might think that a duty free exclusive brand is small beer. But ‘travel retail’ as it is known in the business accounts for one in five of all Chivas sales around the world.

The main design challenge was to differentiate ‘The Chivas Brothers’ Blend’ from other Chivas variants -in particular the existing 12 year old.

One of the solutions to this was the selection of the colour purple for the brand’s livery which bridges the gap visually between 12 and 18 year olds, (red and blue respectively). The winning designs also aimed to balance tradition and modernity whilst successfully creating stand-out in-store.

The design also created visual equities beyond colour. It employs extracts from Chivas brother’s original Royal Warrant to add authenticity and relate the story back to the brand’s beginnings.

At the same time the US based Mobius awards gave our design for Beefeater’s summer of 2012 special edition ‘Inside London’ a certificate for outstanding creativity in the food and Beverages pack design sector.


Is digital killing culture?

by Alex Benady

It’s not exactly hot news that digital is slowly killing print. Nonetheless I was properly stunned to discover in WH Smith today that the latest edition of US news magazine Newsweek is to be its last -in print form at least. This is an 80 year old news institution that at its peak sold 3 million copies a week. And yet there it was on the shelf with a black and white picture of its Manhattan headquarters on the cover and the only slightly bitter headline “#LASTPRINT ISSUE”.

It feels like a pivotal moment, a tipping point. But according to a slightly forced, ‘glass half full’ editorial by Tina Brown, it’s not an ending, it’s a beginning.  Newsweek it seems, has effectively been dead for years. It was sold a couple of years ago by The Washington Post to 92 year-old multi millionaire Sidney Harman for a dollar. Harman then arranged a marriage with Brown’s Daily Beast. Now the “spanking new all digital Newsweek,“ will only be available on your iPad Kindle or phone. (more…)

Chicago Athenaeum hands CPB 3 ‘Good Design’ awards.

by Sarah Cameron


This blog is about all the things that inspire us as we make brands beautiful: insights and ideas, points of view, fabulous work, nascent trends - all the things that excite us and help us to see new possibilities for the brands we work on. So please enjoy, add your comments, forward the link, and come back and see us. We’ll be posting regularly.