How to create brand equity using the power of design
B&B, the design studio behind brands such as BEAR and Fever Tree, explores how start-ups can capitalise on the evolution of advertising
It's a safe bet that there's an advert that you can remember. Maybe you saw it on TV, or perhaps at the cinema but, for every one of us, the right combination of beauty, wit and relevance snagged in our brains.
Some of us will have bought the product or service in the ad; all of us will have fallen a little in love with the brand.
Filmed advertisements, in an era that now seems somewhat before the dawn of time, were how companies traditionally spoke to consumers and, when they did it well, we felt we had a chance to reply.
Yet this is no longer the case.
All change in the client conversation
These days, we consume more media than ever but the audience is splintered – spread across social media channels, TV, film on demand, and other areas of the internet.
Effective communication has moved on… to design.
Whereas the advert would once alert you to the product and the packaging design would help you find it in the supermarket aisle, design has become a far more important element in getting a brand into peoples’ homes and hearts.
Looking good is no longer enough for a brand to stand out.
In our highly visual world, a product’s look must catch the consumer’s attention – and then draw the consumer in, via an engaging and accessible experience, to inspire not just take-up, but loyalty.
All hail the little guy
One great advantage of this changed world is that it favours small businesses and start-ups.
As a start-up founder, as long as you understand the importance of packaging that is both beautiful and right for your brand, you can bring a design agency on board right from the start as a partner and not as a supplier.
Together, you can craft your brand into something that speaks to the consumer, and you don’t need a million-pound advertising budget to do it.
Take natural nut butter brand Pip & Nut for instance. Its fresh look and feel, a leaping squirrel logo and an innovative sachet format come together to lauch a reinvention of nut butter as a clean product with no palm oil that’s as much an on-the-go snack as a companion to toast.
With such powerful and photogenic packaging, founder Pip Murray was able to concentrate on social media, building an Instagram following of 50,000 in two years. The brand grew 400% last year, with sales topping £3m in 2016.
And all that with absolutely no advertising – just an excellent brand that looks and feels right.
Starting from scratch
At B&B we learned early how powerful and effective the conversation between brand owner and brand designer can be.
Our very first client owned a dried fruit brand – BEAR – that sat in the baking aisle but it had potential as a snack. This was at a time when healthy snacks meant individual instead of family-size crisp packets.
Working with founder Hayley Gait-Golding, we built the BEAR brand (pictured) with a naïve and playful simplicity that was perfect for kids’ snacking and, crucially, we created this through packaging alone.
With a cut-out bear that was simple enough for kids to project their imaginations onto, collectible cards, a ‘bearcode’ – not a barcode, and an address that was simply ‘The Cave', we didn’t just ‘make fruit fun’ but we created a world where kids felt at home.
By late 2015, BEAR was the biggest seller of children’s fruit snacks in the UK and the bear himself now gets 3,000 letters a week from people engaging with the brand.
Gait-Golding's appreciation of the power of design, her bravery and desire to collaborate on packaging has surely contributed to the brand’s phenomenal success, and enabled us to win the DBA Design Effectiveness Awards Grand Prix – the first time a start-up has won that prize.
Good sense of humour required
Every brand has a personality but it's of no use if it’s hidden so it is our job to make that personality clear.
Personality is the packaging equivalent of making introductions and handing round drinks at a party and, when done well, the party – or the business – will swing.
Kabuto Noodles is a good example of a brand with personality that we worked with.
We knew that challenging the market leader, Pot Noodle, with an unknown meant building a brand with a fantastic personality – fun, approachable, and a great sense of humour.
There is nothing stuffy about packaged noodles, not even ones like Kabuto which are healthier than many of their rivals.
Again, we were brought in from the start to support design and packaging and we set about creating a healthy, and fun, brand. We were aiming for that Wagamama experience, modern and enjoyable with an Asian flavour – a contemporary take on packaged noodles.
Wit was key to the brand from the start. The name references the Samurai helmet, and the logo is a clever combination of helmet and noodle bowl.
We used the packaging format to our advantage: the two-minute wait for the noodles to be ready, followed by the convenience of eating out of the pack, meant that we could grasp the consumer’s attention by giving them something to read – a collection of Japanese proverbs tweaked to be about noodles: “The noodle that bends is greater than the chopstick that resists,” and “When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his noodles.”
None of this wit and style would have worked if the product wasn’t great; but it is. The fresh and tasty flavours are highlighted by the packaging’s contemporary feel, clean red graphics and elegant pale background.
The awards we’ve won for effectiveness demonstrate the need for you to put depth into your start-up's identity and to use elements of branding more broadly – in advertising, events, social media – to make your brand the best it can be.
Give yourself plenty to play with to help ensure synergy across your communications and, importantly, longevity on the shelf.
Shaun Bowen is creative partner at B&B studio.