Internet and brand-less packaging : who cares ?

Her­bert M. Meyers is a major per­so­na­li­ty of the Usa desi­gn indus­try. He kind­ly, has accep­ted to col­la­bo­rate to Admi­rable Desi­gn. He has foun­ded one of the most res­pec­table desi­gn agen­cy in the States : Gerstman+Meyers (now Intre­brand Gerstman+Meyers). Now he is an inde­pen­dant brand iden­ti­ty and desi­gn consultant.

In this fol­lo­wing article he deli­vers to us his opi­nion about packa­ging and cor­po­rate iden­ti­ty facing inter­net and glo­ba­li­sa­tion. Does it mean that desi­gn has no future ?

When major retai­lers, such as Sears, report with increa­sing enthou­siasm on the growth of their web­sites sales, is it any won­der that brand iden­ti­ty and package desi­gners are concer­ned that their future may be in jeo­par­dy ? Will web retai­ling, they won­der, eli­mi­nate the need for packa­ging in this mil­le­nium ? Will retai­lers offer »package-less » brands on the inernet ?

The sesious­ness of the desi­gners’­sen­si­ti­vi­ty became evident when a recent confe­rence, spon­so­red by the Brand Desi­gn Asso­cia­tion, tit­led « Package Desi­gn :Who cares ? » addres­sed these concerns and attrac­ted a large audience of brand and package desi­gn consul­tants in New York.

How rea­lis­tic are the desi­gners’­con­cerns ? Does e‑retailing real­ly fore­sha­dow the demise of « tra­di­tio­nal » mar­ke­ting and, by impli­ca­tion, prompt the disap­pea­rance of packa­king as we know it today ? Will « package-less » brands on the inter­net replace tra­di­tio­nal shop­ping in this mil­le­nium thus eli­mi­na­ting the need of brand iden­ti­ty and package desi­gn ? Do we serious­ly visua­lize the desi­gn pro­fes­sion going the way of tele­phone switch­boards and Zoot-suits ?

While I make no claim for clair­voyance, the idea of consu­mers repla­cing the adven­ture of visi­ting the mall or the super­mar­ket with orde­ring unseen and untou­ched pro­ducts via the inter­net applies, in my view, to a limi­ted consu­mer pro­file, at least in the fore­seeable future. But have mail order cata­logs repla­ced retail stores ? Or done away with packa­ging ? Have not stores of major retail chains sprung up in vir­tual­ly eve­ry com­mu­ni­ty even when mall order cata­logs of eve­ry des­crip­tion have pro­li­fe­ra­ted in a mul­ti­tude of pro­duct categories ?

Can we visua­lize kids giving up a trip to the toy store ? Do we real­ly expect women to aban­don the fun of trying out lips­ticks and fra­grances at the bou­tiques of their favo­rite depart­ment stores ? Or buying bras sight unseen ? Undoub­ted­ly, some inter­net jockeys will, in fact, do all this. We have all heard about people orde­ring cars on the inter­net. It may not be eve­ry­bo­dy’s idea of spen­ding $ 20 000 or more without get­ting behind the wheel and kicking the tires but stran­ger things have hap­pe­ned, and will conti­nue to hap­pen in our elec­to­ni­cal­ly focu­sed, com­pu­ter satu­ra­ted lives.

Rather than wor­rying about the remote pos­si­bi­li­ty of tra­di­tio­nal retai­ling and packa­ging beco­ming obso­lete, I beleive that desi­gners will learn to shift their sen­si­ti­vi­ty regar­ding the sur­vi­val of their pro­fes­sion to issues that are much clo­ser at hand. Fore­most among these is the gro­wing atten­tion of manu­fac­tu­rers and retai­lers to the glo­ba­li­za­tion of their businesses.

Ever since glo­bal mar­ke­ting has begun tur­ning the busi­ness world upside down, glo­bal bran­ding has taken cen­ter stage. Brands that enjoy great popu­la­ri­ty in our coun­try may not neces­sa­ri­ly be favo­red in Europe. Brand names that are per­fect­ly accep­table for us may com­mu­ni­cate nega­ti­ve­ly over­seas. Packa­ging colors that are confor­table here, may have dif­ferent mea­nings in cer­tain coun­tries. Fami­lia­ri­ty with the cus­toms and pucha­sing habits in coun­tries where a client’s pro­ducts are dis­tri­bu­ted must be given care­ful scrutiny.Brand iden­ti­ty and packa­ging desi­gners are begin­ning to unders­tand their client’s­gro­wing needs for help in glo­bal bran­ding and their need for value-added ser­vices, some of which go beyond pure desi­gn consultation.

A few desi­gn consul­tan­cies have attemp­ted to approach the glo­bal mar­ke­ting phe­no­me­non by part­ne­ring with other desi­gn groups and adver­ti­sing agen­cies with over­sea connec­tions. They have­done so in their desire to broa­den their pro­fes­sio­nal hori­zons and show lea­der­ship in deve­lo­ping and mana­ging brand iden­ti­ty and desi­gn assig­ments for clients whose stra­te­gic preoc­cu­pa­tion with glo­bal bran­ding has been stea­di­ly gro­wing. They are begin­ning to unders­tand that their clients are loo­king for consul­tants who can pro­vide inter­na­tio­nal consul­ting ser­vices capble of contri­bu­ting stra­te­gic as well as crea­tive input and deli­ve­ring a broad array of ser­vices in addi­tion to their desi­gn capabilities.

Thus, to meet the chal­lenge of suc­cee­ding in this cen­tu­ry, brand iden­ti­ty and desi­gn consul­tants must be able to demons­trate their value to their clients by being well infor­med, glo­bal­ly connec­ted and by beco­ming proac­tive part­ners in their clients” day-to-day mar­ke­ting acti­vi­ties. In that way, ins­tead of need­less­ly fee­ding on their tre­pi­da­tion about « brand-less » packa­ging on the inter­net, desi­gn consul­tants will find them­selves invi­ted to the table by clients who seek their visio­na­ry capabilities.

Herb Meyers

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