Chris Harrison: What’s Hot For Brands In 2011

Here are some interesting observations from around the world, which may prompt thoughts about the role of design in your brand’s 2011 plans.

January is over. And, surprisingly, I find that some marketers have not yet signed off the brand plan for 2011. Perhaps closing off 2010 took longer than they thought. Or maybe the bones are there, but they have yet to flesh them out.
If you find yourself in this state, here are some interesting observations from around the world, which may prompt thoughts about the role for design in your brands 2011 plans.

I’m fortunate to be associated with the largest ‘family’ in our profession. WPP, now officially the globe’s largest communications group. ‘Family’ is a nice homey way to describe a collection of edged weapons. But thanks to their sharpness, and their willingness to collaborate, I can share some of their acuity with you.

For a change, I’m not going to touch upon social media. It’s easy to think ‘last brand on Facebook’s a failure’, but there’s still more to life than the tiny screen.

Take design, for instance. All over Africa, brands are evolving their packaging and corporations their identities. Will we follow world trends, or create our own? As a reference point, you should know awareness of design as a commercial technique is at an all time high. This means that all around the world consumers are looking at logo, pack and retail designs with a truly critical eye. In much the same way as decades ago they became lay experts in TV advertising (demanding high entertainment value, and not just information, from commercials).

This design literacy certainly puts marketers on the spot. Brand design now not only has to be fit for purpose, it has to have the right aesthetics. ‘Rubbish design’ equals ‘rubbish brand’ . So to address this ( or cover their backsides) marketers are now embracing a new mantra – SHARE DESIGN DELIGHT. In practical terms this means less rigid adherence to corporate identity guidelines. In some cases it even means giving consumers the chance to participate in the brand identity.

And what are this season’s colours? Well according to Jack Bredenfoerder in the Cincinnati office of Landor Associates: ’The color design story for 2011 is an inspiring tale of fire and passion.’
Jack’s view is that during global meltdown what we all need is the cleansing power of fire. So look out for brands sporting reds oranges and ambers; complimented by the natural comforting colours of luxuries enjoyed by the fire – leather, tobacco, cashmere.

Jack goes on to highlight charcoal, smoke and ash, before sweeping off into the deep richness of purple.I tell you something. I want his job.

But seriously, when you look at the palates we employ in Africa, you have to say his point of view is refreshing. Can we have a bank that isn’t blue or green?

When it comes to packaging, the global emphasis is on sustainability. Paper Mate recently launched biodegradable pens that break down in to organic matter within a year. Mind you, I’ve had pens like that.

Kraft foods, new players in Africa after the Cadbury acquisition have committed to eliminate 150lbs million of packaging and cut carbon emissions by 25%.

Some categories are beginning to invest in thin film and printed battery technology, which means the pack can light up, and talk to you from the shelf. This might cause alarm in rural areas, but is something to think when you consider our premium brands and their supermarket environments.

And in labeling, brands are beginning to make space for more evidence of their brand promise. The Tide detergent brand now features a limited edition label, showcasing the work it has done providing laundry facilities in disaster areas. Proctor & Gamble’s Tide of Hope programme washed 14,000 loads of laundry for New Orleans families in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Yesterday en route to London I met a friend from one of East Africa’s more successful confectionery producers. He was attending a huge expo in Cologne this week, as has done for nine successive years. I look forward to seeing what design and pack innovation he, and others like him, will bring to Africa this year.

Chris Harrison is Chairman of Young & Rubicam Brands, Africa. This article has been republished with his kind permission

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Image by yannie_trip

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