Earlier this month I was at a major food and drink show which had all the usual suspects punting their wares alongside a number of new start ups with some interesting propositions at their heart . As usual the businesses that clearly appreciate the value of branding and design are evident and were outnumbered 1 : 23 by my count.
Nothing new here, but for the first time, seeing all of this packaging design under one roof – yes I do go to the supermarket before you ask – I got the feeling that all the good branding had a very familiar and derivative feel to it. There was definitely nothing wrong with the better designs, but very little, if anything, felt original or fresh and nothing was really surprising or unexpected.
Now I know as well as anybody how easy it is to be critical of others’ designs but my observation was not one about the quality of the craft, or even ideas behind the better designs, but the fact that as fmcg designers we seem to have fallen into design auto pilot.
From what I can observe there seems to be a couple of prominent design ideas and aesthetic styles out there. Clearly, what has worked for a few of the break-through grocery brands is being replicated time and time again, with the hope that a little of this design pixie dust will bring great success and an unusually high market valuation.
I’m not going to be critical of this design aesthetic as it has worked well for over a decade now – dare I say it… ever since Innocent entered the market – but for me the true sign of a great fmcg brand is not one that is derivative of others, but one that carves out it’s own space and sense of how it looks and goes about things. Only then can you genuinely be classed as an authentic challenger.
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