August 1, 2013

If Your Friends Jumped off a Bridge

If Your Friends Jumped off a Bridge

If your industry jumps off a bridge, will you jump too?

…Yes, said the petulant child.

In the design industry, it’s hard not to. Of course, it’s hard not to in any industry. When one business recognizes a successful marketing strategy/product/campaign, they instantly want to copy it. Remember when two films about the “friends with benefits” cultural phenomenon came out one right after the other? One of the films was called “Friends with Benefits,” and the other wasn’t, remember? We wonder: are any of the executives involved with the decision to make those films still employed?

Despite the fact that the public has the ability to recognize a shameless rip-off, individuality, creativity and fresh ideas are, more often than not, shunned by the wallets with the final say. Believe it or not, innovation and uniqueness don’t initially make a ton of money. As a package designer, you’ll probably be commissioned to produce a package that mimics accepted societal sentiment. It is up to you, design genius, not only to cleverly make that canister, bottle, bag or box familiar enough for the emotional comfort of your client, but also interesting enough to stand out from the competition and seduce the heart and soul of the customer. How, you ask? Well…

Recognize Trend Side Effects

Sometimes, the art of trend recognition and monetization lies in discovering the trend’s peripheral phenomena, rather than trying to capitalize on the trend itself. Huh?

Example: during the 19th century gold rush when hundreds of thousands of people were running to California to pan or mine for gold, the true innovators thought of the needs of the panners and miners and reaped rich benefits off of them. Levi Strauss made more money than 99 percent of the skinny prospectors looking for a gold strike – and he didn’t even have to wade in a freezing river. He discovered what the prospectors needed – jeans – and sold millions of ’em.

So, if you notice that Brazilian blow-out hair treatments are all the rage, or Ombre hair color, (wow, is it 2010 already?) your marketing strategy for your hair care line might want to focus on accentuating the glamour and maintaining the hair style, or repairing the hair damage from these fashionable processes.

In terms of package design, you will know what your market will find convenient and useful based upon the arbitrary fashions of the moment. Nowadays, with people holding their phones in one hand and their clutches in another, wouldn’t a hands-free package be useful? Something carried around the wrist, perhaps? We’re not suggesting you invest your life savings around that concept, but it’s a jumping off point.

Obsessively Trawl Social Media

Yes — Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr and Tumblr are all harbingers of the latest trends, but do you know what else they are? The biggest focus groups in the world.

Homemade YouTube videos are a window into the soul of the culture. The amateur tutorials on every subject from folding fitted sheets to washing long hair are a wealth of marketing and design information; you see how people cope with the limitations of available products and hear their cries for something more suited to their lifestyles and habits. Moreover, you see how many people watch them. Once you set aside your shock that there is actually an audience for videos of people combing their hair for ten minutes, you’ll see how much data you can accumulate.

Although we heartily encourage individuality in design, newness for the sake of newness doesn’t always fly. This is why social media platforms are priceless; they can prevent you from following the footsteps of misguided designers. Even though you might have engineered the coolest package on the market, you might still have to get off of your creativity horse and yield to popular demand. When highly followed vloggers declare that they prefer pump dispensers to squeeze bottles, or that they want their favorite styler to be packaged in jars, or if the new package design for their favorite product has left them confused and inconvenienced, LISTEN. Sometimes, innovation and practicality go hand in hand.

So, what have we learned today? We learned that two “Friends with Benefits” movies was a stupid idea. We learned that you don’t necessarily have to follow a trend, but branch out from it. We learned that sometimes just looking on a store shelf to see package commonalities isn’t enough to blueprint a new package design – we have to learn from the masses what those common packages lack and what they want changed. Finally, we learned that a dishearteningly large number of people film themselves washing their own hair and post it online, which can only be classified as a form of mental illness.


by Kevin Smith
SmashBrand helps brands create, optimize, and launch successful products, services, and customer experiences. Our data-driven process is the key to accelerating sales and minimizing risks.

We use a strategic combination of market research, design, and consumer testing to solve complex brand problems more effectively, create differentiation, and forge more meaningful connections with customers.

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