Internet and brand-less packaging

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 ?

doc-468.jpgWhen 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

ou can reach Herb Meyers by e-mail :