Forum 2018 Session to Examine How Brand Owners Design to Consumer Behavior
Imagine being able to literally get inside the mind of a brand owner, to see their thoughts and fully grasp their decision-making process. That’s the stuff of science fiction, but Forum 2018’s “Taming Consumer Behavior Through Packaging Design” session will offer the next best thing, as a handful of industry experts discuss the rationale behind brand owner choices, the value of consumer research and the part flexographers can play.
Here, Jason Edelen, creative director at We Are Alexander, previews his presentation in that session and talks to FLEXO Magazine about strategic planning, challenges of designing to flexography and how a printer adds value.
FLEXO Magazine: Brands are constantly exploring new packaging formats, rolling out fresh marketing campaigns, iterating quicker and quicker, and responding to consumer trends faster than ever before. When are they supposed to fit in strategic planning sessions, and are they that important to maintaining brand integrity?
Jason Edelen: Strategic planning is incredibly important and should always be the first step of any project as the foundation of creative design. Brand owners and planners should have a constant eye on the retail environment, their competition and their consumer. The nimblest brands continually leverage planning and strategy to help identify consumer behaviors and opportunities that are a good fit for the brand before trends are established.
FLEXO: With social media, there is an ample supply of feedback—both positive and negative—from consumers. How do brands successfully separate signal from noise and harness that information to make productive packaging design decisions?
Edelen: People commenting on social media are often passionate about social media but may not be as passionate about a brand. So, while social media may offer real-time feedback from consumers, both positive and negative, it should not be the only basis for a brand to make change. If social commentary suggests packaging performance isn’t where it should be, it would benefit the brand owner to look at all performance metrics before making any decisions. A potential solution to a problem does not always require a costly redesign.
FLEXO: We talk about flexography’s many, many benefits, but what are some challenges when it comes to designing for the print process?
Edelen: There are definitely challenges that occur when designing for flexo: fading to white, minimum dot size, minimum type size, reversed artwork or type, number of colors, effects using multiple color builds and more.
One of the biggest challenges from a design consistency perspective is that flexographic printers have varying degrees of capability. Not all of them have access to the latest technology that helps mitigate some of the traditional challenges of this print process. This becomes especially challenging when a brand has packaging that is printed by different printers—as in the retail store brand environment. In cases like this, it is very important to understand the capabilities of all printers involved so there are no surprises on the shelf.
FLEXO: Can the picture in a client’s head ever be translated perfectly to the package, or are there inherent limitations in graphic reproduction that force compromise?
Edelen: Often the picture isn’t clear in the client’s mind, but rather there is a strategic need for creative problem solving. My role is to create the best solution possible, based on an agreed-upon strategic direction. Understanding all parameters that go into bringing a solution to life from a technical point of view allows us to create designs that are printable and meet client expectations—so what they see in the design phase is what appears on shelf.
FLEXO: How does a flexographer exceed a brand owner’s expectations, and can the quest to do that ever backfire?
Edelen: A flexographer can push upstream and become a partner with other project stakeholders, ensuring there is technical alignment with design and production. Where things go wrong is when printers become too conservative and claim printability issues at the eleventh hour. Another potential problem is when a printer overpromises on its capability.
FLEXO: What’s the one thing a printer could do today to improve its relationship with a brand owner?
Edelen: The printer should have as much control over transparency and communication of the process in the most collaborative, constructive way possible. It should be available as an expert partner in the area of printing and offer the best guidelines for success early on in the process. Then, challenges can be identified early before they turn into problems in production, ensuring the brand owner and design expectations are achieved. Consistency within the process provides comfort and trust for everybody involved.