Love, fantasy and desire: All were explored at this year’s Fuse conference, held April 15-17 in Chicago, where attendees from design agencies and CPGs serving a diverse range of markets, including grocery, household care and toys, converged to discuss how to cultivate and harness these powerful emotions for brands.
The symposium welcome by DuPuis Group president and creative director John Silva set the tone for the event with a presentation that not only displayed his acting skills but also made it clear that this event would be about so much more than simply process.
Silva’s creative intro started with “a confession,” where he says that his files were corrupted and he had to start from scratch the night before. He sets up the scene by apologizing for any potential mishaps, and sure enough his first slide announces “the end.” The audience soon learns that this wasn’t a mishap, instead the creative director is using a device to build an empathic response from the audience.
“This slide is titled, ‘the end,’ for a reason because if you think about the role of empathy in any design function,” Silva says, “it’s really meant to be the beginning. So design, in a sense, is the end.”
He asks the audience to reflect on whether they will start their next design project with a critical or analytical posture or if they would start with an empathic or human level. “There’s a big difference between knowing about a consumer group and knowing a consumer group,” he adds. “There’s lots of ways to know about a demographic but it’s a lot harder to really know them.”
Tina Zinter-Chahin, senior vice president, global brand creative, Fisher-Price, also spoke of the importance of an emotional connection. Recalling a packaging review done with agency Duffy and Partners, where a single package was found “shouting out” up to 15 features, she quips, “That’s not a leadership position.”
Instead of selling products based on lists of features, Fisher-Price’s new packaging approach sells the celebration and enriching of childhood and is supported by advertising that spotlighted the moments that really mattered to moms and dads. “Looking way back to our first TV shot, we have no emotion from the parent—it was just the child and the toy,” Zinter-Chahin says. “We needed to change and we needed to change rapidly. So we moved to a more relevant, a more-in-the-moment and spontaneous view. We hired real mom and baby pairs as actors. Or in cases of some of the shots of which there are many in our campaign where dads are involved, they were whole families of actors. So we got this unprecedented emotional volume.”
That’s a branding strategy that’s more in touch with the way that many consumers already feel about Fisher-Price. “We’ve touched lives for over 83 years,” she remarks. “We’ve touched the lives of hundreds of millions of children. So many of them have fallen asleep in one of our cozy bouncer seats or taken a joy ride with the Little People in the school bus, or stacked the rings on the infamous Rock-A-Stack.”
With its more emotive branding, Fisher-Price looks to solidify its position as a leading childcare and toy products company in the U.S. and strengthen and accelerate the brand’s growth worldwide.
Getting to know your consumers on an emotional level, on a human level, was a theme that reappeared in several, sessions, including, “Reanimating an Icon,” by Wendy Orner, design leader for surface care, at Procter & Gamble (P&G).
Looking at the Mr. Clean brand from a purely analytical point of view, Orner says, the Mr. Clean brand might not appear to the be as strong as some of its subbrands. “It’s hard to believe this now, but there was a discussion internally about getting rid of the Mr. Clean brand,” she explains. “Magic Eraser’s our top selling line, and many consumers think of Magic Eraser and don’t even think about the rest of the products. Some smart folks inside said, ‘Why don’t we just turn this into the Magic Eraser brand.’”
So Orner began to look at Mr. Clean with a completely fresh perspective. “Nothing was sacred,” she recalls. “I said to the creatives in the room, ‘We either need to make him relevant or we need to get rid of him.’”
Orner’s team struck gold at the brand’s Facebook page. “About eight months prior, there was a shift in our social media strategy, where the Mr. Clean page went from being a brand page on Facebook to becoming something more like Mr. Clean’s personal page,” Orner explains. “And woman went crazy for him. It didn’t really matter what Mr. Clean said on Facebook, they flirted back. We knew that everybody kind of liked Mr. Clean, but what we didn’t realize was that people loved him.” Comments on the Mr. Clean Facebook page, such as, “He can come hold that mop and wash my floors,” certainly can make a person wonder if Mr. Clean’s fans are interested in his housecleaning capabilities or something else.
“We came to realize was that we already had the ultimate personification of clean,” says Orner. “He wears all white; he is beautifully clean all the time; and he’s got this shiny clean shaven head. He’s also strong and powerful, which speaks of performance from a cleaning perspective.” Laughing, she adds, “And his name is Mr. Clean!”
But Mr. Clean’s execution on pack wasn’t living up to the character. An objective review by P&G and its agency found that Mr. Clean was often relegated to the background. Instead of being the strong sexy man out front, Mr. Clean’s positioning on pack often had him looking from the background. It sometimes even had a voyeuristic feel—yikes!
So the creative team gave Mr. Clean fans what they really wanted: Mr. Clean appearing strong and powerful on pack with prominent positioning, bold colors and strong typography—a way to invite the one and only Mister into their homes everyday.
The need to appeal to international markets was a major driver for Starbuck’s redesign of Tazo Teas. Recognizing economic challenges, Starbucks pulled its Tazo tea brand out of international markets in 2009. The coffee and tea giant has returned Tazo to the international stage but not before re-imagining the product’s packaging, which was largely inherited when Starbucks bought the brand in a multi-million dollar deal in 1999.
Previous packaging delivered a sense of mystical that began with its logo type, Exocet. The font, with its cross-shaped T, has also been seen in science-fiction movies and fantasy video games. Obviously, the religious connotations of the type design and a lighthearted use of the word “sacred” could be a problem in international markets. An older package sourced by Package Design’s editors features this fictional story, Did You Know? The patio, the porch and the hammock were originally designed as sacred retreats for the quiet enjoyment of Tazo Iced Tea.
“The interesting thing about Tazo, back then, is that the brand was almost artificially creating a mysticism built around it,” Daniele Monti, creative director of brand expression at Starbucks, tells the audience at “The Rebranding of Tazo Tea: A Starbucks Case Study.” While Monti understood the sentiment the older design was aiming for, he believed the brand could be more.
The new brand identity, says Monti, “is vibrant and radiant and youthful and confident but never loud. Tazo is imaginative; it’s whimsical, inventive and purposeful but never cutesy. It’s an enriching soul food that is textural but never mystical—something it used to be in the past. Well traveled, curious, cultural and refined but never unapproachable. It’s smart; it’s nuanced; it’s witty and considerate; but it’s never smug.
“Every single line of copy on the new packaging,” he adds, “comes from the point-of-view of a charismatic and well-traveled friend. It’s more about a journey crossing centuries and continents discovering the living history of our ancestors. We sip, tasting rain, sunshine and meteor showers—drinking in the earth and all of the secrets.”
Photography by Cade Martin personifies these charismatic and well-traveled friends on packages for Tazo’s functional blends, including Thrive, Focus and Rest, with what Monti calls, “magical realism.” On the Focus package, a young gentleman peers through a telescope.
An image, that style author Virginia Postrel might categorize as “glamorous.” During her Fuse session, Postrel says, “Glamour is not transparent and it’s not opaque, it’s translucent. It exists on the border of the known and unknown.” She then reminds the audience not to forget, even in the current trend towards authenticity, that there’s beauty in leaving something to the imagination.