Tim Perry talks agency growth

by Tim Perry, Managing Director

Easyfairs recently commissioned a study revealing Britain’s top 10 most recognisable brands’ packaging. Interestingly, amongst this list of long-standing brands – with iconic packaging that has remained largely unchanged for many decades – sits the Fairy Liquid bottle at number 7, whose packaging was designed much more recently by Webb deVlam in 2008.

‘Iconic’ is an objective that appears on nearly every design brief. ‘Timeless’ and ‘Classic’ are others. Looking at examples on the list such as the Coca-Cola bottle, which has long been celebrated as a design classic, the famous glass Heinz Ketchup bottle which was first created in 1890, or the Marmite Jar which has been around since the 1920s, it would seem that iconic status and consumer recognisability are gained through decades of careful nurturing and evolution.

However, the Fairy liquid bottle is an example of why this doesn’t have to be the case; it is possible for today’s redesigned packaging to become widely recognised- and yes, iconic even – in a decade. Singular.

Many will, I’m sure, remember Fairy’s original white cylindrical bottle, well known for 50 years before switching to recyclable PET. But can anyone remember the bottle that came next? Our challenge to design a new pack that would reclaim Fairy’s iconic status was bought to fruition in 2008. To have become the 7th most recognisable pack in Britain less than a decade later is quite an achievement.

Reflecting on Fairy as an example, there are five key ways in which iconic status and wider recognition in packaging can be attained sooner rather than later:

  1. Different – but relevant

One of the reasons for redesigning the Fairy bottle was that almost every washing-up bottle on the market at the time looked the same. As the leading brand, Fairy had to stand out. But being different for different’s sake is easy. As well as being distinctive, to stand a chance of becoming the category archetype, the revised design needs to be relevant, both to its category – and equally importantly to its target audience.

  1. Beyond relevant – meaningful

At Webb deVlam, we don’t think that being relevant is enough. We believe that to truly connect with people, we need to create meaning. Not easy with a commodity product like washing up liquid you might think.

However, carefully considered consumer research can uncover insights that show how to connect with people at a deeper level, to create a truly engaging experience.

  1. Simplify and amplify

A key way to achieve a design that will stand the test of time is to find a simple, confident big idea. Ideally this should be based on a core product truth.

In the Fairy bottle’s case it’s the droplet-shaped silhouette. The number of dishes a single droplet will clean has been a key equity of the Fairy brand for many years, communicating superior product performance.

Within the silhouette, we framed the label with a circular bubble shape. The generous curves connote viscosity, a commonly understood signal of product quality and long-lasting suds. We very deliberately used this feature to create a grip, vital when squeezing a bottle with wet, slippery hands.

Lastly we added faceted details, designed to catch the light and add a delightful cut-glass quality to the clear PET bottle and brightly coloured, jewel-like liquid inside.

  1. Practicalities matter too…

Of course when designing for a brand that sells in such high volumes, a solution that can run efficiently down production lines in numerous manufacturing facilities is vital. Visiting these plants and engaging early with the people who operate them was another critical success factor with Fairy. Although our design was radically different from the previous bottle, we managed to utilise the existing production assets, with very minimal line changes required.

  1. A commercial success

Fairy was elevated to Superbrand status in 2013 after selling over 100 million bottles in the UK. In 2016, Superbrand ranks Fairy as the number one UK consumer brand in the Household Cleaning Products category. As well as Fairy, the bottle was designed for use in North America and beyond for the Dawn dishwashing brand. I currently live and work in the US and see it on the counter of almost every household I visit here.

So, can a pack become a supremely valuable brand asset by reaching iconic status within just ten years? Absolutely.

Originally published in Packaging News



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