Trend toward individualization is subsiding

Friedrich Detering, Managing Director of Flaechenbrand GmbH, agency for brand development and packaging design, explains in an interview what a good label means today.

What makes a good label?

It is very important that it provides orientation and a kind of eye guidance independent of the design. Where does my eye go? What do I see first? That sounds trivial, but it’s important. This information hierarchy hits home in a fraction of a second. When this point is reached, a good label must emotionalise and differentiate.

In the confectionery sector, this has also become increasingly difficult due to the abundance of products. The old way of transporting a brand – „the cow is purple“ – is no longer enough. You have to tell stories, in the most difficult case on a surface the size of a business card.  In times when design is crucial for sales, it is incredibly difficult to have your own brand identity. If you look at the cosmetics shelves, for example, you will find some negative examples. With bath additives, there are only two brands that are clearly visible: Kneipp and Dresden Essence. These brands are recognizable as such.

A label is successful when the “want-to-have” effect arises. Sometimes this effect does not arise even though the label is well done. Ingenuity and chance also play a role. Whoever has the courage to breach category codes, to create something completely new, can sometimes also achieve the “want-to-have” effect. By the way, it’s not always the label that counts. With many perfumes you only see the bottle and already recognise the brand.

Is there a risk of losing regular customers when changing labels?

As an agency, we are often commissioned to relaunch brands. When we do this, we first think in terms of routes: From evolution to revolution. The longest route is the revolution. After the revolutionized brands have been tested in market research, 80 to 90 percent of responses state that the label must be closer to its original design again. With new packaging, we give the product a new twist based on the cornerstones of the brand.


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What are the trends in labels?

One trend is called „There are a thousand trends“. There are very different niche products in development. Another trend is called „peaking“ and not „serving the mainstream“. Another trend driven by a moral impetus has been naturalness for about five to seven years. Society is becoming ever greener. Even discounters have recognized that they have to offer salad packaged with a baking paper look. They have adapted the natural look. For example, hand-written fonts with matt textured backgrounds give a label a natural character, even if it is still made of plastic. Those who offer real innovations benefit from this trend. The cans from the Berlin cocoa drink manufacturer Koawach, for example, are made of cardboard. You can now see them in an ever increasing number of shops. The mainstream market wants to profit from design. New tools such as a ribbon for a jam jar are appearing. Craft Beer has become attractive through start-ups that cater to the naturalness trend. But there are also examples from the cosmetics industry. The Shampoo Longhaired Girl is one such brand. The drugstore chain dm has brought the niche product of a start-up to its shelves and thus successfully turned long-haired girls into the mainstream. By the way, the trend naturalness has subcategories like nostalgia, romance, handmade.

Another trend is premium, the elitist design is also in demand.  Every retailer has premium private labels on offer in addition to their own low-priced brands. At Rewe, these are the Ja and the Feine Welt products. It makes no difference with regards to the requirements of the design language which trend is to be catered to. Cheaper products do not have a simpler design. There is also the trend towards feminisation. Consumer goods are bring given an emphatically feminine design.

The trend towards feminisation contradicts the gender trend?

There has been no gender debate in the consumer goods industry to date. Consumers define themselves through their products. They want the differentiation.

And what about the trend towards individualisation? Individual packaging is the order of the day, according to the marketing experts.

My gut feeling is that this trend is already fading. It was at its peak with the Nutella name campaign. How much relevance do individually produced labels ultimately have? Maybe you will buy such a product once and be happy about your personal product. The third time it’s nothing special anymore.

Can you give an example of a successful label?

Our most successful new launch was the packaging launch of Die Limo by Granini. The transparent sleeve and bottle rejuvenation have remained true to the premium claim of the brand, which was particularly strong in the 90s. The transparent label of the Granini Limo simulates a natural lemonade. The goal was a hundred percent successful. The lemonade has become a source of turnover in its own right.

Is the QR code on the label a disruptive factor?

We thought now and again that the QR code had disappeared. But it is still in existence. That’s nothing dramatic for us designers. Like the deposit logo, it is a mandatory statement that we incorporate. But I believe that in a few years there will no longer be a QR code on the label due to new technical possibilities. In three to four years, the product will be held in front of the camera without a QR code and it will be recognized as such.

Strategy, brand development, brand identity, corporate design, logo, packaging design, communication: Since 2007, Flaechenbrand GmbH has been providing these services for well-known national and international brands in the food & beverage sector. The Wiesbadener agency, which has also a branch in Hamburg, won awards several times in the past few years, internationally and nationally.