The State of Packaging in Today’s Market (Interview 8)

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For those of you who have been following this series of interview we offer you number 8 from Will Burke, Principal & Chief Innovation Officer at CB'a Brand Engine. Will’s passion lies in bridging strategy and design to solve complex issues with great insight and straightforward solutions. Formerly with Landor Associates, Lister-Butler and Axion Design, Will’s 20+ year history includes major branding and packaging programs for Citicorp, MasterCard, Shell Oil, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Logitech, Palm, Foster’s, Frontier Natural Products, Nestlé and Tropicana. As a featured speaker and author, Will’s unique perspective has been spotlighted by Package Design Magazine, Entrepreneur’s Organization,,, Shelf Impact! and HOW Magazine. When he's not working with clients or spreading the word on the value of branding, you can find Will motoring on his vintage Ducati café racer on Highway 1. 1.    In today’s packaging, how much emphasis is placed on form and how much on graphics? Is one more dominant than the other? This is a difficult question as both are important elements and affect one another. Typically we start with form as the structure itself can be iconic.  Take the Coca-Cola bottle for example. No graphics needed. That is an extreme example and most packaging is combination of the two. We recently completed a project where at the beginning we had a strong strategic recommendation to change the form of the package to differentiate from the competition which were in a very similar form. After completing the graphics, we reevaluated the strategy and agreed that the graphics were so successful that a change to the form was unnecessary. As a regular practice, we start first with form and go from there. 2.    Has the focus on sustainability in packaging leveled off or will it continue to rise? I believe we will continue to see a rise in sustainability in packaging. It will now be at a slower pace as the "fad" phase has worn off.  Given the rise in online retailing, you are now confronted with an extra layer of packaging to consider. For a recent client, we decided to put the product in a reusable bag instead of a traditional box given that it would be only ordered on line or direct. I can even imaging how much we saved in natural resources by taking this approach. The client was 100% behind the idea from the beginning, we did not have to twist his arm! 3.    With the growing number of products entering the market, what are the expectations of companies in regards to sales performance based on package design and do you feel they are realistic? The bigger issue is finding the right agency that understands how to design packaging that has a significant impact on sales. Many times companies have a get-it-done-cheap mentality for packaging and then are disappointed when the sales don't meet expectations. I'm making the assumption that the product is not the issue. I believe that following a proven package design process -- which starts with a clear understand of the brand -- that packaging can play a significant role in increasing sales. We've designed or redesigned many packages that have exceed the sales expectations of our clients. I'd be happy to share some ROI figures. 4.    Do you find budgets for package design growing or shrinking? I've seen both. For more executional work -- implementation and production, the budgets have shrunk. It's disappointing as a great concept poorly executed is crap. So invariable many times what you see in the market is a poor imitation of the real work. People don't pay for craftsmanship anymore. On the other hand we are seeing budgets go up for concept work when it comes to forward-thinking packaging projects. However, these type of projects are few and far between. 5.    When designing a package, how connected are you to the manufacturing and fulfillment segments? Each client is different. For some we are very connected. 6.    How often have you bought a product based on the package? Too many times to count. Great packaging is beautiful! 7.    Have you ever purposely designed a package to have a life (or use) past the product it contains? Yes. 8.    Many consumers complain about clamshell packaging due to the difficulty in opening one. Since that feature is in place to deal with theft, how would you counter or improve that part of the clamshell design? Good question. I'm sure there are 100+ ways to address this problem. Lets first educate people not to steal. Maybe we can just stop there. 9.    What package would you like to design? The next must have new product that has yet to be invented. 10.  What is your favorite package? My 1968 Ducati 350 Cafe racer motorcycle!

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