Happy Birthday Boots

September 10, 2019

As they celebrate their 150 years, we are celebrating our anniversary working in partnership with the amazing Boots. For the last 15 years, we’ve been keeping many of their established and well-loved brands fresh, as well as bringing new brands to market in the UK and around the world.

We’ve been fortunate to have worked across most areas in-store; from Food, Gifting, Skincare, Cosmetics, Haircare, Electrical and Baby, to Vitamins, Healthcare and Maternity – delivering both brands for Boots and their partners.

Amongst all of this variety is the consistency of Boots’ core customers. Becoming intimately familiar with their needs, aspirations, buying triggers and desires has helped us to deliver success across a breadth of projects for a decade and a half. We’re very proud of the relationships we have built with the team over the years, and the deep understanding we have of their customers.

By far, the largest number of our projects with Boots involves the design of trend-led, seasonal gifts and beauty must-haves. We have created gifts for all Walgreens Boots Alliance markets, for own-brand ranges and their partner brands – delivering initial concepts for products and packaging, through to the supply of artwork for production and everything in between. At last count, we’ve designed over 800 mood boards and created over 300 design guides for packaging and gifting ranges across the portfolio. That’s worth celebrating!

Packaging is just another format or touchpoint for a brand to reach its audience. Right?

Yes, however it also requires the juggling skills of an octopus to ensure that everything works together seamlessly. There aren’t many other design tasks that require so much detailed thought for each square cm of space.

The usual considerations around audience, sector, product, competitors and ambitions first need to be thoroughly investigated. Then comes the ‘feel’ with aesthetics, format and usability. Mix all that with the practical concerns of production, finishing, distribution, on-line ‘thumbnail’ appeal, shelf space, environmental concerns and compliance and you already have a lot to think about.

But we also need to create the on-pack hierarchy, by which customers will navigate the range. How will we lead the eye around such a small area to communicate all that there is to say, in a priority order of importance? When the number of SKUs is large, the way in which we segment the range into smaller ‘families’ (by ingredient, type, function or result) and what features we use to do this (colour, format, image or messaging) become increasingly important. Get it wrong and it will be hard to add to the range at a later date. Get it right and everything becomes easier and more intuitive.

We’ve recently been thinking about the nuances of on-pack information rather a lot as we re-designed the entire Boots food range and refreshed the branding for QMS Medicosmetics.

We’ll never find the right systematic approach, as there isn’t one. Understanding the rules is as important as breaking them when the time is right. But what we know for certain is that we love the juggle, we love the different and complementary skills that come together in our packaging projects and we love it when multiple considerations and decisions come together in a way that looks natural and effortless.

Logic not miracles

June 6, 2019

German skincare brand QMS Medicosmetics has, over the past 30 years, built a fiercely loyal and global customer following thanks to their clinical expertise and innovative products. Firmly established in the European Spa market and with a successful presence in Liberty London, new owners Blue Gem saw that by repositioning and repackaging, there was opportunity to expand the consumer brand and open up new retail and online channels, in both existing and new regions.

A culmination of qualitative interviews with internal and external stakeholder groups, store visits, a product and packaging audit, and an extensive market review helped us to define the priority consumers and the strategic brand pillars for the business, and it was clear that QMS needed to work much harder as a brand. It needed greater presence on shelf, clearer product hierarchy, and as a premium offering, it needed a look and feel that aligned with its product positioning and price point.

We devised naming and descriptor principles in order to help customers to better navigate the range and provide greater confidence for self-selection. As our research showed considerable equity in the QMS blue and confidence in the brand’s scientific heritage, we created a look and feel that reflected the clean, clinical core of the products while retaining a recognisable legacy. Extending the colour palette to include tonal variations of blue provided points of intrigue and differentiation across the identity and social media, POS and packaging.

Our aim was to balance cutting edge clinical expertise with the elegance and luxury of classic beauty, bringing to life the brand promise of Logic not miracles so that QMS can continue to expand its following and global reach for years to come.

The food to go market is moving at a faster pace than ever before. Wellness is at the core of everyone’s thinking whether that is about dietary requirements or weight management. Provenance of the food we are choosing and its impact on the environment is increasingly important and of course we are all becoming much more adventurous, desiring world inspired flavours.

Futureproofing Boots’ food to go range required being mindful of established brands as well as new, dynamic entrants to the market. Ensuring Boots’ food proposition is distinct with a clear positioning that is effectively communicated across customer-led packaging, was crucial to the programme’s success. We carried out an extensive competitor review as part of our approach.

Early on it was identified that a significant commercial gain could be achieved by bringing Boot’s range together holistically under the single strategic umbrella of personalised nutrition. The range is further broken down into three ranges; core range (healthy and balanced), Shapers (calorie controlled) and Free From (great tasting without gluten, sugar or dairy). The challenge of the project was to create a cohesive family out of a breadth of products from drinks, salads and sushi to sandwiches, wraps, crisps, snacks and cakes across the three ranges.

Our study of the market confirmed a significant trend in bold, colourful illustrations on food packaging. Moving the Boots’ range from photography to illustration was a natural progression for the brand as they have firmly established themselves in the food category and no longer need to rely on photography to bring their food products to life. Colour has a huge influence on how consumers perceive products and brands, and illustrations and patterns can present a much desired simplicity and honesty for the customer. Our eye-catching, patterned illustrations and use of colour to depict the essence of each protein type (meat, fish, poultry and veg) allows easy navigation of the range, while the clear, bold calorie pop ensures that customers can make a nutritional choice that suits them. The culmination of these elements gives Boots the opportunity to own a design language with maximum impact on shelf and their the customers the confidence to make informed decisions, effortlessly.

BBC Earth is the production powerhouse behind ground-breaking productions such as Planet Earth II, Dynasties and Blue Planet II. They have a wealth of incredible programming but very few visual assets to use in print or on products. Our brief was to create a new consumer product style guide along with the assets and applications that will be so valuable for extending the BBC Earth brand.

We first worked with the team to scope out the licensing and collaborative opportunities that lay ahead and then dove into an extensive creative exploration phase to work out how natural history live action programming could translate into unique and ownable graphic assets.

By developing a ‘habitat’ driven library of designs through themes such as jungle, desert and ocean, we have brought to life the unique locations that BBC Earth visits – the landscapes, geology, animals and vegetation all feature in icons, painted textures, photography, colour palettes, patterns and typographic lock-ups.

We can’t wait to see the products on shelves so we can stock up on reusable cups, bottles and children’s wear to show our love for planet earth.

Discover how defining your brand architecture can help you connect with customers,
get your employees on the same page, and ultimately boost efficiency and profitability.

What are the challenges facing fast-growing brands? 
When your company is growing swiftly – especially by acquiring other businesses – your brand can often get very complicated, very quickly. With a hotchpotch of visual identities and names under one roof, and new divisions and internal politics to consider, you can soon find yourself with a brand portfolio that’s tricky to navigate and understand. With clarity and consistency so crucial to engaging with your customers, it’s time to consider your brand architecture strategy.

So what is brand architecture? 
Simply put, it’s the way your company’s offerings are organised in relation to your overarching ‘parent brand’. With a well-considered brand architecture, you’ll make better sense of your portfolio and help your teams understand how everything fits together. And most importantly, you’ll improve the way you define and communicate your business to the world.

Set up as a ‘house of brands’?  
Many large portfolio brands grow through acquisition, and often in relatively haphazard fashion. With a myriad of individual products and services, all with very little acknowledgement of the parent brand, this approach is known as a ‘house of brands’. For some businesses keeping this separation is deliberate and part of their longer term growth strategy. For other businesses, particularly those seeking to build a consumer reputation, a ‘house of brands’ approach does not maximise their value. With few common traits, and no coherent brand DNA across the business, it’s almost impossible to deliver an overarching sense of purpose and transparency that today’s customers are increasingly demanding.

Ready to move to a ‘branded house’?
Increasing numbers of large portfolio consumer businesses are switching to a ‘branded house’ approach that clearly aligns all their products and services to their masterbrand. Sometimes this is done in an overt way where the parent brand is incorporated into the product and service names (e.g Pearson). Sometimes this link is more subtle such as Unilever or Procter and Gamble which ensure their parent name is present on packaging and communications therefore providing an endorsement. By taking ownership of their portfolio and truly standing up to be counted, these businesses are now able to communicate their masterbrand’s purpose to the world. And with today’s ever-more demanding customers, this is essential to building their trust, admiration and loyalty.

Where do you start? 
First up, plenty of research. You need to understand where you want to maximise your brand value. This helps determine how closely aligned each business area is to your core brand – and this in turn ensures that you focus your efforts in the right places, building equity into the most important brands in your portfolio, and maximising the equity of your parent brand. Yet while some offerings will benefit from much closer alignment to the parent brand, others might require a little more independence and ‘breathing space’, whilst still feeling connected. It’s rarely a case of one size fits all – instead, it’s all about striking a careful balance.

What other tools will you require?
Once you’ve got to grips with the alignment of your products and services, you’re ready to develop your architecture framework. Essentially, this acts as a filter to help you accurately place each offering within a category. When your framework is in place, it’s time to develop clear guidance for each category, defining the visual identity, naming and tone of voice principles for each one. And then, finally, it’s time to implement that guidance across your portfolio.

Is it as complex as it sounds?
That often depends on the size of your portfolio, and the number of stakeholders involved. The process requires extensive internal engagement; you’ll need to bring everyone along with you, and get them enthusiastic about the benefits of alignment. And you’ll need all your powers of persuasion to defend the independence of certain individual brands, while working through the risks, and developing the implementation plans. But despite often being a huge and complex task, a well-considered brand architecture programme will deliver all kinds of positive outcomes.

What are the major benefits?
First and foremost, your masterbrand will be stronger. A branded house approach helps increase brand awareness and consideration, and delivers a halo effect for your entire portfolio. Over time, the health of your masterbrand will ultimately drive the success of your business as a whole.

Your internal culture will benefit too, as your teams align behind a common vision, instilling pride and motivation. And by understanding the whole business rather than simply their particular area, cross-selling becomes second nature for your teams, and they will spot opportunities to integrate their skills and work together more effectively and fruitfully.

Will it save you money?
Yes it will. An effective brand architecture strategy will deliver considerable cost savings and efficiencies to your business, in all kinds of ways. From decommissioning websites and unique urls, to reducing legal trademarking and IP requirements, or cutting design and marketing costs, your company will soon reap the financial rewards.

Who can help you?
We can. At Together, we’re experts in helping brands understand the bigger picture. Pearson and THIS Institute are just two of the clients we’ve recently helped with brand architecture strategies. Get in touch to find out more and discuss how our carefully considered approach to brand architecture could help transform your business.

Fall in love

February 14, 2019

We are delighted to have designed Charbonnel et Walker’s heart-shaped Valentine’s collection.

For their centrepiece chocolate boxes, we drew inspiration from their strong Victorian heritage. Our concept, ‘Hearts of Desire’, includes both a pink and red heart-shaped box, illustrating Victorian emblems that represent love and affection in a bolder, edgier tattooing style. We wanted the designs to demand swoon-worthy attention and command stand-out on shelves.

The illustrations, designed by our in-house team, capture the beauty of falling in love. Handwritten love letters (always the key to one’s heart), swallows, known for their magical flight that would lead ships safely to shore, and an intricate bird cage which was often used as exquisite decorations for the home. And of course it wouldn’t be Charbonnel et Walker without that little touch of luxury and glamour, with gold edging to frame the heart perfectly.

So whether your favourite person prefers Pink Marc de Champagne Truffles or the finest mix of milk and dark chocolates, be sure to get yours in stores now. Or, if you’re anything like us, visit their Bond Street store to enjoy their magnificent window display and indulge in a truly decadent experience.

In the Butler’s pantry…

February 12, 2019

No kitchen pantry is complete without the essentials – and we consider Charbonnel et Walker’s latest range of chocolate bars to be just that. So we were thrilled to design ‘The Butler’s Pantry’ collection – four individual chocolate bars ranging from scrumptious hazelnut milk chocolate, milk and dark chocolate, and indulgent sea salt caramel.

Breaking away from traditional tones, we used modern, bright and vibrant colours, with Charbonnel et Walker’s classic gold foiling and a unique rectangular format to create a unique look and feel, and compliment both The Drawing Room and The Grand Ballroom ranges. These inspired cupboard staples will liven up your next party, create a wonderful gift, or be the perfect accompaniment to that nice cup of tea.

So go on… indulge. We certainly will.