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Can Large Brands Be Brave?

It is generally accepted in design circles that the smaller the brand, the easier it is to push through ground-breaking (hence award-winning) design solutions. It is indeed true that with larger brands there is more to lose, and perhaps this compels them to make safer choices.

No brand manager wants their billion-dollar brand to lose market share due to an unsuccessful redesign that they initiated. Therefore, large brand redesigns will inevitably go through rounds and rounds of validation with consumer research. The challenge is to make sure that with each stage the design gets better, and doesn’t lose its original magic.

It can be refreshing to work with smaller entrepreneurial start-ups where the brand visionary is present at all the meetings and trusts that the design consultancy knows what it is doing. The final design will often get chosen during the first presentation, based on gut instinct. Here, the risk is in not being brave enough and consequently not getting noticed.

On the flip side, larger brands have much deeper pockets. If they do bully up and embark on a brave new redesign, they can do so without compromise and carry the new vision through to every touch-point.

One such example is Tide. Laundry detergent used to be just below hemorrhoid cream on the list of least desirable design projects. However, it now often appears in the best practices section of strategy decks. The brand reinvented the category by moving from merely getting clothes clean to the more exciting positioning of “caring for your clothes.” Tide carried this vision seamlessly throughout new product development, label graphics, bottle shape and advertising. There was no compromise by “making do” with the existing structure.

It doesn’t get much bigger than Coca Cola. They too, have successfully reinvented themselves in recent years, paring down the design toolbox to its most essential equities, producing a simpler, more focused vision. The resulting new packaging has had designers all over the world drooling.

Of course, Apple is the classic example of how focused vision coupled with brave design can conquer the world.

So, to all those billion-dollar hemorrhoid cream brands in need of reinvention, I say “Bring it on!”

About the Author


Stephanie Krompier is Associate Creative Director at Sterling Brands. She joined the Sterling family 14 years ago when she moved to New York from New Zealand. She is proud to work for some of the world’s most iconic brands, such as Burger King, Hersheys and Campbells.

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