New Year, new start…The usual platitudes abound but, whether we believe in resolutions or not, we probably do all look at making some sort of personal or professional change at this time of year. Of course, the food & drink sector has just had probably its biggest annual marketing push with the festive period. But many retailers are also now looking to capitalise on the diet and health focus and how to re-sell existing offers or ‘diet’ and healthy eating specific products. It’s a hard one to get right and maybe even more so on the back of a recession, Christmas spending and the new VAT increase…
In the past couple of days, TV advertising has certainly upped the ante…Most notably—and frequently—has been M&S’s push of its ‘Simply Fuller Longer’ range…it does what it says on the tin and we trust M&S to deliver but it has none of the suggestive passion and warmth of, for example, their regular ‘Dine-In for Two’ ads…And, surely being encouraged to make a change in the way we eat—or to get back on track—needs to be a bit more emotive and encouraging?
We expect brand ads to tell a story and give us some sort of emotion or inspiration but is this connection and recognition maintained with the packaging at point of purchase? What is the design language of healthy convenience? The ‘Simply Fuller Longer’ range is probably just what we would expect from a bland and boring diet meal brand in predominantly white and pared down packaging. And, in a line-up, very similar in design style to healthy eating ready meal ranges from US based brands Kashi and Organic Bistro… It’s too predictable.
And this is a real shame as in the run up to Christmas the nation’s favourite retailer unveiled fantastically creative packaging for its own brand range of naturally caffeine free teas. The warm and friendly packaging, featuring illustrations by Stuart Kolakovic, was obviously designed to summon a mood or a feeling in line with the tea type.
And this is the crux. The language of healthy convenience is an important one for food and drink brands to address year round and not just in the resolution season. Whilst we do need specific, functional and informative, this needs to now be balanced with a more holistic, emotional and inspirational brand territory. And the M&S teas typify the opening up of a new perception which focuses on looking to products to help successfully punctuate moments in our life rather than buying products to make a life.
Half of the problem with diet/healthy eating plans is keeping people interested and motivated and not just providing a practical on-the-go solution. One step at a time rings true and so it’s about capturing and creating moments of pleasure that bring taste, health and convenience together…This is where the health entrepreneurs (Innocent, Raw, Graze) have blazed a trail but one which the big brands now need to try and emulate in their own style but with a new and more empowering and desirable visual and written language.
And there is one innovative brand already in this sector that is going from strength to strength based on the quality of both its food and its packaging. Gourmet, Irish food brand, Cully & Sully, won packaging awards for its initial launch of a ready-to-cook meal range. This has now been followed up with a new and equally well-designed Hot Pot range. The unique look-and-feel is unashamedly based on the personalities and passion for good food of the duo behind the brand. The blackboard menu idea is unlike any other ready meal packaging on the market and the hand-drawn sketches and personal recommendations allows Cully & Sully to speak directly to the consumer.
Any health campaign has to be both a head and heart decision and language is a huge motivator. It’s about inspirational—but not prescriptive—words and pictures that mean something to each and every individual and communicate provision, pleasure, celebration and liberation rather than restriction and deprivation.
About the Author
Jonathan Ford is a designer and co-founding partner of Pearlfisher. He oversees a portfolio of award-winning designs, including a high profile list of ethical, entrepreneurial and iconic brands. He is also a frequent speaker at high-profile international industry events and regular contributor and commentator in the design and brand press.
Jonathan can also be followed on Twitter—@Jforddesigns