Strategies & Insights

Design with a Purpose

Posted: April 15, 2014 by
Eric Zeitoun

Whether introducing a new offering, refreshing an iconic brand, or revitalizing a brand due to a repositioning, a design exercise should never be undertaken in a vacuum. Too many package designs attempt to create something new without context.
A successful design needs to be purposeful. It needs a clear strategic objective and it must be evaluated and challenged in the proper context. When strategy doesn’t drive the process one can succumb either to the pitfall of the process becoming a beauty contest or to the easy excuse of equity protection. When strategy drives the process, these issues can be avoided and then design can do its magic—purposefully.
The following three case studies address three distinct objectives: a brand creation, a brand refresh, and a brand repositioning. Each one shows the importance of framing a package design development through the appropriate business objectives of brand strategy and consumer trends.

Palmolive: Refreshing an authentic brand globally
Palmolive is one of Colgate Palmolive’s largest revenue generating brands. Although mostly known as a brand of dish soap in the U.S., everywhere else in the world it is widely known as a leader in personal care. The brand includes a line of shower gels, hand soaps, under arm protection, and men’s grooming products that is sold on three continents (Europe, Asia, and South America).
The brand has been visionary in bringing key personal care trends to market, starting with the democratization of the concept of spa treatment at home. The line of shower gels, named Aromatherapy, is a market leader in multiple geographic locations because of its promise of a lavish scent and foaming experience.
Palmolive was looking to evolve the global look and feel of the Aromatherapy shower gel. A distinct brand identity was created by clearly communicating the experiential nature of the ingredients used in all its product formulations. Two key platforms help express the idea of simple natural beauty.
The first, called “straight from the source,” makes the natural ingredient the hero by linking the product to its natural source. This design captures the macro trend of “conscience,” recognizing that consumers feel better when indulging in products that use natural ingredients.
The second “me and my ego” platform recognizes that, in a time of recession, consumers are looking for simple pleasures in life to escape from day-to-day reality. Thus, the design alludes to the luscious extract of pure ingredients as a way to indulge in daily luxury. Early sales indicate that consumers have connected with the new sensorial experience that transports them to an exotic forest without leaving the comfort of their own home.

Calle Azul: Creating authenticity from scratch
Sam’s Club wanted to develop a tequila brand that delivered an authentic Mexican experience at an unbeatable price. The store’s goal was to follow on the successful introduction of Rue 33, a premium vodka produced in France (rue is French for street). In developing these brands, the core target consumer became the “CEO Mum.” This imaginary consumer is a multitasking woman in her early 40s who hopes to manage time, budget, health, and well-being. The CEO Mum views her visit at a Sam’s Club as a fun expedition for unique finds and discoveries.
The creative direction of Calle Azul was inspired by the idea of “affordable craftsmanship” and the name Calle Azul embodied this value proposition. Calle, Spanish for street, builds on the story of Rue 33, which is: “following the road to perfection.” Azul, Spanish for blue, speaks to the unique color associated with the agave plant and also refers to the authentic distillation process of pure agave.
The upfront determination of the unique territory of the brand steered the creative development toward a color palette and an illustrative style deeply associated with the traditional language of tequila. Meanwhile, as many brands of tequila rely heavily on heritage cues (e.g., medals, awards, coats of arms), the traditional approach addresses the under-leveraged trend of “personal daily indulgence” as a way to create distinctiveness for the brand.

EVR: Repositioning authentic performance
The founders of Preventiv Water, a brand of water enhanced with the resveratrol antioxidant, wanted to clarify the relevance and distinctiveness of their offering. This required both strategy and design execution.
The brand had its greatest opportunity in targeting a highly selective group of consumers who are proactively managing their health and are willing to follow an active health regimen. From a demographic and behavioral standpoint, this target is identified as being a woman in her late 20s who maintains an active lifestyle and looks to sustain peak performance through diet.
Resveratrol is an antioxidant found in red wine that has been proven to have significant health benefits such as anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer effects. The brand concept of “maintaining the pace” became a direct way to appeal to this target without alienating current or potential users. This brand idea inspired the development of a new name, EVR (pronounced “ever”), that speaks to the idea of everlasting health and well-being in a proprietary statement.
Iconic package design brings this new brand name to life and bridges the gap between a core and an extended target. It transcends lifestyles and projects the badge of a healthy lifestyle. The new design features strong visual representations of flavor ingredients on white shrink-wrap labels for maximum shelf impact. This also provides room to showcase the EVR brand name along with a lock-up of the word “resveratrol.”
All three of these case studies illustrate how a purposeful design process helps find unique territories for both old and new brands. When writing a brief or evaluating the design developed by an agency, make sure to incorporate the following: 1) Evaluate designs in the context of positioning and brand architecture. Ban any kind of packaging research that evaluates new designs using arbitrary brand attributes. Always refer back to your original positioning; 2) Don’t try to appeal to everyone. As much as you don’t want to alienate consumers, a brand and its packaging must be designed in the right context or you risk creating a monster that no one will recognize or find appealing; and 3) Develop key visual devices that can go beyond the package design and can become an integral part of your brand story.

Premium Spirits From Sam’s Club
Rue 33 was Dragon Rouge’s first foray into creating an alcohol brand for Sam’s Club, built around the concept of “French premier grand cru vodka.” The premium Rue 33 was created for Member’s Mark, a Sam’s Club brand known for premium quality and exceptional value.
The packaging mixes recognizable design cues from both the premium vodka category and wine categories to reflect the contemporary elegance and charm of the spirit while also referring to its French origin.
A frosted background and see-through effect borrows from the vodka tradition while a line of poplars is a traditional iconic representation of wine estates. Dragon Rouge constructed the packaging and pallet in concert to create a prominent brand mark, a seamless packaging billboard, convenient access for the consumer, and efficient sell-down for the retailer.
“The Rue 33 signature identity was created to reflect authenticity, personal craftsmanship, and sophistication associated with vodka making,” says Marcus Hewitt, chief creative officer of the New York office of Dragon Rouge. “A cool blue glow combines with the red of the brand and the white highlights on the trees to reinforce the French heritage.”

Eric Zeitoun is president of Dragon Rouge USA, a leading international brand and design consultancy based in New York City. Contact him at or 212-367-8800.