Expert's Opinion

Imperfection Is a Good Thing

By Cheryl Swanson, Principal,Toniq | July 29, 2010

Cheryl Swanson of Toniq on the power of reality.

The Authenticity Trend has been fully infiltrated into mainstream culture for years.We see its implications from politics to household products.

Consumers are attracted to “the real.”This is evident in the rise of farmer’s markets and the dislike of preservatives like parabens, for example.As if through a prism, when the recession hit, the Authenticity Trend evolved to that of “Imperfection.”We still want “the real” but now, we don’t believe the hype.We sense when something is fishy and want to see behind the curtain.Think of those great Ally Bank ads with the pony ( nothing else, we learned from the recession that there is no such thing as “perfect.”

Consider the decline of plastic surgery, down 18% since 2009.The cancellation of Nip/Tuck shines light on the beauty pendulum swinging from synthesized perfection to that of a more natural look.On one end, we have 23 year-old Heidi Montag, who had 10 plastic surgeries in one day, while on the other, Hoda and Kathie Lee had a “no make-up day” on the Today Show.While that might be taking it a bit far, Heidi can’t even hug people due to her resulting physical sensitivities.

In the consumerscape, the Imperfection Trend is evident in handmade objects moving from the periphery towards the mainstream.Etsy, the online retailer, has increased sales 98% from Feb 09 - Feb ’10.They sell beautiful, one-of-a-kind objects ranging from accessories to toys.

How do we apply this trend to HBA packaging?Well, it has already begun in the luxury sector with perfumes by Balenciaga and Alexa Lixfield.With its “cracked” top, Balenciaga Paris emanates a feeling of fragility, begging to be coveted.Alexa Lixfield, out of Germany, utilizing concrete for its bottle cap, alluding to strength of character.It makes sense that we first see imperfection in the luxury sector as it is no longer fashionable to flash bling.

By using naturally made - or naturally looking - materials, you separate yourself from the pack.But, more importantly, consumers connect to the imperfect, it reminds us we’re human.

Next time, I will concentrate on applying the Imperfection Trend by using an artisanal vocabulary.

About the Author
Cheryl Swanson founded Toniq ( after leading several design firms to world-class status with her emotions-based, visual approach to brand strategy development. At Toniq, she continues to evolve her strategic expertise by seeking new ways to connect with consumers.

Swanson’s years of trend tracking, design management and research have coalesced in a theory of Brand Effervescence™ an innovative approach to brand building. This image-based approach is a synthesis of cultural anthropology, consumer trends research, marketing and design, and a study of the psychology of symbolism and color.

Toniq has used this process successfully for leading consumer packaged goods product development, retail and on-line brands, including: Target, Unilever, Lycos, Kraft Foods, Gillette, Ralph Lauren, Saks Fifth Avenue, Pepsi, Con Agra, and Nestle Purina to create or redefine brand personalities and visual positioning recommendations for new products and established brands.

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