Expert's Opinion

Make It Real Make It Unique

By Cheryl Swanson, Founder Principal,Toniq | September 17, 2010

Cheryl Swanson on utilizing an artisanal approach to packaging.

My previous Expert Opinion detailed the Imperfection Trend that has been bubbling beneath the societal surface since The Great Recession hit the U.S. in 2008. Rooted in the macro-economic Authenticity Trend, this idea speaks to our communal need for “the real,” whether it be direct communication in marketing or getting to know the farmer who harvested that apple you’re noshing. As a result, we have seen shifts in consumer packaging, for the body, the home, and elsewhere.
Artisanal definition: Any product made by hand, by a skilled craftsman.
By utilizing the human hand to create a product, vs. automation, you create a unique object. This is easy to accomplish if you make artisanal cheeses or homemade tomato sauce. But, for those in the HBA industry, where mass production is part and parcel, this notion poses a daunting challenge. The most obvious answer lies in packaging. According to Kirsten Lynch, CMO of Quaker, “Package design is the single most important communication we do.”
Smaller players have come up with ingenious ways to apply this trend, while cutting production costs, by repurposing used containers or materials for new products. Waverly and Irving, a Brooklyn-based company, turns vintage tins into handmade candles, while Skinny Skinny uses obsolete books sourced from local libraries to package their soaps.
Last year, John Varvatos introduced Artisan, a cologne whose vessel is wrapped in ‘original’ rattan. In the hopes of not emasculating those bucks who wear it, it is gorgeous! By utilizing such a tactile texture as wicker, the object projects heritage while remaining timeless.

For the home and body, JR Watkins has done a great job of updating its 140 year-old brand by redesigning the packaging with a decidedly apothecary-driven look. The products would be at home both at the Ingalls’ place on Little House or in a chic Soho loft.
This illustrates how the artisanal visual vocabulary has come full circle. It speaks to a trusted heritage but still feels modern and fresh. By incorporating materials, fonts, colors and words that have an artisanal lineage, you can attract consumer focus at the shelf in a timeless but timely manner.

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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