Expert's Opinion

Go for the Drama!

By Cheryl Swanson, Toniq LLC | April 18, 2011

It's always a hit with consumers, according to Cheryl Swanson.

For the past year, I have been diving into consumer driven trends, with the goal of getting you to “think outside the box.” In this column, I dive into the socio-economic trend we call Drama!
Perhaps as an antithesis to the simple and modern design popular today, this macro-trend gets its juice from theatricality. Over the top, gilded, even baroque style, is finding its voice. Lady Gaga is the Mistress of Ceremonies, but its aesthetic can also be found in packaging design like Womanity by Thierry Mugler, the Juicy Couture encrusted perfume ring jewel or even the Bombay Sapphire 250th Anniversary bottle. All these examples have a touch-me feel to them, a great way to break through the white noise on shelf.
There is a strong technological edge to this trend, found in the continued proliferation of 3D, which both drives and satisfies our fix for drama. Soon, 3D will be replaced by hologram technology, with no glasses required. Princess Leia repeating, “Obi won Kenobi, you’re my only hope” will become a reality, with the line between virtual and real disappearing even more. Think of the popularity of Kinect, which uses infrared technology to let your body drive the game. You shoot, run, dance, and not just work the controller. Today, it is about creating experiences and placing the consumer center stage.
This trend is alive on a global scale. In China, heavily theatrical couture is gaining attention through the designs of Guo Pei, as illustrated in her modern take on the traditional Chinese platform shoe. By using theatricality, the object itself is elevated above its function. It is no longer just fashion or a video game but a newly created art form crying out for interaction.
Both status and extravagance are placed in a historical context, making consumerism attractive again in a post-recessionary world. By recycling several eras of fashion with modern mixes, people are satisfying their need to stand out as individuals and carve their own status. Today, we believe consumers increasingly want to explore different sides of their personalities through experiences and products, so we feel confident this trend will continue to proliferate into the next decade.
The beauty of this trend lends itself well to both household and personal product applications. The consumers that these industries target are seeking vehicles to reflect their personality. From lipstick to dish soap, these items can now satisfy our desire for individual expression. As Lady Gaga sings in her latest single, “I was born this way.”

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.