Design is an integral part of branding strategy worldwide, but in India, companies have always relied more on advertising, rather than packaging, to stand out in a crowd. However, given the proliferation of products and brands in the country, many companies are now paying attention to what their products look like and using design as a key part of their branding strategies. At the beginning of the summer season this year, Pepsico introduced its 'emoji bottles' and then, over the past year and more, Frooti and Appy have launched in new packs and bottles. Also new homegrown beverage brands such as Paperboat (launched in 2013) and Raw Pressery (launched in 2014) are both pursuing packaging-led branding strategies.
"We believe that packaging and labeling is the most valuable form of real estate that we have, which is also our first point of connect with consumers at the point of sale," says Vipul Prakash, vice president (Beverage category), PepsiCo India. Design and packaging is the first step towards advertising a product. It creates a visually strong language for customer communication.
The Rs 8000-odd-crore juice market in India is at the forefront of a design boom as a proliferation of brands forces companies to be innovative with their branding strategies. With Paperboat, for instance, its founders were keen to change the way consumers looked at consuming non-cola drinks. The founders worked with design company Elephant Design to launch the brand in 'doy' packs. "Design helped refresh people's outlook on how they saw Indian drinks .We wanted to change the way Indians consumed and viewed beverages," says Neeraj Kakkar, co-founder and CEO, Hector Beverages.
Pepsico's team is banking heavily on design too. "We have put packaging in the front and centre, this season. Packaging is always exciting and Pepsi packaging has always epitomised cool but we don't stop at that," says Prakash.
Design impacts the way customers perceive a brand. Nadia Chauhan, joint managing director and chief marketing officer of Parle Agro, says, "Today in India it is all about that TV commercial, so the level of thinking, effort and investment behind the design is not as much as in India as it is in other parts of the world." She says that when they went in for an image makeover for the flagship brand, Frooti, the design firm paid close attention to customer perceptions. Harry Pearce, partner at Pentagram Design, the company that worked on the brand says that the new identity was inspired by the unique shape of the Totapuri mango.
Using packaging to connect with the consumers is also what Pepsico says it aims to do. "The focus will be to connect with consumers in contextually relevant ways, engaging them with iconic campaigns that will not just spark conversations, but also drive consumption throughout grueling summer months," says Prakash.
Many brands are also using their design choices to establish themselves in a premium slot. Raw Pressery, a two-year-old juice company that sells organic cold pressed juices by Rakyan Beverages chose square-shaped Pet bottles that stand out from the rest. "We wanted to establish a visual architecture that is minimal, subtle and sophisticated," says Anuj Rakyan, Founder and MD, RAW Pressery. The bottles have "And nothing else" written on them to indicate these juices have no artificial ingredients. dCell, the strategic design consultancy of MullenLowe Lintas Group designed the brand's look; Tasneem Ali, its executive creative director, says, "Having a clear Pet bottle is not just a differentiator on the shelf but gives an assurance of quality and purity, with plenty of taste appeal."
Rakyan says that their unique design helped them make a mark early in their journey. "This allowed us to be different in a marketplace that breeds clutter. We found ourselves well differentiated, attractive, comprehendible and focusing on elements that mattered."
The need to repackage and revamp the brand through design varies from business to business, but, there is a near universal agreement on the marketing reality today-no company can afford to ignore the way its products look.
"Pepsi intends to lead via packaging innovations this summer whereas the full-sleeved wraparound Pet bottle of 7UP Revive has been designed to communicate key benefits of the product upfront," says Prakash. For Raw Pressery the design was a talking point. "The change in design was not just talked about over social media but applauded by design companies, advertising agencies and branding concerns who appreciated the very simplicity that the design evoked," says Rakyan. And for Paperboat, design is one of the big reasons the brand enjoys high recall. "One thing that catches every consumer's eye is the short stories we print on the back of the pack. Sometimes it's the graphics on the pack or one of those limited edition gift boxes we make," says Kakkar.