Client belief in branding set to challenge admen

Two aspects of the appointment of Scott Libby Heming and an unnamed packaging group to the Philips Consumer Lighting strategic communications board carry important messages for the UK design community, quite apart from the kudos it brings to SLH managing director Andy Scott’s ten-strong group, soon to be relaunched as Vivid.

On the one hand, it reinforces the belief several top flight multinational clients have in the power of design to help build brands. The example set by the Dutch-based global electronics giant puts design at the heart of a company’s brand strategy. If the UK Design Council could muster more such examples at the top end of the client scale it could present an array of case studies that are really worth promoting.

On the other hand, Philips’ move spells out the importance of fmcg experience in today’s thinking about brands, be they corporate or consumer-facing. Scott is not the first designer to come out of packaging to find a new role in brand strategy. The idea that prompted Imagination boss Gary Withers to take him on board almost a dozen years ago was to develop the concept of brand experience for clients of the then pure events group. That idea was ahead of its time, but is now manifesting in a host of new offers such as WPP Group’s Enterprise XP headed by Brian Shepherd, who was also once with Imagination.

The move coincides with a new dawning for fmcg thinking as clients grapple with the fact that most purchasing decisions are made on the spot and not overly informed by advertising. It takes versatility to get the message across to today’s sophisticated consumer, who is less likely to be swayed by the blinkered, single hit of an expensive ad and needs to be addressed on various platforms.

‘Packaging design’ can at last come out of the wilderness it has inhabited for the past few years and regain the respectability it lost to ‘branding’ as a vital part of brand strategy. A high-profile fmcg branding project in the offing in the next few weeks will show what can be achieved through design, even with a basic commodity, if the client is brave enough to see it through. Watch this space.

The shift in emphasis also means that design for point-of-sale material will be looked on in a new light by clients, and might even become sought after work by topranking creative groups. Anything that touches the consumer directly is in with a chance.

Opportunities abound here, especially for the smaller specialist groups that have hung on against the odds to what they know best – SLH is no heavyweight, though Vivid may become one. It just goes to show that what goes around, comes around.

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