Cadbury’s Darkness

The relationship between designers and clients can be notoriously difficult. Problems can arise either through a lack of communication, a failure to understand each other’s needs, the fact that those in a commissioning role may not have the authority to sign-off work or even due to the simple but important fact that those involved in a project do not like each other. Here Monique Carter, product manager for Cadbury and a newcomer at dealing directly with design consultancies, explains the background to the launch of a new product, while creative director Kate Shaw of Coley Porter Bell gives the designer’s perspective.

“It wasn’t a case of ‘bloody hell will this ever get this finished?’ But it was a tough project”, says Monique Carter.

Carter is responsible for a new product launch from Cadbury called Darkness which will be on-shelf from September. The packaging for the boxed dark chocolate assortment has been created by Coley Porter Bell, which, says Carter, “was in right at the start”.

Carter explains that this is the first design project in which she has been directly involved with external designers, but adds that it has been a quick learning curve. She says that it was very much an equal partnership between herself and the design team, with both parties contributing ideas and strategies for the new brand.

Carter briefed Coley Porter Bell to look at how the brand equities of that old favourite boxed chocolate assortment, Milk Tray, could be extended to the boxed dark chocolate sector. Cadbury has a relatively low-key presence in this area and competition for market leadership is intense – Terry’s has recently relaunched its All Gold product and Nestlé’s Black Magic has a long-established pedigree.

“We asked Coley Porter Bell to see if it was a credible product – could we do it, and if we could, was it worth doing? Could we take a milk chocolate assortment through into dark chocolate without harming the values of Milk Tray and without alienating existing consumers of Milk Tray?” says Carter.

CPB creative director Kate Shaw says of the brief: “It was quite a difficult concept to get your head round. We had to say to consumers ‘it’s a dark chocolate product but it clearly has the Milk Tray provenance’.”

CPB explored a number of options at the first stage. This included a very dark pack bearing the familiar Milk Tray magenta flower in a bid to emphasise the new brand’s heritage and its place in the Cadbury stable. However, Shaw says: “We didn’t feel very comfortable with it and Monique wanted to take it a step further. It just looked too familiar.”

Carter adds: “The pack wasn’t really new enough. It said a lot about the product but we wanted to build on the values of the existing brand and tap into a new lot of consumers.”

So CPB then examined another raft of ideas and researched them among consumers until it found one that really stood out. As Carter says: “It wasn’t just doing more of the same. It has got to have long-term potency.”

Both parties say that the relationship worked well and that once the rather difficult brief had been arrived at, the process was relatively trouble free. Shaw explains: “There has to be a certain amount of give and take. As in any relationship between client and designer, you have to work through it and feel comfortable with what you are doing rather than just bend over backwards for the client.” She adds that there were none of the problems of interference that is characteristic of working with some clients: “Monique didn’t interfere. She was very open and keen to push things forward on the production side at her end. She did her best and fought our corner.”

Carter adds: “I think we developed a very good working relationship. The thing that strikes me about CPB is that it is not just turning out pretty design. The team took a lot of time and effort and thought things through.”

She adds that probably the best testament about the success of the project is that she never thought “what is the point of this?”. It would seem that her only big worry now is that consumers agree when the new brand reaches the shops in the autumn.

The client

Peter is a brand manager. He’s young, ambitious and keen to climb the corporate ladder. He wants to move out of the yellow fats sector and into something altogether more sexy – soft drinks perhaps.

Peter left university – where he worked hard for his geography degree but didn’t have a lot of fun – and joined the monolithic corporation he works for following a successful milk-round interview.

He has two good suits, one from Next and one from Marks & Spencer, together with a range of sensible short-sleeved white shirts that his mum bought for him and a couple of garish wacky ties that his girlfriend Sue bought for him at Tie Rack.

Peter loves his brand, his mum, his girlfriend Sue and his company Ford Sierra – although not necessarily in that order.

Peter would like to try drugs (just once) but doesn’t know where to buy them and is frightened by what Sue might say. He spends his weekends with Sue, his mates and a good video at his flat in Hemel Hempstead.

The most exciting part of Peter’s job – apart from going to marketing conferences where he can pick up the latest buzz words and theorise with his peers about reinventing the brand – is dealing with designers. Peter knows what he likes – red and Helvetica – although it’s difficult getting those arty designers to do what he says. What Peter really wants is to make his brand as sexy as Nike, Levi’s and Tango and he’s not going to be held back by the fact that it is a yellow fat. He has a budget of 6000 and his boss doesn’t agree with him.

Peter will go far. He will become a marketing director, a rent-a-quote for the trade press, a lucid speaker at conferences and a legend in yellow fats. He will no longer deal with designers but move on to the big stuff – advertising agencies.

The designer

David is a designer who runs his own company. He’s not as young as he pretends to be but he likes to think he still has his finger on the pulse. He’s ambitious, and despite the fact that he creates labels for yellow fats, he wants to become a household name and to have a feature on his Minimalist, Feng Shui living room in one of the Sunday supplements.

David left art college and in the heady Eighties he worked for Michael Peters (didn’t everybody?) – where he developed a taste for power and became determined to build his own design empire.

David has a wardrobe full of understated but hugely expensive crumpled linen suits, as does his wife Sophie. He’s ditched the pony tail but is still a member of the goatee support society (Sophie is not).

David loves himself, his wardrobe, his sports car and his Minimalist living room which he can’t afford on the money the company makes. He also loves speaking at industry conferences and seminars, where the gathered masses can listen to his vision of design for the future.

David does take drugs, frequently and copiously and everybody in the design industry knows it. His idea of a good weekend is to avoid a row with Sophie.

The most exciting part of his job is that moment when the creative muse kicks in and the work just flows. And, of course, nurturing new talent. At least that’s what he tells his peers. In reality, the most exciting part of his job is winning that yellow fat pitch and putting one over the cocky brand manager who wants red and Helvetica on his pack.

David will sell his company to a management buyout and regret that he never went into advertising where the real money is.

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