Rosters still rule as McCain chips away at convention

We know that it’s the exception that proves the rule. There’s always one that goes it alone, bucking a trend that has become established practice.

In this case, the exception is frozen food manufacturer McCain, shunning the idea of buying design via a roster (see News, page 3). While most fmcg companies have taken the roster route as a way of building trust with design consultancies while retaining the flexibility to select the right group for a particular job, McCain believes its best hope of securing the right relationship is to partner one group – Elmwood – to meet all its needs.

McCain isn’t the first client to take this path. The big example in the 1990s, when rosters were new, was D-I-Y retailer Do It All, which put its faith entirely in the then RSCG Conran Design Group – forerunner of Conran Design Group. In that case, the whole selling environment was up for grabs, from store interiors and merchandising to packaging and promotions.

Because of the influence it wielded, the RSCG Conran team, led by the legendary Mark Landini, was able to effect ground-breaking changes in the way goods were sold. Both customer and retailer benefited from a bid to demystify even the most technical products.

As a brand rather than a retailer, McCain’s needs will not be as broad, though competition is rife on-shelf, with supermarkets locked in price wars and design a vital tool in winning through. Nor are shelves the only selling platform. But it is still an interesting move to go with one consultancy.

We can expect interesting things from McCain as a consequence, given Elmwood’s track-record as a creative branding group. Experience shows that a deeper relationship with and understanding of the brand can be achieved by long-term familiarity – the results of Design Week’s first Benchmarks awards for branding will bear this out when they are announced in October. But all eyes will be on McCain to see how its decision pans out.

Lynda Relph-Knight, Editor

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