Small Business Tip – Make sure your creative elements work hard for you.

It’s hard not to fall in love with a design that reflects you or your style, after all you have given the designer, lots of input and visibility, maybe even going so far as to give them the design, so they know exactly what “floats your boat”. Their goal is to sell you something, and move on to the next customer. You and your business have to live with it. So before, you fall in love with a design whether it’s a logo or a package design, a website or an ad, its important to remember its about the target customer not you. That doesn’t mean you can’t really like it, what it means is – the design has a job to do for your business and product and you need to be sure it does it’s job. You want unique but not too way out there solution. What ever you select needs to work and work hard for you.

So what can you do to be sure? There is never a “right” answer, but there are informed and reasonably sure ways to feel more comfortable with the solution. I have done all of these for various companies and products. Sometimes there is a really big surprise – especially when you realize you don’t have a unique position or look like everybody else. The key is to find out early before you send the really big bucks producing the packaging or launching the product.

Here are some simple and inexpensive ways to quickly check to see if you might have a problem. Anyone can do these and should:

Create a logo board.
Take a group of other companies logo’s (competitors, channel, market leaders) and randomly place them on a blank page (as much as I hate it, the is a good design use for Powerpoint) and look at it. Add your logo. Does yours standout? Is it unique, does look like part of the community, or is it cookie cutter? Do you look big or small or like a player? Now print it out, tape it on a wall and look at it frequently. Do you still like it?

Create Positioning or Brand Statement Matrix.
Do a little research, most companies have a description of what they do on their website. Remove the company names or anything specifically identifying and place them side by side (I would do this with your key competitors) can you tell who is who? Now add yours to the mix and see if your staff or trusted advisors can figure out who they are. This is a very interesting exercise.

Package Design Reality Test.
A package concept or prototype can look very compelling when it is standing alone with no distractions, but that generally isn’t the selling environment. Take your prototype design into the real environment, put it on a shelf with its competition and see if it can stand on its own. I have done this in many retail locations, often if you just let someone know what you are doing, don’t do it during busy times or be disruptive it’s very easy to do. Stand back like you are shopping and scan the shelf does it stand out, how does it compare to the competitive options, does the color work, what about shape or materials, does the logo work, does it communicate at a glance what it is.

A Competitive audit.
Like you did with the logo’s create a competitive website board. Capture the home page of your key competitors or print them out. What are the key messages, key colors and design style? This doesn’t mean that you have to look exactly like them. You also don’t want to frighten the customer but being too in your face or cute if that isn’t your market. Look at the navigation and structure, you don’t have to copy them, but you also don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

Talk to the retailers.
This is always fun. What packages do they like, could be a simple as it scan well or is easy to shelf. Which ones are problematic – spoilage, aging, confusing. Did you know that there can be limits on the number of characters in a name for inventory databases? We didn’t until after the fact. If only we had floated the name past a couple of our to our major distributors. Also, colors can be tricky – yellow packaging tends to fade in direct sunlight…another lesson learned.

Remember it’s really nice if you love your logo or design, but more important does it work.

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