Don’t Worry, You Really Can Build A Crisis-Resilient Brand

May 8, 2017

Brands are more susceptible to catastrophe today than at any point in modern history.

“With the rise of social media and the 24/7 cycle of media today, news spreads faster than ever,” said Nick Bell, vice president of marketing communications for Cision. “In times of crisis, this quick dissemination of information can add fuel to the fire and amplify negative news in a matter of minutes.”

Company leaders used to worry about Mike Wallace, of “60 Minutes” fame, walking through their front doors with an allegation and a camera. “Now everyone walking into your building has a camera,” said Kelly O’Keefe, professor at the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Brandcenter. “This makes businesses incredibly vulnerable.”

Couple that with all-time low levels of public trust in corporate and governmental institutions, and you have a veritable recipe for brand disaster, added Dustin Longstreth, chief marketing and strategy officer at branding agency CBX.

Assessing The Damage

The failure to control organizational crises in the earliest stages can cost companies dearly—impacting value, revenue, and long-term reputation. Yet many businesses fail to respond quickly enough to brand-damaging issues. More than a quarter (28%) of crises reported spread internationally within an hour, according to a worldwide survey […]

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Breaking Category Conventions to Remain Relevant

May 1, 2017
By Gregg Lipman

Today’s drug store looks nothing like the drug store of your parents’ youth.

Once upon a time, I was able to have neighborly banter with Stan, the local pharmacist, who greeted me warmly and actually knew all about me. Stan freely handed out community news, bad jokes and even a bit of innocuous gossip along with my prescription. Now I get it, things change, and I’m OK without Stan, but as both a consumer and a consultant, I wonder if the changes are for the better.

Today’s drug store, if the word even applies anymore, is an eclectic assortment of allergy medications, cleaning products, packaged food and beverages, candy, “As Seen on TV” gadgets, toys, beauty, you name it. The operative idea is to create a one-stop shop for all things you need (and perhaps some that you don’t). The only item you can’t get these days in most drug stores? A personal relationship with your pharmacist.

The progression from mom-and-pop shops to mass chain stores has been the catalyst for the sector’s evolution. However, it’s important to examine the ways this has affected consumers. After all, the entire industry is working hard to leverage size, capture more market share […]

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A Balancing Act: Does getting acquired tarnish the health halo of better-for-you brands?

April 24, 2017

As major manufacturers add smaller brands to their portfolios, they can either use them to boost their potential or contribute to their demise

It’s long been considered smart business practice to surround one’s self with people who make them look good.

Many food and beverage manufacturers are applying this philosophy to their portfolios by aligning themselves with brands that appeal to today’s health-conscious consumer. These better-for-you companies benefit from strong “health halos,” or consumer perception that they are more authentic and nutritious than other companies.

Many legacy brands are angling to capture some of that halo for themselves, sparking a wave of natural and organic brand acquisitions by industry power players. Dr Pepper Snapple recently acquired enhanced water manufacturer Bai Brands. In 2015, Hormel Foods bought Applegate Farms, a leader in natural and organic meats, and General Mills picked up Annie’s Homegrown the year before that.

Chris Konyk, business consultant at Salient Management Company, believes that it’s pivotal for major food and beverage brands to change their image because many consumers associate these companies with unhealthy, sugary products.

“These companies finally got the message that people are looking to improve their health and are monitoring what they purchase for their […]

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How Wawa’s Canopy Took Wing

March 17, 2017

The story behind the iconic shape that came to symbolize the c-store chain’s brand promise

The angled, wing-shaped canopy that covers Wawa’s fuel islands is as powerful a branding tool as the price sign—if not more so. How it came to be an iconic element of the chain’s sites is a story about how design can elevate a brand.

In the mid-1990s, the Wawa, Pa.-based chain was looking to enter the gasoline business and wanted to make a statement with its fuel island. Mariellyn Zeock served as Wawa’s manager of architectural design at the time. She had never designed a fuel canopy before but was tasked with coming up with design ideas for that first fuel site in Millsboro, Del. So she drove around the area to look at local examples.

“I noticed that they were all the same—all really heavy on top,” Zeock, now retired, told CSP Fuels. “What if we just made it lighter, thinner and exposed the structure?”

The architectural team—which included Zeock and the late Jim Dodrill—got the go-ahead to pursue the idea from Peter Gilligan, then director of construction and engineering (and the recently retired vice president of real estate for Wawa). Dodrill worked with […]

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Should Brands Get Political?

March 14, 2017

At least six major brands ran ads during Super Bowl LI that addressed political or social issues such as immigration and gender equality.

At an average cost of $5 million per 30-second spot, those were some pretty expensive statements to make. Budweiser, Airbnb, 84 Lumber, Google Home, Audi, and Coca-Cola might have been lauded or jeered, depending on one’s personal point of view, for delivering those messages, but did the brands get their money’s worth?

It’s a difficult question to answer, and it raises even more questions about if and when brands should speak out about policies or proposed laws, the challenges involved in doing so, and the risks of not speaking up on issues that are important to their customer base.

On a pragmatic marketing level, there is also the question of whether issue-oriented spots provide a worthwhile return on investment. The weekend after Super Bowl LI, Saturday Night Live ran a skit depicting a fictitious ad pitch session for Cheetos that lampooned the agencies that create activist ads and the marketing managers who buy them. It was exaggerated and satirical, of course, but it likely had a lot of marketing folks talking about the underlying issues that Monday.


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Struggling clothing brand needs more Ivanka, less Trump, mall shoppers say

February 12, 2017

The Ivanka Trump clothing and accessories brand has been highly visible in headlines and on television this past week. But in North Jersey stores, you have to look pretty hard to find it.

While stores, including Macy’s, Lord & Taylor, T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, still carry the brand, at most retailers it isn’t being given star treatment in the aisles or even its own display racks.

“Ivanka Trump? You mean the dresses?” said a salesclerk at Macy’s in Paramus, when asked about the line. “I think there are some over there, way in the back.” Store employees said the line – which made the news when President Trump assailed Nordstrom on Twitter for dropping the Ivanka brand, and then when his adviser Kellyanne Conway urged supporters to buy it – isn’t triggering boycotts or political battles in Macy’s dressing rooms. Rather, it is being met with something retailers fear far more – a lack of interest.

Marketing experts said the brand’s troubles aren’t just political. The biggest problem facing it, they said, is an identity crisis. The Ivanka Trump brand must address the critical existential questions all celebrity brands must be able to answer – who are you, and what […]

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5 Reasons to Make Over Your Fuel Canopy

January 1, 2017

The gasoline canopy: For most of its existence, it has been a function-first structure, there to provide shelter from the weather and lend light at night.

And in the 50 years since states began legalizing self-serve gas pumps, the canopy has largely retained the shape that reflects this practical purpose: the rectangle. Pure economics has bested creativity, keeping this architectural element frozen in time. “In the United States, you have so many legacy sites that have been around for so long that to tear [the canopy] down … it’s easier to repaint, restripe and reclad what already exists,” says Joe Bona, founding partner and president of retail design firm MoseleyBona Retail, Franklin, Mass.

But as fuel’s share of overall c-store profits continues to fall and in-store profitability rises, it’s time to redefine the canopy’s function and reconsider its investment potential. Yes, it still needs to protect customers from rain and sun. But the entire forecourt can do so much more.

“It’s one of first things you see, a piece of communication that really reaches out, grabs people’s attention and signals the business that you’re in,” says Bona, who has designed canopies for retailers such as Wawa in the United States, […]

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A Work of Art?

December 12, 2016

Readers weigh in on Van Gogh Vodka’s redesign.

In an effort to animate and reinvigorate the brand’s connection to art, Van Gogh Vodka has redesigned its packaging. “With this new package, we strove to create a collection of labels that are equal parts artistic and appealing—each one had to be a work of art to match the craftsmanship of the liquid inside, translating the spirit of Van Gogh’s Expressionism and bold vision in an engaging manner,” Norman Bonchick, chairman and CEO, 375 Park Avenue Spirits, the importer of Van Gogh Vodka, tells Package Design.

“It was important that the new package live up to and respect our namesake, Vincent Van Gogh. “By working with an artist who painted through the lens of Van Gogh we were able to have paintings created using our 16 signature flavors as inspiration. Each of these paintings then became one of the labels you see with the release of the new package.”

In this the final installment of Field Notes, we ask Package Design readers if the new packages are stars or if the designs leave 375 Park Avenue Spirits’ branding goals in the fields.

Allison Koller Executive creative director, CBX

There’s no […]

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This Year’s Best-Designed C-store Chains Are…

November 18, 2016

CSNews Store Design Contest honors 10 retailers delivering a unique experience.

It’s one thing to have an attractive store that grabs the attention of motorists driving by. It’s another thing to have an attractive store that delivers an in-store experience unlike anything else consumers have ever encountered at a convenience store. The winners of the 2016 Convenience Store News Store Design Contest achieve both — with flair.

Now in its 11th year, the awards program honors new and rebuilt c-stores whose designs excel in areas such as branding, interior layout, use and effectiveness of signage and logos, and exterior property and landscaping. Construction or remodeling of eligible stores must have taken place between January 2015 and April 2016.  Winners were selected based on innovation, creativity, and the positive impact of the design and/or remodel on the retailer’s overall business.

This year’s honorees, spanning six categories, are:


Winner: Kum & Go LC, Johnston, Iowa Designer: CBX & BRR Architecture

Honorable Mention: Parker’s, Ridgeland, S.C. Designer: api(+)



Winner: Grab.n.Go Food Mart, Marshall, Texas Designer: Paragon Solutions



Winner: All-N-1, Campti, La. Designer: Paragon Solutions

Honorable Mention: Dirt Cheap, O’Fallon, Mo. […]

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Navigating the Sea of Marketing Clichés

November 14, 2016

New York City-based CBX is consumer branding firm providing a range of strategic and creative services. As executive creative director, Allison Koller is responsible for providing inspiration, vision, and strategic guidance for the CBX design team. She has led creative and innovation initiatives for such clients as Kimberly-Clark, General Mills, Burt’s Bees, and The Art of Shaving.

Most recently, Koller led her team to a Platinum Pentaward for packaging work on behalf of U by Kotex (Kimberly-Clarke). And it’s marketing to women that inspires Koller. In a June TEDx talk in Scotch Plains, N.J., Koller described herself as a swimmer, illustrator, daughter, tennis player, and wife who pays keen attention to the content and subtext of brand messages aimed at women.

You said brands need to move beyond the “sea of clichéd visual codes” if they want to connect with real women. Can you give examples of the “tired tropes,” as you call them?

I think the most clichéd codes present women as perfect—no flaws allowed. By presenting women without imperfections, we’ve set up an unrealistic standard where women can’t get real. There’s no sweat or blemishes, no aging, and perfectly run households. There are no individuals with real […]

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