Last week, we had the great pleasure of attending the BXP Live Virtual Conference: Redefining Branding, Customer Experience, Design & Innovation. It included some really insightful talks, the first of which focused on Guido Schmitz, Head of Packaging & Technology Innovation at Bayer Consumer Health. The general gist of his talk centered around the idea of designing in the context of a circular economy rather than a linear one. Sustainability is certainly a huge concern, especially when it comes to packaging, and I applaud his assertion of this concept. I asked him what technological advancements in an environmental capacity have yet to be adapted to packaging. He spoke overall of his experience designing iterations for aspirin and how they developed different packaging solutions that saved on materials and allowed for ease of use. He also spoke about research they conducted in which they studied people’s routines in order to understand where there is a need for innovation in everyday life. It is clear that we are capable of gaining scientifically-sound insights from data analytics to inform better ways of innovating.
Following this was a roundtable discussion about leveraging the power of design to innovate. A particular point of interest was made by Steve Lamoureux, CEO & Founder of DesignAnalytics, a company that measures the effectiveness of package redesigns. He pointed out that 55% of redesigns are weaker than the designs they are replacing, but 35% of designs are more effective, with an increase in sales in the double digits. Takeaway: Make sure that when you hire a company to do a redesign, there is a sound strategy in place, good communications, and most of all a proven track record of success. No one wants to find themselves going backward, nor should they. It’s clear that if you are going to innovate through design, you better understand the dual objectives of fitting into the category and doing something different. Consider this: Is there a reason for the redesign? Is it a better articulation of how to present the product? A better design for the environment? Innovation can be characterized as an improvement in messaging and storytelling as well.
After our individually-selected discussion groups, the second day began. Up first was Craig Dubitsky, Chief Innovation Strategist at Colgate-Palmolive. His Keynote was entitled, “Reinventing Markets by Putting People First.” Craig started the Hello® toothpaste line. He is very passionate about what I would call “brand humanism.” His objective is to ensure that what is being created is taking into consideration the human purpose and function of the brand. Formulation needs to look at the effects of harsh chemicals, both in a personal and environmental context. Transparency, third-party batch testing, and microbiological screening of a product might slowly become the standard to help keep products accountable.
Next, there was roundtable called “Designing a Greener Path to E-commerce Success,” which is certainly a relevant topic. COVID has shined a light on the need for packaging to have a strong foundation when it comes to digital platforms. It has become clear that in order for a brand to maintain traction in this current and future environment, it is essential that the information is clear & concise, and that the visual portrayal is optimized for online appeal. This is especially true when it comes to how the physical products are packaged. The rapid phenomena of specialization and personalization shows a future where products are so customizable that people will want the digital portal to become even more hyper targeted. At this point, the influence of cell phones and social media feeds requires brands to pull out all the stops or risk becoming irrelevant.
Following this was a presentation about “Leveraging Diversity of Thought to Promote Innovation” by Umran Beba, a 25-plus year veteran of PepsiCo and a former marketing director at Colgate-Palmolive. Umran espoused the belief that innovation is the key element to making a difference; she is an advocate of setting a foundation which is inclusive of voices often left out of the discussion. This is a great concept; in practice it certainly takes work. One of the greater points she made is that learning needs to embrace failure in order to make progress. The old adage of learning from our mistakes breathes new life into how corporate culture might be able to better integrate not only different voices but also allow for risk and uncertainty, and how these both are potential paths to a greater understanding of how progress is actually made.
Before the closing keynote, there was a discussion about “Building Brand Space through Innovations and Evolutions” with Tim Girvin, Founder and Chief Creative Officer of GIRVIN, Inc. and Scott Snyder, Chief Executive Officer of Bad Ass Coffee of Hawaii. I really enjoyed how Tim compared the process of design to the Japanese artform of gift wrapping, Origata. It is refreshing to reference a storied form of creativity and try to build upon its premise of soundness through beauty, simplicity, and the concept of layering. Tim helped Scott design the retail environment for Bad Ass Coffee. The concept of turning a space into a place really resonated with me. With the objective of making a space feel friendly through aesthetics, design can be laid out as a welcome mat for humanness. In this brand-centric world, that is a very good notion to always keep in the back of your mind. This is a principle that we need to consider when it comes to our digital space as well.
The final closing keynote was “Capitalizing on a Changing Retail Landscape” by Diana Smith, Associate Director of Retail and Apparel at Mintel. Diana started by pointing out that there are three factors that have a very pointed effect on how the marketplace now sees itself in the “next normal”: the pandemic, a recession, and the presidential election. Although retail sales could slump for the next 3 years, e-Commerce is seeing a boom, and predicting a growth of 18% (vs. 11% predicted before pandemic). This was a really good overview, and believe me, the numbers show how huge of a shift we are all in.
Overall, the conference had some very good speakers who made some really relevant points. It’s not easy to engage an audience virtually for two days, but BXP Live did a great job of compiling a selection of good panels and interesting topics. A note on the virtual nature of the conference: this is where the concept of making a space into a place really hits home. I was hoping for an opportunity to do a bit of virtual networking, but I have yet to see a conference that does that successfully. Adaptation to these circumstances requires a visionary platform design so that conferences with great content can also find a way to help people to communicate. Perhaps that is a consideration as our virtual lives continue…