SINGAPORE/LONDON: Digital printing has enabled greater customisation and personalisation of packaging, with the result that packs no longer simply reflect the brand story but can actively advance it.

In the current issue of Admap, Katie Ewer, strategy director in the Singapore office of design agency jones knowles ritchie (jkr), makes the case for packaging's role in brand-building.

In a fragmented media environment where people's attention spans are shorter than ever, design offers the possibility of being both the medium and the message, she suggests – "the visual glue that promises to hold a brand together".

Already, she notes, "savvy brands [are] investing more heavily in design in order to get noticed in a world with story fatigue".

Heineken, for example, innovates constantly in its packaging and builds brand iconography through design.

And when Coca-Cola launched its Share a Coke campaign, "for the first time in a brand of scale, we had packaging performing the role conventionally reserved for advertising", Ewer says.

While other brands have subsequently copied Coca-Cola's personalisation approach, none have had the same success. That, Ewer argues, is because, unlike Coke, they have failed to marry new technology to a brand idea.

She cites examples of a couple of brands that have done this – Heinz's 'Get Well Soup' campaign, where people were able to gift a can of soup to someone not feeling well, so reinforcing the brand's nurturing position.

And soft drink Irn Bru's 'Bru's Your Clan?' campaign – created by jkr – cemented the brand's role as an emblem of Scottish nationalism when it featured 52 different clan tartans on its packs.

"The sign of a great 'design campaign' is that it delivers something new, fresh and relevant to the consumer, while speaking to a more timeless brand truth at the same time," Ewer concludes.

"Campaigns that do one without the other simply do not work."

Data sourced from Admap