Retail Narcissism

OTC StuffThere is an awful lot of screaming going on. Kanye screams at the MTV awards, Serena screams at the US Open, Joe screams at Obama.

And there have been a bunch of recent comments on the civility, or lack of it, in our lives. David Brooks and Frank Rich at the NY Times, Robert Brunner in Fast Company, have all suggested, in the last week, that things are getting a bit less polite. They each agree that this has become a much more narcissistic world, where it’s more about “me” less about “us”.

And there is a long history of the consumer being yelled at by products on the shelf. Just imagine that you are walking through the OTC aisle of a local Wal-Mart. What would it sound like if the packages shown above could talk? A lot of narcissistic screaming, right.

I am working on the design of a product in the OTC category. We have been having great discussions with the client about product functionality vs. benefit and the resulting question; Is it best to talk about the product content and function or best to talk about the product benefit.

Or more succinctly should the discussion, and what the package communicates on the shelf, be about me (content and/or function) or the them (benefit). Not an easy question to answer, because historically the emphasis on the OTC shelf has been about screaming content and/or benefit.

This may be changing, at least the screaming part. During our retail audit we were noticing significant signs of a calmer, more relaxed, and dare I say more respectful approach beginning to creep into the conversation on the shelves of CVS and Walgreens. A few companies are beginning to recognize its not always about the technology, and it certainly is not always about them. It is about the consumer!

There are examples of brands that get it. They speak more gently, more politely, and more confidently to the consumer. Its a conversation not a screaming match. Less about “me” and more about “us”.

And if civility is beginning to break out on the store shelves, maybe there is hope in the streets, and perhaps even cable TV.


About Richard Shear

designer, husband, teacher, blogger, father, athlete, author, historian Richard has over 25 years of brand identity and package design experience, with a wide range of clients such as Ahold, Coca-Cola, Hasbro, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Pernod Ricard and Procter & Gamble. He began his career working with the legendary advertising art director, and AIGA Medalist, George Lois and the British design manager Clive Chajet. In his next design management position at Lippincott & Margulies, he worked with Walter Margulies learning the complex skills of global corporate identity. He then became Creative Director and Partner at Peterson & Blyth, one of the premier brand identity and package design firms of the time. He is a founding faculty member of the Masters in Branding Program at New York’s School of Visual Arts. He publishes the blog The Package Unseen, and has been a guest lecturer at colleges including FIT, Trinity College and Tyler School of Art. He is a graduate of the Tyler School of Art at Temple University. Richard is a Board member of the AIGA MetroNorth Chapter, past President of AIGA‘s Brand Design Association, President of the Package Design Council and a member of its Board of Directors. He is a member of USA Cycling and US Rowing, a nationally ranked masters bicycle racer, and a member of The Saugatuck Rowing Club, the 2010 Masters Club National Champion.
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One Response to Retail Narcissism

  1. Pingback: Our Top 10 List of Packaging Stories for 2009 « The Package Unseen

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