A package concept cons a con artist

How could anyone take the package at left seriously?

But it had to happen, a package concept being used as a con. The only question is who really was fooling who, and who was the real victim.

The piece in the NY Times today reads like a story we have heard before. Con man fools innocent investors and steals their money.

But when you look deeper, because launching a new consumer product is a complex enterprise, it is a bit more complicated, with many more folks complicite in the scam. Let me explain.

• A can company sold expensive technology for a questionable enterprise
• A designer sold a really second rate brand identity
• A marketing group sold a dubious idea
• An investment manager sold fraudulent real estate
• And finally investors in Utah were sold a guarantee of a 24% return on their money.

All because they bought into a get rich quick scheme, premised on the assumption that consumers would be foolish enough to buy sandwiches in a can!

The exception of course are the duped investors who unwittingly bankrolled the whole scam. But even they were lured by the thought of a guaranteed 24% return.

My guess is that everyone else in this scheme has done just fine, incompetent package designer included.

This kind of thing has happened before of course, think snake oil, but this time it was a bit different. The package structure, as a delivery device, was the whole premise of the con.


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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