Talking Ballerinas and Soap Boxes

The headline below appeared above an interesting piece on page one today in the NY Times.

“Ballerinas, Famed for Silence, Take New Approach: Talking”

Now try replacing the word Ballerinas for Retail Packages. You see where I’m going. Packages, like ballerinas at the New York City Ballet, are stepping out of the footlights and, both at the shelf and at home, introducing themselves to their audience in very new and very personal ways.

Step 1 – The Cast Introduces Itself
Through any number of methodologies, some old and some new, we are getting to know our brands in a much more intimate way. The retail experience is moving away from the classic proscenium theatre (audience sits here all facing the stage over there, and don’t cross that line), to something that feels much more like the ancient Greek theater in the round (the cast enters from anywhere and the audience is often part of the performance).

With information as detailed as what growing region my Fresh Express lettuce came from, issues of ingredient origin, like how and where the ingredients were grown or raised and by whom, are becoming more transparent. With tools from organizations like the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, the communication of package materials content and life-cycle issues, are becoming standardized. And finally with new rules from the FDA, the life-style implications of usage are being communicated in clear informative ways, often with links to a host of media through smart phone usage.

But these tools are really just the first step in creating more intimacy and communication with our brands.

Step 2 – The Audience Introduces Itself
Now imagine that you are sitting in the audience of the New York City Ballet, the troupe has surprised you by introducing themselves, and then they go a step further. They ask you to introduce yourself, and not just to them but to everyone in the audience as well. That is where consumer product marketers are right at this moment.

Having the cast of the show, whether it is a ballerina or a brand, break the onstage or onshelf silence and introduce themselves is just the first step. We are now quickly entering an age where, through the use of social media by consumers and brand marketers, the audience is introducing itself, creating communities, getting to know one another, and sharing the experience.

Maybe Gus Portokalos was right in MBFGW, and Windex should take note, marketing is entering a period of theater in the round, and its all from the Greek!


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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