In 2014 seven branding agencies from seven countries formed a professional commonwealth — Global Local Branding Alliance. The initiative for creating the alliance belonged to the chief of Berlin Berndt+Partner Thomas Reiner who figured that this format would allow the teams to take the work on major international projects to the new level.
The alliance was formed by agencies from Russia, China, North America, South America, Turkey, Brazil and Europe. Each of the agencies has about 20 years of experience in branding and packaging design, has profound knowledge of regional particularities of local market and is ready to share local expertise. Thus, when an agency that is a part of GLBA starts to work on an international case, the collective mind of professional insiders from all over the world is being immediately involved in the process without time consuming arrangements and bureaucracy.
Depot WPF branding agency represents Russia in GLBA. Together with the agency we launch a series of exclusive interviews with directors of branding companies that form the alliance. Seven professionals from seven countries will tell about national market particularities, about what works and what doesn’t work in local branding and about the qualities which a designer who’s willing to work in a foreign country must possess. The series opens with an interview with Du Xiaodong, the head of Shanghai Flamesun Brand Strategy Design Agency — the biggest Chinese agency.
Du Xiaodong: — Twenty years ago when Flamesun Brand Strategy Design Agency was launched the Chinese market situation could be described as “demand exceeds supply”. The Chinese people were poor and bought only essential goods. The branding and packaging design were terrible at that time: the package was very simple and naturally didn’t represent brand values or any special message.
When I traveled abroad I was very surprised by the pricing policy in local supermarkets. The Chinese goods were much cheaper. And I wanted to change that situation, and not only to increase the values of goods but also influence the increase of profit and the development of Chinese enterprises. All the objectives haven’t been achieved yet, but I keep working on it – it will be my life-long career.
After the adoption of Opening-up Policy everything has changed dramatically. People started to earn more, they learned to appreciate interesting package design, as well as concept creativity and new eco-products.
As far as Chinese market is developing very quickly, one cannot speak of any typical or unique national style yet. But I shall note that due to the rapid development of e-commerce the packaging design is becoming more and more creative and personalized – we dig deeper and deeper in reasons that encourage people to make a purchase. We are sure that all marketing tasks are tied to people. That’s why we try to think like the customers.
I seek to simplify complicated situations at the very beginning – I think that’s what’s most appreciated in our services. First comes the strategy and then the design. Before we start working on any project we ask ourselves three main questions: what is the direction of the brand, which working method would be the most suitable for it and which solution is the best one.
The most common mistake that Chinese clients make regarding their own brands and products is the desire to get all at once. But if the customer is not capable of getting the gist of the proposal, he will be simply unable to find his competitive advantage.
The clients always wait for a several concepts from the agencies, and they are often lost in its diversity. That’s why we only give one solution, which is after our deep thinking and research. Our clients appreciate this approach because they trust us.
The package that will attract the Chinese consumer should:
- be outstanding on the shelf
- make a clear selling proposition
- meet the aesthetic needs
- be clear and understandable
Skilful structural design is at the core of everything. To create a product with unique design one needs time as well as special technologies. But most of the Chinese enterprises aren’t aware of the importance of structural design: the speed of the workflow is often placed above quality. The Chinese agencies are limited both in time and functionality of the equipment, but I hope that alongside with the development of consumption needs the situation will change
In China, just as in Russia, one has to control manufacturing process in order to get an excellent product. We help our clients to choose the color and material, but everything related to the costs and printing techniques is controlled by the client.
First of all, design is a tool. I think the key to successful design is the understanding of customers’ preferences in the market. And they are constantly changing, as well as customer behavior, so being a packaging designer with 21 years of experience I still need to keep learning Of course I notice some occupational hazard in myself. In any trip instead of sightseeing I visit a supermarket. And so I bring home a lot of packaging instead of souvenirs.
We have three requirements for the future employee of Flamesun Brand Strategy Design Agency. First of all, he should fit into our culture, in our family. Secondly, he should have hunger for knowledge and never stop. Third, he must have a kind heart and seek to help people. Ethics is very important: unlike design methods it can’t be taught.