Gorgeous Crumpet has joined us in the Leeds studio today for cuddles. He is totally adorable, even the boys can't resist ;) ...and we've been munching our way through delicious, award winning, brownies from the lovely sisters at Tarte & Berry, our favourites are Hazelnut & Nutella and Raspberry & Almond - YUMMY SCRUMMY! You too can try them by ordering online
On October 12, 2016 my London teammate Jamie and I attended a full day conference with the enigmatic name of Global Futures Forum.
Held by The Future Laboratory at the Shoreditch Town Hall, the event was a leap into the next 3 to 5 years. We started by reviewing and analysing the current social, economical, political and business contexts and projecting their impact in the short & medium terms. Once the threats and windows of opportunities were established, the speakers delivered their forecasts and predictions, pushing the audience to project themselves & their business into a world with different realities.
Let’s be honest – this planet is a very different place from the one we have known growing up. Distrust, disconnect, disillusion, disorder, displacement and even disgust – we live in a dislocated world. There is an obvious vacuum between the old system, established order, traditional ways increasingly disrupted and inadequate and a new whole, pioneering model that has not yet been found. Just consider a few realities.
Income disconnection – despite a general global economical growth, only a few get to enjoy the benefits of progress and living standards of the middle class are falling. Millennials cannot afford to invest in what their parents considered being the traditional makers of success. For the first time in over 130 years living with your parents has become the most likely arrangement for young adults aged 18-34 in the US. And possibly even more shocking – it will take four Millennials to replace the spending power of one Baby Boomer in the automotive marketplace.
Automation economy - people increasingly fear losing their jobs to automation. But now – the ‘industrial manual’ jobs are not the only ones being suppressed and replaced by technology. Driver-less taxis & trains, algorithmic trading, or even the already widely spread supermarket self-checkouts – every industry could be a potential victim of progress. For instance - in the UK, about one-third of retail jobs are expected to vanish by 2025. Oh, and yes – even creative jobs are at risk, as McCann Japan added an ‘AI creative director’ to its team this year….
Uncaring economy - the rise of the ‘gig economy’ is delivering faster, cheaper and more convenient services for consumers. But it has also left many labourers who rely on digital platforms feeling volatile and insecure. Think of the overworked Amazon employees, the underpaid “Uber Slaves”, the racially profiled Airbnb guest - the gig economy is neither sharing nor collaborative. They are a handful of companies trying to make money by creating and controlling markets for our labour or our stuff, ’ says Sarah O’Connor, employment correspondent at The Financial Times.
Media fatigue - the extreme violence, abuse and injustice portrayed daily by the media in search of higher audience scores make us increasingly stressed and anxious. And as a consequence – we become more insensitive and uninterested in events that drain our emotional energy. And even social media – intended to entertain and delight – makes us sadder. Several studies showed that Facebook tends to bring down the mood of its users, making them 55% more worried, angry, jealous and depressed than non-users.
A number of other antagonising trends could be evoked – systematic political & corporate distrust, technological discord, dislocated labour, access exclusion, etc. but I think you get the point.
Now, the world is not quite over yet, so you can put down the bottle of scotch.
Where there are threats there is discomfort. Where there is discomfort there is change. And where there is change there are opportunities. So reframe the problem. The acceptance of the status quo creates immobility, which prevents evolution; but the refusal of settling for less and an optimistic outlook result in an exuberant creativity to find alternative ways of improving our condition. So to simplify:
THREATS x OPTIMISM = OPPORTUNITIES
And ultimately, that’s what the Futures Forum was about - the opportunities offered by the rapidly changing world that can inspire INNOVATION.
A few ideas that can make the future a bit less uncertain.
- Partner up creatively – network, connect, engage and leverage all your brain power so you can have access to multidisciplinary environments.
- Leverage data – nothing new here, but technology does give access to new insights, so utilise it to its' (legal & ethical) limits.
- Kill friction – don’t limit your thinking by logistical, financial or technical considerations. All of them can be overcome, as long as the vision is clear and shared.
- Enable collision – unexpected results can uncover unexpected opportunities, as long as we are able to recognise those as such.
An interesting article published in 2015 in the Harvard Business Review was supporting the above, advocating overcoming the functional fixidness. New ideas can be created from observing unintended usage, from reframing the rituals, from deconstructing systems to allow for change, evolution and even revolution in our lives.
As such, we need to equip ourselves with what can be called a “Beta Brain” and accept that innovation in the years to come will be defined by our ability to move from linear thinking towards a more fluid and flexible approach.
‘To work properly, innovation must be iterative and not assume that it knows the answers’ declared Rachel Armstrong, TED Global fellow and pioneer of Black Sky Thinking.
The demographic reality will force us to do so anyway.
Gen Z (those kids born in the late 90s, early 2000s) have all the characteristics to allow for a fairly rapid change. Digital natives, with a reduced attention span, complex identities (where real life personalities conflicts with virtual profiles), sharp, agile minds and healthy living habits – they reject the current status quo. Unsatisfied with the world they have inherited from the Baby Boomers and Millennials, they very much intend to make their own mark… for the better, in all fairness. More diverse, naturally networked, and gender fluid - they dismiss the traditional notion of national belonging. Financial success does not constitute an affirmation of self-accomplishment. They refuse to obey by the same codes that we did. And more importantly – more than any generation before – they value the human element, the genuineness, the moral and emotional energy that surrounds them and that gives these new social activists a sense of purpose.
Time to move
So what does it mean for brands? And what does it mean for innovation? Should we settle for a little performance improvement, a new app added to the interface, a new functionality added to the pack? As the guys from The Future Lab put it – ‘taking safe baby steps towards change is no longer enough. The future of innovation will require brands to take psychological and financial risks in order to make big leaps forward to keep pace with advances in technology and rising consumer expectations.’
To change the paradigm, tackle the societal tensions and overcome the generational gap, brands will need to rethink their approach to the future. Incremental innovations will not be enough to reframe the conversations. Substantial and transformational changes in the offer will need to be implemented to keep some kind of relevance in tomorrow’s world.
The brands will also have to take serious stances on societal challenges and visibly act upon it. Declarations of intent and marketing campaigns used to distract from manufacturing scandals will not fly with these kids, who have the entire World Wide Web stuck to their fingertips. Providing emotional solutions, on top of the technical innovations will be key to tackle world challenges and be adopted by these soon-to-be consumers. ‘Brands need to anticipate wider emotional and cultural responses to innovation that have little to do with how effective or useful the product itself is,’ says Baroness Greenfield, British scientist and writer.
So let’s stop fiddling around with little technological gadgets and re-think the whole brand development process. Let’s think of solutions that could give these kids a slightly brighter future than they currently face. Let’s offer them the innovations not only that we ‘can do’ but also those that we ‘should do’.
Get in touch with our team if you are working on your innovation strategy for the next 3-5 years. We will be happy to discuss ways you can deliver new alternatives to the market, helping you to engage with this new generation of consumers and offer solutions that will enlighten the world of tomorrow.
Author Evgueni Spiridonov, Client Service Director, London [m] 07833 444123
Interesting to see the latest Elle subscriber cover with the beautiful Amy Adams looking very natural without the usual Hollywood treatment, good on you Amy, it will be interesting to see if it catches on?
With the opening of the shiny new £165 million Victoria Gate shopping centre, we've shopped until we dropped, well at least window shopped. We especially loved Anthropologie and finally Leeds can boast the second largest John Lewis in the UK. We were soooo excited to see our Yorkshire Lager packaging taking centre stage at the Harvey Nichols pop up and we've a new favourite gin from the guys at Slingsby Gin, the rhubarb variant was amazing.
Delicious pies discovered by Craig in The Trinity Kitchen Leeds... well he is Northern!
This floating cloud doubles as a bluetooth speaker & light
Cool find by Jamie in our London Studio
A pair of artists have designed a bag that will turn your hand into actual LEGO
Loved by Jamie in our London Studio
There’s no getting away from the fact that most FMCG packaging hidden behind the condensation filled windows of the frozen aisles are unlikely to win any major design awards. Yet, for brands that are benefiting from the current frozen meal renaissance, surely it’s time to up their game and bring some warmth and charm into this sector?
Some areas of the frozen food sector are seeing unprecedented growth – driven by a demand for value, quality and convenience. Frozen ready meals have gained £18.4m in value over the past year [Kantar 52 w/e 8 November 2015] and there have been lots of exciting new launches fulfilling the taste for quick and easy ‘world food’.
Yet, looking around the frozen aisles there’s a lot of ‘me too’ packaging which just doesn’t stand out. It’s true though that there are some new brands and new lines coming through which are genuinely ‘stand out’. Hats off to Whitby Seafoods here – the brand and its packaging have genuine charm and exude a delightful cheekiness which makes it utterly appealing. Beach huts, bunting and jaunty seagulls. The packaging is colourful and you can’t escape the big idea…the provenance and authenticity that really is Whitby…the home of scampi.
Of course for the big brands, they have to find their own ideas to truly stand out, and in most cases it comes down to the ingredients. It’s essential that the quality and deliciousness of the ingredients is clearly communicated and signposted. Perhaps most importantly, the food photography when used in frozen ready meals has to really up its game. Consumers need a reason to open that frozen door and if the photos showcase the food to make it look utterly scrumptious, it can have a huge impulse impact. I would also advocate a more ‘editorial’ foodie style of photography, make it friendlier and more appealing to consumers (bubbling, oozing cheese waiting for you to wipe with your finger and eat) and less bland photoshopped images of the perfect plate.
For all foods appearing in the frozen aisle there will always be some major challenges to overcome. The biggest challenge is that no-one particularly likes hanging out in the frozen aisles. It’s genuinely a cold and depressing place to be. It’s often hard to see into the freezers and you end up opening a couple of doors to find what you are after. There’s a lot more that the supermarkets could do to help engage consumers in this part of the store, better lighting and warmth. But as brands have very little control over that, it’s up to the power of packaging to truly make them stand out.
It’s definitely time to get consumers to reconsider frozen. To achieve this, brands need to build on the quality, value and convenience message, and change the perception of frozen as being a second choice to fresh, and instead help consumers see frozen as an equal. They should appeal to the younger foodie focused, health conscious shoppers, who would buy into frozen if they were pointed in the right direction and the presentation and messages were right.
It’s time to be not so reliant on big ‘brand’ logos to sell products. Consumers are less loyal to brands, but will be loyal to deliciousness done right. It’s time to bring some vibrancy to the sector. Be fun and cheeky if you can. Or go posh and gastro. But whatever you do, do it with warmth. If the supermarket won’t warm up the consumer, it’s up to us in the FMCG packaging world to create stand out packaging that connects with the consumer and can inject some sunshine with memorable and engaging designs.
Designs by Gareth Ball, Design Director in our Hull Studio
To continue the conversation please contact Kim Van Elkan on 07900 430 870
Just as we are cozying up in our snuggly jumpers and scarves, Lisa in our Leeds studio reminds us of sunny days in Barcelona with some inspiring food and packaging
From Stu in our London studio, the burning man festival with all its art pieces and structures put together by independent artists. A really interesting concept for a festival, no purchasing of goods, goods have to be traded for other goods encouraging interaction at a deeper level amongst festival goers a Water World kind of vibe.
Highly intimate documentary unveiled this month at the London Film Festival loved by Katinka & Jamie in our London studio
Future facing fashion brand loved by Katinka
Our design director Claire ventured out to the Handmade Fair at Hampton Court last week and shared some snaps from the days events that got her excited about coming back to work!
We're so happy to announce that our lovely Jade from the Leeds studio has given birth to the latest member of the HA family, Baby Oscar Theo, previously known as Teeny Berk, arrived today at 13:43 weighing 7lbs, 10oz. Both mum and baby are doing well and we send them all our love and best wishes. Can't wait for cuddles x
The brains behind the Air Jordan and NRG have joined up to create the worlds first footwear created from recycled CO2!
Our design team is always looking for innovative eco friendly alternatives to help keep the planet spinning. Our senior designer Katinka is hoping the latest designs from NRG are a step in the right direction...
Traditionally where the US leads the UK follows in the world of pet care, over the past few years we have seen an explosion in Pet Care brands taking over the supermarket and specialist shelves with a dizzying array of products. Pet care certainly seems to attract passionate entrepreneurs who are flooding the category with new products many based on human foods with cupcakes, cookies and every type of treat conceivable giving the consumer more choices than ever before. One thing is for sure our pets are becoming more and more human. This humanisation is driving growth and innovation throughout not only pet care but mainstream leisure with dog friendly hotels, dog friendly cinema showings, and pubs and restaurants with specific doggy menu’s the norm rather than the exception.
Birthday parties, Doga, puppy parties and even doggy weddings are becoming more mainstream and this desire to treat our pets like the most loved members of our family offers opportunity to commercialize goods and services.
The growth in single person homes and the loneliness this can lead to has lead to pets helping to fill the gap, with companionship being the main reason for getting a pet, We are also living our lives in different ways with couples delaying marriage and choosing pets instead of children to give our love and affection to. In many emerging markets spending money on pets is seen as an indicator of status and wealth.
The past 10 years has seen demand for dry dog food increasing by 90% over the last 10 years with moist food sales declining, this is driven by convenience, price and improvements in quality. Promotional strategies on pet food has lead to customers stocking up on their favourite brands when they are on offer. Pets diets should be carefully managed and they do not require the diversity of the human palette. Pets are also very fickle and they simply will not eat food they do not like or if the food doesn’t agree with their sensitive digestions you will certainly know about it, therefore loyalty is strong to the brands the consumer knows works for their pet. To maximise on opportunities pet food companies needs to understand trends and the link between human and pet products and behaviours. Consumers are demanding more transparency in ingredients and provenance in much the same way as human foods with all natural products and those high in nutrition top of consumers requirements.
Aging pets needing more care
With our pets being so cared for there is an explosion in the number of older pets who need more specialised care leading to possible growth areas and opportunities for companies to bring out bespoke and specialised product ranges, with owners being prepared to spend more to keep their pets healthy for as long as possible
High income households are the drivers behind the trend for premiumisation, we have the money, don’t have children and absolutely view our furry friends as child substitutes so we want the very best we can afford, however the principles that apply to human food aren’t always the best thing for pets. Taking cues from trends in diet and nutrition in human foods, organic, natural foods are becoming more prevalent. The love humans have for their pets is driving the market. However our love for our pets is leading to anincrease in overweight pets with major health issues such as joint disease, type 2 diabetes and aggravating skin conditions so here is another opportunity for specialist products and brands to offer a solution for a very human condition. What’s next… slimming world and weight watchers ranges for our pets?
Confusion for the consumer
Pet food is a very crowded category with more and more challenger brands entering the space, therefore messaging needs to be clear, concise and the USP of the ingredients very obvious. In our recent work with Harrington's pet food, we knew it was essential to take the Harringtons customers on a journey and not over complicate the packaging for a successful product and a category which can be confusing for the consumer.
Own label products struggle in this area as they don’t have the expertise and credentials of the specialist brands and customers need to have trust in the products they are feeding their pets. With customers visiting branded websites in ever increasing numbers to source information, customer reviews and recommendations, the generic retailers websites can’t deliver on the experience their customers are looking for and a surge in online pet specific retailers is offering free delivery, bespoke offers and subscriptions making it even easier for consumers to stock up.
Every product purchased has a deep rooted emotional connection to the consumers pet. The products they buy are directly related to how they view their relationship with their pet, so it is essential design, substrates and pack formats are carefully considered… and, more importantly in an ever crowed category these products need to look differentiated, be easy for a customer to shop and communicate in the clearest way the products benefits. More pet sampling, experiential solutions and trial packs are needed as at the end of the day the pet is king in deciding what they will and won’t eat.
The future of soft drinks – what can the industry learn from the gin renaissance?
One day, people will look back fondly on the early history of soft drinks. They will wonder at the lack of choice and the abundance of sugar, and marvel at the missed marketing opportunities and the absence of intriguing ingredients and clever, imaginative packaging. However, they won’t be thinking of the game changing soft drink revolution in the late 19th century and the invention of Coca Cola and Pepsi. They will be contemplating us, right here and now.
Where are the big ideas?
Statistics on alcohol consumption show that the amount we drink continues to fall, and young people are drinking less than their parents did at their age, with more of them teetotal than ever before. Those young people, aren’t brand loyal, either: they are happy to try new things. They are thirsty for authenticity – for an impassioned story of provenance and small-scale success.
Those who do drink have found that provenance and small-scale success in beer and in gin. Those who don’t drink are still, for the most part, parched. Fever Tree is the major exception: tasty, varied drinks, great packaging and a real sense that the founder is talking to his consumers. They are clear on what they do, how they do it (naturally, without artificial sweeteners) and how they are different from their competitors – which is more than can be said for many of those competitors. And the fever tree itself – the Peruvian native whose bark contains quinine, an anti-malarial and an essential ingredient in tonic water – makes a great legend. Tim Warrillow, co-creator of Fever Tree and a former Peru resident, is happy to post pictures of the tree, just in case anyone missed its fabulous marketability.
But where are Fever Tree’s rivals? Where are the healthy, natural soft drinks, beautifully packaged and delivered with a terrific story, that offer the non-drinking punter the kind of choice they have as soon as they switch to alcohol?
You can’t win if you’re not in the game
Everyone knows that it is expensive and risky to launch a new product from scratch. All that research, finding the right taste, design and packaging, marketing and advertising. But that shouldn’t stop people, in a market that’s as wide-open as soft drinks currently is. For this, the current trend for artisanal and authentic is a boon: you don’t even need to start big, because actually, what the market currently wants is small but perfectly, and passionately, formed.
Gin: a very clear lesson
Look at gin. Once, this much-loved drink was just vodka with a bit of juniper, and which brand you bought depended on what was on offer wherever you happened to fancy a cocktail or a G&T. No more. The flavour options have exploded, and there is a new gin on every corner – each with its own set of botanicals, creation story and often, some superb packaging to tell that story. Bars are cluttered with new and interesting brands, bartenders are having a field day creating cool gin-based cocktails, and the consumer is, in every sense, sucking it up.
The same was already true of beer. But gin is consumed in much smaller quantities – and a spirit is a different proposition, and a different expenditure, from a beer, however premium. What the gin market did was look at whisky, which has always had a small-batch, artisanal strand made with love, craft and individuality, and apply the same rules. First came a trickle, like Sipsmith and Chase. Then came the tsunami. And it’s still coming.
If gin can accomplish all this, what opportunities are out there for soft drinks, which are surely far better for us, in a world that is more and more obsessed with health? First, though, they need to solve a problem – a big one. After all, booze will make you drunk. Soft drinks will commit the ultimate crime: they will make you fat.
This is not the place to trace the long and depressing story of sugar and fat and the emphasis on the latter, from nutritionists and experts, while companies loaded our food and drinks with a white powder more addictive and dangerous than cocaine. The important thing is that this is changing. You’d have to live in a cave not to know how filled with sugar most soft drinks are, or how bad for your health that sweetness is. Britain has introduced a Sugar Tax to try to address the problem. Even diet drinks are mistrusted, thanks to our increasing desire to avoid artificial ingredients.
A few brands are taking full advantage of our desire for a more balanced lifestyle. Vitamin Water, which rode off the back of scare stories about the quality of US tap water in the 1990s, has done very well. Vitamin Water also taps into the USA’s love affair with vitamins, which dates back over 70 years and offers an alternative to soft drinks, following the stories about artificial flavours and ingredients making consumers fat in the late 1990s and early noughties.
More recently coconut water and birch water have been flying high. But it will be interesting to see which products lasts the test of time. There is even, now, a non-alcoholic spirit, Seedlip: as beautifully designed as any gin, and with the same emphasis on natural, authentic ingredients, it’s clearly aiming to be the hipster teetotaller’s tipple of choice. And the world’s largest distiller Diageo, which owns Smirnoff and Guinness, has just invested in Seedlip, perhaps heralding the dawn of a new era for grown up non-alcoholic drinks. But could Seedlip release a soft drink, as opposed to a non-alcoholic gin, with the same sort of upmarket and botanical credentials that would appeal to adults? Could there be another opportunity for the brand to explore?
Still, these are drops in the ocean. At the moment, the emphasis is almost all on fruit juices of some sort, but the world is very big and there are plenty of other options, from oats in smoothies to ginger in non-alcoholic beer to the kind of strange flavours and textures that Western countries have historically avoided. After all, if we’re prepared to down wheatgrass because it’s good for us, what might we not try? Especially if it fits with current priorities for good nutrition and sustainability – and doesn’t contain anything unnatural or half a bucket of sugar.
A parcel of opportunity
There is so much untapped possibility out there – for renewable, sustainable packaging, new flavours and textures, and an honest approach that doesn’t try to hide unpopular ingredients but boasts, justifiably, of its pure and healthy content. Where are the food-matching suggestions for non-alcoholic drinks, or for coffees or teas? Brands would do well to find genuine soft drink replacements for hot beverages, perhaps with herbal or botanical flavours with refreshing bitter notes which are squarely aimed at adults, rather than sweet drinks.
Where are the reusable cans, or the really beautifully designed containers, for the discerning teetotaller? Where are the interesting flavours that have taken their cue, but not their intoxicants, from the successes of the spirit market? Where is the authenticity that is proud to tell it straight and has the genuine ingredients to do that?
The future is bright…
Soft drinks manufacturers need to get creative and flee from fear. The conservative, also-ran content of the supermarket shelves needs to change, and drastically. Instead of cowering in the fruity, sweet, don’t do it unless someone else has done it first category, soft drinks need to get out there and embrace the future, do things differently, zig while everyone else zags. The jaded consumer, consigned to bitter lemon or fizzy pop as if avoiding alcohol were something they should be punished for, will thank them from the bottom of his or her heart, wallet – and liver. If brands have a complete rethink of the soft drink and turn away from sweet and childish flavours and instead create tastes which are complex and adult, they will reap the rewards.
Designs by Craig Harriott, Design Director in our Leeds studio.
To continue the conversation please contact Kim Van Elkan on 07900 430 870
From Katinka, Dutch architecture firm OMA has restored historic Fondaco dei Tedeschi in Venice, adding new entrances and wood-panelled escalators to turn the 16th century building into a department store
Jow in our Hull studio loves these…
Absolutely amazing use of negative space on these clever Agatha Christie postage stamps! They even use augmented reality to bring them to life and include clues you can only reveal with UV lights, magnifying glasses and heat sensitive ink to reveal the killer…
Ev and Nic visited the IKEA pop up DIY dining club in Shoreditch and tried out the new VR