Nail polish pens from LAQA & Co take a new graphic approach with packaging covered in unique artwork from young designers.
EuroStyle: Experience Necessary

With studies showing that consumers are spending money on experiences rather than products per se, brands need to find new ways to inject that all-important experiential element that extends beyond the obvious novelty or shock-factor.

The brand-customer relationship no longer focuses purely on the product or service but on the experience—or perceived experiential element that the brand or product can provide. Food, beverage—and now beauty—are truly indulging in the experimental to attract attention and fulfill a new need. But, as we will examine here, it’s not just about the short-term shock factor, but finding ways to holistically design new experiences that can create real change and lead us into the future.

Fragrance probably has more scope than any in this industry to dial up a mood, a time, a feeling, but it is, therefore, maybe more difficult to truly innovate and make a mark. And talking of making a mark, we should probably start by looking at Lady Gaga’s Fame.

Has the packaging for Lady Gaga’s fragrance truly broken new ground?
The Lady herself has described the fragrance as smelling of “blood and semen” or “an expensive hooker.” The actual—and lengthy—description on the box, claims among other things “tears of belladonna…with a black veil of incense.” But the trend for ingredients such as belladonna, and the notion of beauty taking to the dark side, has been over for a while now. Similarly, the strapline calls the fragrance a “black fluid” and it claims to be the first-ever black perfume. It probably is, but the concept is nothing new. Boudicca was hitting the headlines with its blue Wode spray back in 2008. Then, both the color of the fragrance and the delivery was truly revolutionary. And what of the packaging itself? It’s striking and stylish in a purple/black glass bottle with a dominating gold claw clasped around it, but not in any way breaking new territory. Not so much the unexpected, but totally what we would expect from Gaga.

Unlike the new Apple fragrance… No, this is not a contender for the DKNY Be Delicious fragrance, but the opportunity to douse yourself in the scent of “Eau de MacBook Pro.”

This is not a bona fide scent that is coming to market (not yet anyway), but a piece of art for an exhibition staged in Australia. However, the group of artists creating this did work with Air Aroma (scent marketing solutions provider) to properly capture the smell of opening an Apple computer for the first time to truly convey the smell of the plastic wrap covering the box, the printed ink on the cardboard, the smell of paper and plastic components within the box and of course the aluminium laptop… A bit of fun in the name of art but, actually, the smooth, aluminium cylinder is amazingly apposite and truly a thing of beauty… (spot the Apple lover here).

Ultimately, it’s a newsworthy novelty that also pays homage to the influence of technology on our lives, and shows that future cross-category collaboration and innovation for beauty—outside of the usual food and drink categories—is eminently possible.

Where in the World

The bottle for the new Tom Ford fragrance hints at exotic associations.
I think what is most interesting from a brand design and futurist point of view is our new geographical focus—and, again, fragrance is out in front with Western designers showing greater interest in Arab-influenced scents. From the roses of the Ta’if in Saudi Arabia, to the Black Iris of Jordan, Tom Ford and Christian Dior (to name but two) have recently launched fragrances based on oud wood and Damascus rose. The bottle for the new Tom Ford fragrance unquestionably marks it as coming from the Tom Ford portfolio, with a bold but pared down style. The bottle structure is strong with the shape of the shoulders and closure hinting at exotic associations and, as with Black Orchid, the bottle color reflects the key ingredient of the fragrance contained within.

This is catering to the growing interest in niche perfumes and the aficionado’s quest for the rare and the exotic. But rather than being a souvenir purchase or an attempt to try and bottle and label a country, the focus on seeking out the best ingredients and how this quest is translated to fit with an existing brand portfolio will be an interesting one to watch play out as we continue to expand horizons.

And while fragrance is still somewhat domineering in invention and innovation, there are also some exciting developments coming through in the cosmetics arena.

Stila’s solar powered compact ticks boxes for the green beauty consumer, but fits perfectly with the professional and premium look and feel of the rest of the Stila family.
Powerful Shapes

Stila recently created the first solar powered compact—the Solar Illuminated Refillable Compact and Powder Duo.

The compact is placed in sunlight to charge. A little green star appears when the compact is ready and the mirror then lights up for ideal makeup application. The compact can be recharged around 900 times. In addition, the compact can is refillable, therefore, contributing to waste reduction. Thus the product ticks boxes for the green beauty consumer, but perfectly fits with the professional and premium look and feel of the rest of the Stila family.

With structure often compounded by manufacturing and cost limitations, it’s great to see new functional but desirable solutions coming through. And BRÖÖ is worthy of note.

BRÖÖ, which produces body and hair care products made with handcrafted beer, uses a typical six-pack carry-out for its range of travel sizes.
BRÖÖ is a line of body and hair care products made with handcrafted beer, which has chosen to use a typical six-pack carry out for their range of travel sizes.

“But, with so many ‘craft beer-inspired’ marketing ideas pouring forth from our brand, we had to be careful to avoid being gimmicky, because our products are “salon-grade, naturally made.” We decided to christen the travel sizes our “Six Pack of Beautiful,” to remind our fans that BRÖÖ taps into the beauty in beer.” (Source: The Dieline)

Colorful Approaches

The Billy Jealousy range of packaging for men provides a breath of fresh air.
Here’s one to make you smile—and humor is often underrated and underplayed in this sector—especially within the male sector. This is why the new Billy Jealousy range of packaging for men is a breath of fresh air with its totally new and spirited graphic look for the whole sector. The packs are reminiscent of ’50s inspired holiday confectionery boxes with the same saucy and tongue-in-cheek pictures, but using photographs of “real” men—rather than cartoon form—to reflect the brand concept around “the everyman who isn’t every man.”

Similarly, the nail polish pens from new start-up cosmetic brand LAQA & Co are also taking a new graphic approach. While artist-designed packaging and collaboration is nothing new for this industry, LAQA & Co is taking a slightly leftfield approach.

“But these aren’t just polishes, they’re little pieces of art, too. We’re the brand covered in unique artwork from young designers who are looking to get their voice out there. We thought, where better than our little box. Designers even get a cut of profit, from every color you buy.” (Source: LAQA & Co)

Product color is used to inspire each piece of art that, in turn, can also hang on someone’s wall. The box leaflet explains the mission and where to find the wall art for purchase, “in the most un-leaflet way possible.”

With studies showing that consumers are spending money on experiences rather than products per se, then brands and products need to look for new and more inspiring ways to inject that all-important experiential element that extends its reach beyond the obvious novelty or shock-factor.

Experiencing the brand comes down to seduction, and this is where all the elements of the packaging design—including clever structure or a more unusual graphic execution—has the scope to tell, or at least tease out, the story of the brand experience by focusing us on the texture, look and delivery of what we are buying and using.

By taking a more holistically creative approach—as in the case of Billy Jealousy or LAQA & Co—we should be able to provide a unique and targeted consumer experience or connection time and time again. And, as we move into the future, we need to use design to find new and creative ways to deliver something disproportionate to the expectation.

About the author

Jonathan Ford is creative partner at Pearlfisher—;