Building brand identity with superior design

SGS & Co made its India debut in 2018 with two business entities – Marks and SGS. Vineeth A Viswanathan, business director, SGS & Co discusses the power of packaging design with Aultrin Vijay

20 May 2022 | By Aultrin Vijay

Vineeth A Viswanathan, business director, SGS & Co

PrintWeek (PW): Please tell us about SGS&Co.

SGS & Co (SGS): SGS & Co is a brand impact group delivering speed and quality through innovation and insights to drive impact for our world-class clients.

SGS was established in 1946 as a single-facility gravure operation in Louisville, Kentucky. In the 75 years since we have been on an incredible journey expanding our business to offer end-to-end integrated services from brand strategy to packaging execution. With a global presence spanning six continents, 30 countries, and over 5,000 team members, our extensive network of experts ensures that we respond to client needs, on the ground and around the world.

SGS & Co has two business entities: Marks, a strategic brand design and experience agency and SGS, an integrated packaging and marketing production powerhouse. Our expertise spans design, graphic services, production, and technology and process optimisation to deliver what brands need at any stage of the game.

Select services include packaging design, design adaptation, 3D/CGI, production art, pre-press, colour and print quality management, and workflow management.

PW: What are the major segments you cater to?

SGS: We cater to FMCG, retail, print, life science and pharmaceutical companies.

PW: SGS began operations in India in 2018. Please describe your journey so far.

SGS: SGS made its presence in India via acquisition in 2018. Since then, we have strengthened our presence supporting both regional and global clients. We have almost tripled our team in India with offices in Mumbai and Coimbatore. In addition, we have on-sites who sit within client offices in Gurgaon and Bengaluru.

PW: Why is design important in the packaging industry?

SGS: Even when people tell themselves that they are just browsing or window shopping, there’s a lot of subconscious work that goes into an average consumer’s purchase decision. Packaging design plays a very crucial role in the decision-making process. A good packaging design should be able to fulfil the ADD (Attraction, Differentiation and Decision) criteria.

PW: eCommerce is booming. What are the features that set apart eCommerce packaging design from conventional packaging designs? And what aspect of the packaging is considered critical while designing?

SGS: When it comes to eCommerce packaging, the device by which consumers shop (desktop, tablet, mobile) has a drastic impact on brand experience. During the lockdown, our screen time has gone up rapidly and there has been a shift to the small screens, where visuals reign supreme. Brands that are able to create mobile-friendly images that showcase their packaging, highlight pertinent product details, and offer a connection to consumers will see increased conversions online.

PW: How do you make an eCommerce pack stand out? Will the same design be as attractive when it is kept on a retail shelf?

SGS: We have seen a clear theme of success with solid colours. It’s simple, gets attention, and can reflect either the ingredients or the aesthetics of the product. We also see a trend of the product names anchoring the pack on the front and centre with the use of distinct typography.

Most importantly, eCommerce imagery should be designed to communicate the information most critical for consumers to make an informed purchase while bringing the brand to life on the digital shelf. Online shoppers are unable to interact with products as they would in-store, so it’s incredibly important that brands fill that void by helping them visualise products through optimised pack shots that illustrate physical attributes such as size, flavour, scale and more.

PW: What are some of the packaging design trends that you’ve witnessed in the last 365 days?

SGS: Consumer behaviour and objectives are never constant, which pushes brands to constantly adapt to be at the top of their mind. Minimalistic packaging design has been a trend for a while. However, with new ways of execution, it continues to stay fresh.

The adverse effects of climate change have had a huge impact on consumer purchasing behaviours and we have seen a trend of sustainability initiatives taking priority across the globe. Some of the ways we’re seeing companies achieve their objectives include reducing ink usage, utilising more environmentally friendly substrates, and making structural design changes to eliminate excess packaging material.

PW: How important is it for a design to stand out?

SGS: With today’s highly competitive retail landscape, it is more important than ever to stand out on the shelf. Packaging plays a very key role in the decision-making process. In the battle of attention fought subconsciously within a consumer's mind when they are out shopping, it’s undeniable that an attractive design/shape takes the lead. Experimenting with shape is a great way to differentiate and grab consumer attention.

PW: What are some smart design decisions to boost sales?

SGS: Packaging design should not only focus on fancy aesthetics but also be able to connect with consumers. In a year full of uncertainty and frustration, consumers have become more sceptical than ever when it comes to brand messaging and intentions. Brands that want to gain or regain trust with their consumers need to start thinking about service before sales. EQ is also a key ingredient in the process.

Brands should focus on keeping their design clean and simple but distinctive. Getting a shelf impact assessment done can help brands confirm if the design is appealing to the consumers.

PW: With competition growing by the minute, what steps does a company need to take for improving its brand image?

SGS: Consumers prefer to buy new products from a brand familiar to them. Improving brand image is a continuous process and the key is to be consistent with experience and communication.

Constantly evaluate if the consumers are seeing the brand the way you would want them to see it. Ensure consistency of your assets (logo, colour, fonts) across all mediums (advertising, packaging and digital).

PW: How do design decisions influence the brand’s image?

SGS: For a consumer, a well-designed product is attractive or pleasing to look at and conveys the information clearly. The way a product is designed and the brand integrity encourages consumers to purchase it and make repeat purchases.

PW: How was 2021 for you? What is your outlook for the New Year?

SGS: Our IMEA business has continued on a growth trajectory in 2021. Marks, our strategic and design entity, is gaining traction both in India and the Middle East. We have seen strong regional artwork requirements from the food segment due to regulatory changes. Our goal is to continue the growth of 2021 in India and the MEA region. The first indications I have seen thus far in 2022 make me feel very optimistic for the future.

PW: Any closing notes?

SGS: The world is moving very quickly and at an ever-increasing pace that is transforming all businesses. In the FMCG segment, businesses are recognising this radical shift and are adopting technology across the packaging supply chain via artwork approval platforms, automation tools and integrated workflow and analytics. It’s time for us to embrace digital transformation and build a closely connected digital framework to keep up with the accelerating pace of business.

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