I’m forever blowing bubbles – not with my brand you’re not!


“Up the ‘ammers” my parents and relatives used to bellow (all East End born and bred). Yet their beloved football team has had mixed fortunes over the last decade. And there’s probably a good reason for that.

I recently overheard a sports report and was shocked to hear “…West Ham United have appointed their 9th manager in the last 10 years…” Even with my shabby maths that means a new manager every 1.1 years. Parallel that against the likes of Ferguson and Wenger both of whom have spent over 20 years at one (usually highly successful) club.

So, what has an East London football club got to do with brand packaging?

I’ve spotted over the past 10 years or so that a lot of brand owners are increasingly relying on the thought that cheap and plentiful social media and brand packaging is the way to successfully launch, maintain and grow a brand (I’ll not unleash my fury in respect of social media in this article).

However, with regards brand packaging, I have noticed a swathe of brands seeking to ‘refresh’ and ‘relaunch’ and I do suspect that this is because it’s reasonably cheap, it’s reasonably quick and it’s something that a Brand Manager is ‘allowed’ to do to make his or her mark and is on their ‘wish’ list when they join a brand. But be careful what you wish for!

I recently saw that a relaunched brand had a swing tag on its neck that read “I used to look like this”. The swing tag had an image of the old packaging and it just struck me that this very small and insignificant message shouted a lack of confidence and that this redesign, refresh, relaunch, repositioning (whatever you want to call it) hadn’t worked. Lo and behold in a matter of weeks that very same brand had been redesigned yet again with another new look.

Time will tell if this ‘fresh, new look’ for the brand has worked but 3 different pieces of brand packaging in a matter of 18 months isn’t the best way to make trusted and loyal consumers feel confident and engaged.

There is a smidgen of sympathy deep down inside me. I fully understand that we live in one of the most complex and often pleasing of visual times. So much more of what we see online and offline is beautifully crafted trying hard to make its way in this busy, busy world.

But let’s not forget that consistency and uniformity is the quickest way to engender trust in consumers. Perhaps too often these days there seems to be a desperate race to affect change due to constantly changing market conditions.

Talking to clients, they are more often than not ‘time poor’ and ‘cash poor’ which isn’t great as it does not allow them to properly examine what makes their brand different and better than its competitors. Often, it’s a case of “just make it more contemporary… fresher… lovelier… ”

Of course there is a better way, and it does involve a little patience and a modest amount of investment. Take some time to properly understand what customers and consumers want from you and that will provide a solid and robust platform to work from. If you use your insight correctly and understand fully how consumers ‘feel’, you can then find ways to articulate this in terms of the products or services you produce and the way you communicate the promise of your brand.

I am by no means a football fan so I don’t feel particularly well placed to open up a debate about football management. But I do know what success looks like. In this day and age, it can be very short lived – here today, gone today.

But what every business and brand is seemingly looking for is commercial success and longevity so I am somewhat bemused by the decisions being taken on a monthly, daily, hourly basis about which way brands should turn to catch the eye of the consumer.

If I owned, managed or was responsible for an FMCG brand I think I’d rather be a Ferguson or a Wenger not a Curbishley, Keen, Zola, Grant, Allardyce or Billic (repeat to fade).

Words by James Acton