"As long as your new design is based on brand truth, it will work," says Garrick Hamm, Creative Director at William Murray Hamm.
Great advertising campaigns go some way to improving product sales, but innovative, attention-grabbing packaging greets a consumer at the all-important point of purchase. On every supermarket shelf there's one brand that stands out from the stacks of items. William Murray Hamm is a leading brand design agency whose eye-catching and simple ideas can be seen on packaging for Hovis, Jaffa Cakes, Horlicks and Clipper Teas. Its involvement includes design concepts, prototyping, labelling and much more.
WMH was established in 1997 by Richard William, Richard Murray and Garrick Hamm. The trio set up the agency following a conversation at a wedding where they discussed a lack of new and exciting work in brand design. Almost eight years later the company employs 20 staff and boasts a number of D&AD and DBA Design Effectiveness awards as well as Marketing Magazine's Design Agency of the Year in 2002 and 2004.
According to Creative Director Garrick Hamm, such accolades not only boost the agency's profile but prospective clients know what to expect. "We set out to offer clients an alternative to the intrusive logos and graphic formulae that dominated the 80s and 90s," says Garrick. WMH's reputation attracts calls from both established and emerging brands. Hamm directs all projects that come into the company and notes the differences in dealing with large and small brands. "Big companies are led by bosses, departments and research; small companies are lead by their gut reaction," he says.
New packaging for Jaffa Cakes was one of 2004's biggest projects and took two years to come to fruition. The familiar orange and blue brand remained but the large logo was replaced with heartfelt quotes from customers about Jaffa Cakes. "We used truisms that people say about the brand, such as 'This packet's empty' because they don't want to share. It was an exciting project and led to a 15 per cent growth in sales."
Smaller projects include new vodka brand Fallen, for which WMH designed the bottle and labelling. The finished result is a stunning bottle with a stylish, sketched label, a world apart from any other vodka brand. Emerging luxury ice cream brand Hill Station also approached the agency to design its new packaging. The simple signpost design can now be seen in supermarket freezers all over the UK thanks to the makeover.
By far the most recognisable success of all WMH's portfolio is the Hovis bread packaging, which two years ago changed radically from a traditional design to the now-familiar baked bean, cucumber and tomato imagery. "We prefer briefs that can be expressed in a few words," says Garrick. "For Hovis, it was 'good things you can do with bread'." The client wanted a design that kept something of the past but moved the brand forward, something they labelled 'continuity and disruption'. "The main challenge Hovis had was that everybody knew the name, but it was associated with brown bread due to the old 70s adverts with the boy and the bike. The big money is really in white bread. They needed something that would attract people at the point-of-purchase."
After nine months in development, the result was a huge boost in sales and a staggering 2,000 letters from people enthusing about the packaging. "That was a pretty unusual response, but as bread is at the heart of what people use and buy, it struck a chord with many people. I think it was so successful because we were actually talking to consumers. We weren't overlaying old imagery but getting the message across in a modern way by saying 'beans on toast is fantastic'."
The high profile of the campaign demonstrated that WMH's clients can do radical things with impressive results. "That's what we're about. To get a consumer to change their opinion of a brand, you have to do more than tweak - people are busy and won't notice. As long as your new design is based on a brand truth, it will work. Putting images of famous footballers on Hovis would have been radical but wouldn't have been truthful to the brand."
Garrick believes sticking to truths brings brands to life. "It's a kind of theme in our work. For example, Horlicks is about sleep so we made it about just that. Sales for them are bigger than ever before." WMH's designs for Clipper Teas are another example. The fair trade tea's sales have quadrupled since it relaunched with simple black packaging and iconic images such as tigers or buddhas, relating to the origins of the tea. "It's different thinking but there's a link that consumers can buy into. We like to have a message, to communicate with people. We don't do arty, radical stuff for the sake of it, we do it because it actually does make a difference to sales."
If the wide array of exciting work coming out of this design studio is anything to go by, the secret to successful packaging is simplicity and a clear message that's truthful to the product you're designing.