…for all things special, limited and gift-packed.
It’s that time of year again. The shorts and T-shirts are barely back in the cupboard, and our attention is already drawn to ever-more luxurious advent calendars and gift sets. It won’t be long now before the shops start to play classic Christmas songs and gift guides appear on every website and magazine. Brands have been planning for this Christmas since the start of 2018 at the latest, and that work will finally reach consumers’ baskets, whether physical or digital. Here are some of the trends we’re seeing;
Advent calendars go from strength to strength
The announcement emails are stacking up; global brands like The Body Shop and Molton Brown, and retailers like Space NK are already available to buy or pre-order. Elle Magazine is even in on the game, offering their curated collection at a premium price. The jousting amongst these luxury calendars for “most desirable” position is intense – with no special finish and indulgent touch spared.
Advent calendars – like this one for No7 – have been going from strength to strength over the past few years
We must admit to having contributed to this shopping phenomenon, working with Boots, Clarins and Mugler on their calendars over the years. As specialists at taking premium seasonal gift ideas from unique concept all the way to shelf/e-commerce, we’ve put every step in the process under a magnifying glass to keep our clients ahead of the competition, be it structural design or 3D e-commerce visualisation, print management or marketing activation. But – whisper it – we like being kept on our toes and by the looks of it, our clients’ competition are no slouches, so our approach considers operational streamlining as much as final finish, to enable our clients to win, as brands and as marketers.
Structural and technical innovation
Another trend reflected in these stunning gifts is the attention to detail and emphasis on innovation in the structural engineering of the products, with standout shapes and meticulously thought-out unboxing experiences. From Elemis’ new double-sided design to Space NK’s Beauty Anthology featuring multiple “chapters”, it’s clear that brands are going beyond special finishes, and reinventing the very structure of the calendars.
Clarins’ pyramid advent calendar
We think the best way to achieve step-changes in whole-product innovation is by putting creative designers and structural side-by-side, under the same roof (we’re so convinced we moved offices to do just that). By connecting these teams, clients get more, done better, and delivered faster – with far fewer handoffs, less room for error and far reduced admin. So they’re free to think about the next big brand opportunity.
Limited editions, brand collaborations and personalisation
As marketers turn their attention from Millenials to Gen Z (who now take over as the ones with most disposable income), they’re entering an even more competitive, faster trend-cycling market swayed more by influencers and micro-influencers than Facebook advertising or – dare we say it – traditional print.
This means more limited editions and brand/brand or brand/influencer mashups; most apparent in fashion (think Converse x Miley Cyrus or Nike x Studio Feixen), but increasingly also in the cosmetics space (e.g. Zoella x ColourPop, Etude House x KitKat and even Game of Thrones x Urban Decay). L’Occitane, whose advent calendar has been a strong seller in previous years, has this year partnered with Rifle Paper Co. on its trio ranges. And the likes of Glossybox pride themselves on bringing together the best of the best from across brands.
L’Occitane advent calendar
But if navigating one set of creative guidelines is challenging, doing so with multiple brand stakeholders or celebrities is a task of labyrinth-like complexity. We’ve heard from our clients just how much time supplier management and handoffs were taking up, so we came up with a really low-touch Brand Guardian solution; shepherding the design, development and delivery through every step, across our teams and external suppliers. It may not sound very “agency” of us to actively choose to work with 3rd parties, but it enables our clients to use specialists of their choice, while retaining a single point of contact, and cutting a whole lot of admin.
Gen Z are digital natives. To them, mobile and in-app purchasing are a given. They expect brands to be wherever and whenever they are. The importance of getting true-to-life product imagery out, fast and legible on mobile, are paramount. But what if you could go beyond that, and bridge the gap between digital and real life, by enabling consumers to interact with your product digitally, opening and closing outer packaging, rotating the product as they would in hand?
Cutting-edge renders are indistinguishable from photography – but far more versatile
More brands are now delivering unprecedented consumer interaction in digital spaces, months before the first finished product rolls off the production line, by using 3D rendering to visualise their products (the tech is now advanced enough to accurately recreate glass, liquids and even the most complex finishes). These renders can be placed into online retail or digital media environments to drive pre-orders and sales.
Environmental conscience is no longer a niche aspiration. Consumers around the world are exerting ever-growing pressure on brands to do their bit, and rightly so. Brands must respond, or face serious damage to their reputation and sales. Excessive plastic use in packaging is being particularly challenged, and major brands are responding. But the removal of plastic presents new challenges with packaging performance and product protection, and alternatives take time and cost to find, test and implement – yet perceived delays risk brands playing catch-up and looking out of touch (not to mention putting more plastic in landfill).
We faced the challenge of this ourselves when a client asked us to help make their packaging significantly more sustainable, and fast. With a large and complex product range that needed to maintain a premium look and feel, not to mention be workable for retail, the solution had to be realistic. Our connected technical and design teams gave us a unique ability to deliver, enabling the complete removal of plastic from the gift packaging for their Christmas range. So thanks, guys…
We foresee these trends continuing into 2020 and beyond, though there will undoubtedly emerge new ideas and challenges for brands to solve. But we love a challenge, and making a real difference to our clients – as brands and as individuals – like we have for Boots, Clarins and many others. So if there’s something you’d like to put us to the test with, get in touch – we’ll start your New Year off with a Spark (sorry about the pun, we couldn’t help ourselves…).