Key Considerations When Vetting Your Strategic Partner

There are more than 21,000 creative professionals in the top three largest cities in North America alone. When you factor in all mid to large cities in North America, it’s daunting for any company to select a strategic design agency to tackle their packaging brand transformation. A key factor in selecting the right firm is to determine the project’s level of required change and risk. Major rebranding projects often require a new strategic direction and value proposition to deliver meaningful value to customers. When these projects lead to major change, selecting a package design agency with deep strategic expertise is critical, especially when the brand transition is bound to unearth complex strategic challenges. To assist in ensuring a client’s packaging needs align with the strategic capabilities of a potential design partner, we have outlined strategic leadership qualities you should look for.

Vetting Your Package Design Firm’s Strategic Capabilities

Strategy is a very broad term with many different meanings and applications to a rebranding exercise. The discipline of strategy can be divided into three main tiers: Design Thinking Strategy, Brand Strategy, and Business Strategy. Moving from what is core to the package design toward a more holistic approach, a clearly defined  brand position and a business strategy must be established to determine how the new packaging fits within the business model and value chain proposition.

Design Thinking Strategy

At the bottom of the pyramid, we find the “design thinking strategy” tier focused primarily on how to link the package design to underlying, unrealized opportunities in the marketplace. Projects leveraging this tier of the strategic pyramid tend to be evolutionary in focus, and leverage strong existing brand equities. The majority of design firms provide a high degree of “design thinking strategy,” focused on providing strong creative rationale on their recommendations and how they align with customers.

Design Thinking explores the given project from many points-of-view, leveraging ethnographic research, a broad range of strategically sound design options, as well as stakeholder validation. At the core of the Design Thinking strategic process is discovering the often hidden opportunities the brand needs to explore as part of the creative process.

Brand Strategy

Moving up the strategic pyramid, the second tier consists of all things tied to brand strategy. This tier includes a wide range of strategic tools, from positioning, consumer segmentation and persona development, name development, consumer research and the development of strategic imperatives that support how the packaging needs to personify the brand promise. This tier represents packaging projects that require a reset of the brand’s direction, often due to a shift in market dynamics and customer preferences. Since such initiatives have a higher risk factor, reflecting the need for major change that impacts not only the packaging but all brand touch points, the level of strategic involvement is significantly greater.

Business Strategy

The final tier is defined by the business strategy which reflects the greater context of the direction of the organization. Very seldom does a package design initiative include the need for a business strategy unless the initiative is the result of a new business launch or when an organization acquires or merges to expand their capabilities or eliminate a competitor. Business strategic development is typically managed by leading management consulting firms looking at the entire business value chain and as such typically does not fall in the jurisdiction of a package design firm. However, it’s important to understand how a new business strategy will significantly impact the direction of a package design initiative. In the majority of packaging assignments, clients will require a review of their current position to ensure it remains relevant in -addition to how the position is amplified on the new packaging.

As you vet your strategic design agency through the lenses of your Design Thinking, Brand and Business Strategies, be sure to consider a partner that is not only strategic and tactical but also collaborative. To learn more, check out part two of this blog, as we explore the right questions to ask your design firm as you begin your selection process.