What the Pack: STRATCOM, South Africa — exclusive

Together with the Depot WPF branding agency we continue to publish a series of exclusive interviews with directors of branding companies from GLBA — Global Local Branding Alliance. After the interview from China we would like to introduce South Africa and it’s representative — Gail Macleod, chief&founder of STRATCOM branding agency.

Together with the Depot WPF branding agency we continue to publish a series of exclusive interviews with directors of branding companies from GLBA — Global Local Branding Alliance. Seven professionals from seven countries will tell about national market particularities, about what works and what doesn’t work in local branding and about the qualities which a designer who’s willing to work in a foreign country must possess.

After the interview from China we would like to introduce South Africa and it’s representative — Gail Macleod, chief&founder of STRATCOM branding agency. Gail is a patriot and a great enthusiast of the South African branding; throughout the 18 years that STRATCOM has existed she realized herself in a huge amount of variety activities: from the designer and the owner of the patent to the manager and the marketer.

Branding that exists in isolation

— STRATCOM branding agency was founded in 1996. Africa was relatively brand naive at the time, that feature Immediately catched eyes in package design. Constructions did not differ from each other, production capabilities were often limited. Traditional brands upgraded the design of its package only once every ten years (today they updates approximately every three years, and changes occur not only in South Africa but throughout all of the continent).

In the nineties a democracy had not come yet, an international trade was banned. The market formed in isolation was very specific. But consumers were still looking in the direction of America and its design standards. A number of strong designers inspired by the US branding trends appeared and managed to change the usual way of thinking. They also successfully launched new brands even in this climate.

 

 

 

When I founded Stratcom, I had an intense desire to improve the local status quo: to bring innovation and an afrocentricism to the branding and packaging market using proven global and local best practices. One of the main goals was to сonsolidate a strong conceptual design, which can envolve consumer, give him a wide choice, to do decision-making process a little bit easier and bright up consumer’s life with the help of delightful packaging.

Today every South African, thousands of Africans from the continent and over fourteen global countries held in hands packages created by STRATCOM agency. So, the goal to expand the horizons that we set ourselves earlier was achieved.

Bubbling developing branding

Africa is intense, live and pulsating market with a great amount of opportunities. A typical African package is always bright, colorful and striking which is consistent with our spirit.

A typical consumer in our country is cosmopolitan and reverts to craft or local production: we see this trend in beer, food and any other domestic production. As a rule, these local trends generally formed in Cape Town and when they reach Johannesburg it becomes a mainstream.

Package attractiveness for consumers depends on the category. Thus, an alcoholic beverage for young people (18-26 years old) should be cool, "on SWAG". A food package should look so good that you want to eat it. Materials, printing should be high-quality that packaging stand the storage and transportation process. And, of course, the price of a package should be objectified.

Africa is committed to the super-constructive. But this desire is not so pronounced to exploit the potential of the form at full. African customers are tired of investing into development from which there is no financial or image impact. Therefore, every year we are trying to create constructions that in combination with graphic design and strategy could be truly effective. And, of course, we have to strictly control over the production process in order to achieve quality results.

The most common client mistake in Africa is the lack of foresight into the nature of the bubbling developing continent and the pace of its transformation. The brand owners are often fear to try new package designs. They hide deeper into a safe zone avoiding communication with a young and optimistic audience. It is not good for the brands.

American consumers are often quite cautious about new products on supermarket shelves. On the other hand, a large companies are afraid to launch these new products simply because they can’t find competent experts on branding and packaging. If we will talk about advertising agencies in South Africa, it will be easier for me to name a few agencies that inspire me. But outstanding branding agencies have almost none.

Local talents often leave from Africa, so great designers are the rare breed here. We come from everywhere and combine forces to quench the thirst of talent. That is why it is so important for me to move beyond other people's expectations and open new horizons in the market. That is why in employees we are looking for talent and openness, passion for work and a desire to be seen, the team spirit and the ability to create inspiring design based on a certain strategy.

Turn-key branding

At the beginning of my career I designed a bottle for an alcoholic beverage which was not possible to produce. That painful experience was a lesson for me. Since then we have a rule: each structural project that we make must be viable as well as inspirational.

We also begin any project with the understanding of the current scenario. Before launching a new product or existing brand repositioning concept we always group together in workshops where we develop a detailed plan. This method let us implement large-scale strategies.

5 favorite world agencies of Gail Macleod

IDEO — for their philosophy and approach to innovation.
mousegraphics — for their boutique puristic approach to packaging.
Сartils и Claessens Brand Design Specialists — for alcoholic beverage design.
GLBA — "best of the best" association in branding and packaging design.

We ask ourselves: "Who is our customer? How deep do we know it?" We select the ways of communication with the customer using the semiotics of the brand and try to feel how well can a client be ready for innovations. If he is ready, we calculate a level of profitability and minimize risks.

The clients love our dinamic approach to design, a major study of the consumer insight and an opportunity to get the full turn key solutions. I think they appreciate our unwavering commitment to create the best brands and packaging design in our local shores.

A great driver in work for me is communication with like-minded people and inspired professionals. For us it is really important to be the best in this sphere, so we continuously learn gradually multiplying collective experience. This idea underlies the philosophy GLBA in Africa.