In a recent post, I mentioned that one of the things that makes the Himalayan water bottle stand out from its competitors is its vertical branding. Similarly, have noticed that several other products – Coca-Cola cans, Fosters beers, Cinthol talcum powder and deodorant, Axe range of products, Eva, etc. – are also using vertical branding on their packaging. It got me wondering about whether this is the latest trend in packaging design, and even though we are seeing it more and more of it these days, whether it really works. I could think of several factors both for and against it – for instance, when most products have horizontal branding, vertical branding stands out on the shelf, but it could make the brand name difficult to read for many people, especially in a country with low literacy levels. As an aside, one reason it may work well for Himalayan water is that the target audience is well educated and can read the brand name easily.
I reached out to Poornima Burte, Graphic Designer and Owner of Design Orb, a boutique brand design firm, for more information. [Disclosure: Escape Velocity has worked with Poornima and the Design Orb team in the past]
Excerpts from the discussion with Poornima Burte given below:
RJ: Are there any particular industries, products, packaging type, etc. where vertical branding works well? Any cases in which it should be avoided?
PB: Generally vertical branding works well in horizontally constrained spaces or when using on a curved surface or if the name is long. Vertical branding helps avoid distortion of the brand name on a curved surface, especially if it’s a long name, making it easier to read.
Apart from space constraints, whether to use vertical branding or not depends on how the consumer is going to interact with the product too. For example, in the case of FMCG products that are typically stacked on racks that go all the way to the floor, and the consumer is typically only a foot away from it, it makes it difficult to read a vertically oriented name, especially if they are stocked on the bottom racks. Also, in the case of FMCG products, the shelves that they are stocked on often have a 1-2 inch high railing to prevent the products from falling off the shelves. These railings hide the bottom of all packaging – in such cases also vertical branding is not recommended.
On the other hand, in a chemist shop, a consumer seems the products from a 2-3 feet distance making it easier to read vertically oriented names. Also chemist shelves don’t run all the way to the floor, making it easier to view. Chemist shop shelves are generally glass shelves with no railing in the front, hence avoiding covering any part of the packaging.
That said, while vertical branding works better in chemist shop environments vs. general retail, I would not use vertical branding for prescription products. Prescription products typically have very direct and precise content – for instance, dosage instructions, ingredients, side effects, etc. – that needs to be communicated in a clear manner. On the other hand, in case of an OTC product, apart from such medical oriented content, it may need to convey the same message in a consumer friendly manner too, wherein a lot more imagery and symbols could be used to convey the message. In such cases, vertical branding could be used.
Several products are available in very small pack sizes and in such cases also vertical branding would work especially if they are in a bottle. Say for example, the small 20gm pack size of talcum powders. The bottles are so small that if they continue to use the same packaging design as the regular sized bottles, the logo and imagery used really suffer. They need to be downsized to such a degree that it becomes difficult for consumers to read.
In a more formal corporate setting, vertical logos do not work, but when it comes to packaging it is fine to use a vertical orientation. Industries like fashion, photography, foods and beverages are more open to and use exploratory ways of showing their name, while you’ll hardly find any Fortune 500 company with a logo not oriented horizontally.
RJ: Could you give me some examples of vertical branding where you think it has worked well?
PB:Nowadays I am seeing several beauty and skin care products using vertical branding like in the case of new Sunsilk hair care range called Keratinology. Contrast this to their regular line of hair care which has its branding horizontally oriented. The new packaging is using taller, slimmer bottles and hence vertical branding works better here.
RJ: Do you think vertical branding is the new trend in packaging design?
PB: Logos need to last, they need a certain degree of longevity and therefore one shouldn’t move with trends. Orienting the logo is more about being appropriate than being trendy.
Vertical branding is not the latest trend, it’s been around for a while; given its nature and constraints, it needs to be deployed with sensitivity for optimum results.
- Roshni Jhaveri