Geet, tell us a bit about your background and what brought you to Conran Design Group in November 2020.
I’ve been working in the branding and advertising industry in New York and Mumbai for more than 20 years. My career began in New York, working agency-side for direct-to-consumer advertising clients in the pharma sector. This was foundational for me; it provided invaluable insights into communications as a key dimension of the brand promise.
Back in Mumbai, I learnt a lot working client-side, about the ins and outs of what makes a brand strategy work in support of a business strategy, and the intricate relationship between the two.
In November 2020, I was given the opportunity to help develop and drive Conran Design Group’s offer in India. This presented a unique canvas to work with – to take Conran’s global legacy and contextualise it for the India market.
Many brands in India, whether in FMCG, healthcare or retail, are on the threshold of transformation and are readying themselves for that next level of growth. And we’re seeing an increased need for strategic packaging, corporate branding and a well-structured, future-ready brand architecture. This, of course, is where Conran comes in.
Why branding? What about the world of brand design do you love?
I find myself drawn to it; the vitality of brands and how they respond to the dynamism of their environments to become meaningful extensions of peoples’ lives.
Tell us about your take on the challenge of localisation in pack design (or brand design more generally).
Localisation is key when creating packaging systems and individual pack designs as it enables brands to operate intuitively in a busy space and ultimately become the product of choice for consumers.
Retail environments in India present specific challenges in terms of navigation and building brand preference. This stems in part from the dichotomy within the key audiences of this market and the various retail formats that must effectively serve both urban and rural consumers. To address these challenges, it’s important to establish a baseline that allows for a consistent brand narrative and appeal. And this can be achieved through the strategic consideration of key elements like packaging design, typography and formats.
It’s also important for design to respond to changing consumer expectations. The digital transformation we experienced during the pandemic led to an onslaught of direct-to-consumer brands, designed with a digital-first audience in mind and with the ability to stand out online rather than on the shelf. Sustainability too is emerging as an important driver for consumers; brands are now thinking about the use of sustainable materials, minimising the use of plastics, and adopting refillable packaging options.
How do we help clients ensure their brands appeal to global audiences? How do we strike the balance between consistency and localisation?
Right at the outset of a project, it’s important to immerse ourselves in the client’s ambition as it relates to their global aspirations or portfolio. And it’s this thinking that becomes an important foundation on which to build a future-proofed brand solution.
When it comes to localisation, this means ensuring we’re consistently translating and transferring a brand’s legacy – the non-negotiables in its DNA and behaviour. But it’s also important that we’re strategically agile enough to express the nuances that allow a brand to behave intuitively in a local market. This approach isn’t new to a market like India, particularly in categories where regional preferences have a strong role to play, like in the packaged food and beverage category.
What are the biggest challenges facing the industry today? And how do we overcome them?
At Conran Design Group, our approach is built on tried and tested frameworks and robust insights. This means clients’ brands receive the full benefit of strong strategic foundations that then inform the design direction. And it’s this philosophy that helps us build relevant, sustainable and digital-first brand solutions – ‘designing advantage’ for our clients and their businesses.
What’s been the most memorable ‘a-ha!’ moment of your career – a moment where you figured something out for a client and delivered positive impact as a result?
Lots of projects have involved a breakthrough moment! It’s seeing the strategic rigour come alive in the attributes of a brand and its behaviour; whether this manifests itself in a packaging system or in the brand world design, it’s a matter of achieving the best outcome for impact.