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The Icicle Team has just returned from a whirlwind and productive visit to European cities gathering the latest trends and innovations in Branding and Retailing – from Maison et Objet in Paris to Packaging Innovations in London, from Fragranze in Firenze to Homi in Milano, from Intergift in Madrid to Expohogar in Barcelona...

Across various products and industries from Lifestyle to Beauty to F&B, top 3 trends and opportunities stand out:

1. Personalisation and Customization of the Consumer Shopping Experience is key to winning consumers over in an increasingly competitive market:

  • Limited edition packaging celebrating Festivities and Events such as Christmas or Wimbledon has existed for a long time, why was it a global smash hit when mass market Coca Cola launched the customized cans and bottles in local languages?

  • The key learning from Coca Cola’s success is consumers are increasingly turning to products that differentiate HIM or HER from other consumers, so while limited edition packaging differentiates the product, consumers are looking for customized products that differentiate them – and in this case, entirely emotionally, as we all know very well the Coke inside is exactly the same. Since then, brands from Nutella in the West to Vitasoy in the East have been following suit with various success.

  • The key challenge or opportunity for Brand Managers or Retailers is what level of customer personalization to offer in the each market or region to delight customers while keeping costs under control? With technological innovations and offshore solutions, there are growing options globally for increased customization and personalization in production processes while keeping costs within budget.

Photo Credit: Coca-Cola website

2. Building Brand Affinity and Loyalty in a digitally overwhelmed world with Sensory Branding

  • Marketing that uses the senses to relate with customers on an emotional level is not new. What is bringing about the resurgence in Sensory Branding is the overwhelming digital experience we are all experiencing with always-on mobile devices – every minute we are bombarded by messages and updates on Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, Emails…

  • While we all appreciate the convenience the Digital World brings, and how having an E-commerce website or Facebook Page in different languages is a must for every International Brand, the digital connection will always lack the personal touch of a face-to-face conversation or the emotional bonding of a simple handshake or a hug.

  • The key challenge or opportunity for Brand Managers and Retailers is how to appeal to consumers and develop Brand Affinity through the senses – from the use of paper in Packaging to the Design of the packaging unwrapping experience to reveal the product, or Point-Of-Sale (POS) materials – whether the consumer first interacts with the Product at the POS before a purchase, or after purchase when the consumer receives the Product delivered by an E-Commerce transaction.

Limited edition Mooncake packaging specially developed and made for 2015 Mid-Autumn festival - made by Icicle.

3. Capturing Opportunities with growing Chinese customers in their markets and when they travel

  • Chinese shoppers already represent about 30% of global luxury goods purchases (Bain&Co), and 77% of the purchases are made overseas (USD66bill)

  • Chinese tourists are the world’s biggest shoppers at USD229bill, and the figure is expected to double by 2020 – fuelled by growing passport penetration rate: just under 5% of the Chinese population (50mill) have passports today, and 15mill more Chinese citizens obtain passports every year, implying the penetration rate will double to 8% by 2018 (HSBC report 2015 Feb).

  • The key challenge or opportunity for Brand Managers and Retailers is capturing the Share of Mind and Share of Wallet of this increasingly important customer segment – both in Western markets when they visit, and in their home market before and after their visits.

  • How can we appeal to these Chinese consumers with greater Customization, Localization and Sensory Branding such as highlighting Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival with Visual Merchandising at POS and Seasonal Gift Packaging? These 2 festivals are the largest gifting seasons for Chinese shoppers, and gifting is the main reason for purchasing for Chinese.

  • Consider festive decorations for your POS in key cities where Chinese visits - Put up Lanterns for Mid-Autumn Festival and Peach Blossoms shrubs for Chinese New Year, and delight your Chinese VIPs with festive gifts such as specially designed limited edition Branded Red Packets, which are used to give lucky money away at Chinese New Year to younger family and friends (additional viral Marketing benefits there). Fashion brand, Kate Spade, delighted their customers with a custom designed limited edition red packet last year. Icicle was proud to be involved in creating this special red packet that interplayed Chinese traditions with a contemporary graphic design and original choice of paper stock.

Limited edition Red Packets specially developed and made for 2015 Chinese New Year - made by Icicle.

Fears of adapting to new trends and changes:

While we are presented with these 3 key emerging trends and opportunities, many Brand managers and Retailers have discussed with us their concerns and fears for adapting to these changes and challenges:

  • Fear of lack of scale and minimum quantity needed to develop and produce Personalized or Customized or Seasonal Brand Packaging, Collaterals or POS materials

  • Concern of Brand Inconsistency in Production with Customization, Localization or Personalization

  • Fear of increased Complexity to handle the production process and logistics

  • Fear of lost in translation as Brand Communications and Collaterals are localized into Asian languages and produced in Asia

  • Fear of not being understood by the Creative Team or Production Team if alternative Cost-Effective Design, Development or Production processes are available in Asia for optimizing the power of Sensory Branding

Don’t let these concerns hold us back from making necessary changes in the Design and Production processes to explore opportunities with these major consumption trends – the chances are Brands and Retailers who lead the changes will grow their market share.

About the author:

Joyce Kwong is the President of Icicle Group


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