In Words with Charles Biondo: Describe Yourself

In celebration of more than 50 continuous years of business, we asked Charles Biondo, a series of questions in context of this achievement. This is the first in the series…..

Describe yourself in one word.

Complex

That one word tells us a lot, and yet truthfully, it says nothing. In response to this one-word brush off, I dug in with Charles, a normally private person and asked him to explain what he meant by “complex”.

“Look Around”
Take a tour of the Biondo Group offices and you will see fine artwork hung on the walls, ranging from primitive African and Pre-Colombian art to Peter Max’s latest work. Early African sculptures grace the office space too, displayed museum style. This is not the normal fare you’d find in most any creative services or design company. It is inspiring working close to this ancient art; you feel the energy and can’t help but feel motivated.

The firm has earned its fair share of competitions, but there are no awards, pictures of the company’s work or presentations of boastful accolades displayed. The simple space is clean, orderly and allows the team to focus on one thing: the project in front of them.

The collaborative workspace is intentional and flows with curving walls, and clean white space, accentuated with a splash of the corporate color – orange. The space is quiet, open and promotes conversation and thought.

There is not much self-congratulatory backslapping going on at this Company. The team skews senior and has the chops to handle any work a client challenge can present. They know their place, they’ve earned it. There is minimal staff turnover, another anomaly that sets the firm apart from its peers.

“Producing”
Complex also applies to Charles work style. As the firm’s executive creative director, Charles is our hi-level producer. As he shares ” I surround myself with the best talent I can find, stay out of their way, and let them do what they do”. Realizing that our ultimate job is to help our clients sell product, we make it a point to be well informed and focused on satisfying the consumer’s needs. Its not about pleasing ourselves or our client per se, it is about doing what is best for the product in terms of making the consumer shelf side connection.

“My role is to conduct the creative orchestra, to help them find the rhythm and beat for that project and then to get out of the way, and let the designers run with it”, he shares.

“Its about Style”
Style is everything to Charles and the Biondo Group design team. Style inspires us, it affects our work, our mannerisms, our dress (personal packaging) and our language. Style allows us to be true to ourselves and still serve our clients with unique, tailored solutions – we don’t apply a rubber stamp, ever. We do what is best for the project – always. Style for us means blending simplicity, aesthetics, smarts and information to develop the best solutions for our clients.

“Downtime”
Anyone who works intensely has to decompress. Beyond the usual fare of TV news and movies, Charles likes to read to unwind. Political suspense, Spy novels, Action and Intrigue – this is his preferred reading material when its time to unwind. Thinking on it, it makes sense, for this material does provide an escape, if even for a little while.

Complex – looking at it objectively, it’s the right word to describe the conductor of the Biondo Group orchestra.

Stay Tuned….

Brand Identity, branding, consumer product marketing,containers, design, packaged goods marketing, packaging, packaging  design, point-of-sale, POS, artwork, production, strategy, supermarket shelf, The Biondo Group, HBA, food packaging, 

Experience trumps all

According to the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), Americans spent 620 billion dollars in U.S. supermarkets in 2013, accounting for 5.6% of their total disposable income. There are 37,459 supermarkets operating in the U.S. and the average store now carries almost 44,000 products in roughly 46 500 square feet of space. The average customer visits a store just under twice a week, spending just over $30 per trip (FMI1). As the primary channel for sales for food at home, supermarkets play a central role in ensuring access to affordable and nutritious food.

experience

Food Marketing Institute (2015), ‘Supermarket Facts’, available at http://www.fmi.org/research-resources/supermarket-facts (accessed 15 March 2015)

After 50 years owning his own Packaging Design business, Charles Biondo has seen a lot of changes in every facet of business.

For one, the consumer packaged goods field has become an astronomically big industry. Opening his own design practice after he graduated school in 1960, Charles began working with marketers for what were then, America’s nascent consumer brands.

The world was just ramping up its love affair with branded food and beverages,and brand identity and packaging design were all-important, they were the face of these products at the point of sale – the Supermarket.

At this time, the retail environment for purchasing food and other consumer goods was changing rapidly. The Supermarket, a uniquely American invention, was becoming all the rage.

Supermarkets had a characteristic that changed the consumer packaged goods landscape – they had adequate shelf space for multiple products of the same type. Direct competitors now shared shelf space and were merchandised shoulder to shoulder with one another.

Given that the competitive products delivered similar taste, performance or similar functions, what was going to distinguish one product from another?

Why would a consumer, all else being equal, select one product over another?

Two of the drivers that convert shopper intent to buyer action are, price and appeal. Price is what it is, dictated by factors outside our control. Appeal was a completely different story altogether.

Appeal is a consideration well within our ability to create.

The key in differentiating products, and in positioning them to be attractive and appealing to the right people (what we would later call the target demographic), is the art and alchemy of branding and packaging design. And so much of the standout successes our clients have had are due to Charles’s innate understanding of what is required to make a specific package design work.

The Biondo team gets it, and is responsible for working with many of the world’s iconic brands and spokescharacters, including Kool-Aid and Starkist’s ”Charles the Tuna”, Q-tips, Sun Chips, Skittles, Starburst and Weight Watchers.

And that’s just it, so much of what delivers a concept that works, that allows it to rise above the field of contenders, the ability to tease the optimal solution out of a design exploration, is art, and as such, its unique, it’s not replicable, it is not scalable. Since the doors opened 40 years ago, the person producing this art, the maestro of our team, is the ECD (Executive Creative Director).

The Biondo Group’s ECD is Charles Biondo. In every field of specialty, there are some people who just get it, and Charles is one of those special people who does. Charles’s a packaging design subject matter expert; a design alchemist. Charles knows how to inspire his team, he knows how to drive the process forward and importantly, he knows intuitively when something is right. The Biondo Group doesn’t need a focus group to inform us when we’ve got a winner, Charles unfailingly knows.

Biondo is one of the Founding Fathers of the Packaging Design field. After taking stock of the industry, he’s feeling a little rowdy and has got his sights set on a growing trend that packaging design firms are embracing, but we’ll get to that ……

Structure – it’s just not about being organized.  

Listerinevintage ListerineCurrent Listerine

When someone says structure, what comes to mind?

For many, the word structure conjures imagery of XLS tables and MS Word docs. This sort of structure provides the framework for the tasks, jobs and interactions we have during our day, helping hold it all together, giving us rules of engagement, reference points, and markers that allows us to lead modern lives.

In a packaging design context, the word Structure, although different than the above application and description, does indeed hold it all together. Structure in this context is the container that holds a product, or “good”, for use or for sale.

In other words, a Structure is a container; dispenser, can, pouch, bag or bottle that holds a product.

In a consumer product context, the container structure must satisfy some basic requirements and functions. It has to safely hold the product, in a way that allows it to be transported and dispensed. It has to meet some basic, yet very important engineering requirements.

Engineering you might ask? Imagine, if a bottle container wasn’t up to specific engineering and technical material standards. If not up to a predefined “spec”, it could lead to leaking or stacked palettes of product collapsing in warehouses, or during shipment, in a word, disaster.

So from one perspective a container structure has to work and be safe. The structure has to be able to hold the product through manufacturing, warehousing, shipping, use and storage, and that doesn’t happen by accident. Not only has the structure got to be “sound” it also has to look great, and in context of the products surrounding it.

For a consumer packaged good, the supermarket is a tough crowded hyper-competitive place. Our clients are always on the lookout for new ways of differentiating and enhancing shelf side communications. One of the best ways of differentiating your product at POS is through the use of a proprietary or unusual container structure.

Log Cabin syrup, Mrs. Butterworth syrup, Krazy Glue, Listerine, Scope, Quaker State, are just a few of the brands that have leveraged the power of tactile differentiation by using unique container structures. Pick one of these brands up and you KNOW what you’ve got in your hands, even if your eyes are closed.

Yes, the packaging costs are higher in the near term due to mold costs and the necessary modification of production machinery, but eventually, they too are amortized and when the dust settles, the brand is left with a distinguished packaging presentation that stands proudly at shelf and easily differentiates itself from the competitive array.

Structure, it is not just for organizing your day!

The Biondo Group

Welcome to the Biondo Group

The Biondo Group is happy to introduce, our blog. Concurrently, we’ve moved our website to a modern, fast loading, mobile friendly, easy to manage, CMS friendly platform: WordPress.

Why now?

After 50 years in business, we’ve seen our fair share of change, won our fair share of awards, garnered our fair share of kudos and recognition, and have seen many of our clients move on to do great things. Over time we’ve seen the brands we work on become iconic.

We are the last of the owner-operated, independent design firms that defined the industry of brand identity and product packaging design. We haven’t merged, we haven’t grown past the point where we can personally get to know and serve our clients, and our team has stayed put – we’ve had almost no turnover for the last 10 years. Our stability is part of what sets us apart and makes our work distinctive.

Why have we been quiet?
We are not PR hounds, chest thumpers or self-promoters.
Honestly, we’ve been busy working.

Why should you care?

We were recently reminded that there’s a new wave of product marketers who do not know us, our history of working with and helping invent iconic brands, or our reputation for straight talk and design innovation.

And that is why we’ve launched this blog.

We are re-introducing ourselves to Consumer Product marketers who are finding themselves in a retail environment that is evermore cluttered, competitive, and difficult to accommodate.

But we know, despite all of the above, that many purchasing decisions are made at point of sale, at the very last moment – and that packaging design, (as well as a host of other factors, to be honest) has a tremendous amount of influence on what goes in the basket and home with the shopper.

So we stay focused on accomplishing that simple task, standing out and “speaking to the customer” at point of sale. We don’t pretend to be expert at all facets of marketing; our turf is narrow and specific.

The Biondo Group specializes in developing hi-performance brand identity and packaging design systems, its what we do, its what we’ve always done.

Please call or email to discuss your next project, and sign up for our mailing list to keep up on our latest work.