Adobe’s CEO, Shantanu Narayen’s guide to branding and packaging design

by | Aug 23, 2018 | Creating Emotional Connection

At the Adobe Sydney annual Symposium in Sydney last week, the President and CEO of Adobe Shantanu Narayen’s keynote address spoke about what it takes for brands and businesses to build a great experience. Inadvertently in his address, he actually shared, what we are calling, his Adobe’s CEO, ‘s guide to branding and packaging design.

“People Buy Experiences, Not Just Products”

Shantanu Narayen explained that the biggest challenge facing all business’s today is that the consumer is no longer just buying products. They are buying experiences! “Products used to be the basis of differentiation, but not anymore.

Narayen went on to explain that because business is now competing for the consumers heart and mind space, with ever increasing expectations, it means  one must constantly look to transforming how one operates “Always on, knowing the past, and anticipating the future across every device, channel and moment.

The inadvertent guide to branding and packaging design


In his address, Narayen identified three key things for businesses need to do to build a great experience:

1. Design for brilliance.

Design is not anymore just the way something looks – it’s about the engagement that you actually have with your customers” he said.

Example: Web Design

Think about how much time and effort one might put into when selecting a “theme” for a web site. The fact is that more than the theme of the web-site, is the experience the consumer is pulled through to get to the ultimate outcome of the site.

Of course the design needs to sparkle, but only to the point of engagement. “Creativity combined with a clear purpose brings together a great experience to life.

So back to our web-site example.

  • What is the goal of the page the consumer is on?
  • What is the call to action you need them to take?

Once one is clear on the outcome, the goal of the page, now we apply our creativity to engage the consumer and pull them through the page to achieve the outcome we are looking for.

How this key point applies to packaging or branding design


So now let’s see how “design for brilliance” applies to packaging or branding design.

Our brands and our packaging has to create real connections with our targeted consumer.  Our designs need to appeal directly to their values, lifestyle and even their beliefs.

Because of the plethora of choices available, not just locally, but globally, the most successful packaging and branding designs must be viewed through the tri-focused lens of the 3 WOW’s.

1. Surprise and delight – The goal is to cut through the consumers typical shopping habits and what ever other factors are screaming for their attention at the time of passing your product on the shelf. The goal is to break their preoccupation and grab attention in a crowded market. Therefore you must break free from the normal and create “Surprise and Delight” to get cut through.

2. Personalisation – The second goal of the design must be to talk to me directly. Speak to me like you really know me and what’s important to me. The more you can establish and build rapport with the consumer believing that your product was created specifically for them, the more they’ll experience an emotional connection to the brand and the product packaging. This means they’ll be more willing to share their experience with others.

3.Shareability – When your design has touched the consumer, they’ll be delighted to share their product experience via their favourite social media platform.


2. Insight driven by intelligence


Shantanu Narayen said “You need intelligence, because intelligence speeds up the learning process, it’ll notice anomalies, it’ll identify customer pain points, and it’ll infer and predict intent.”  This in essence means having the intelligence, know-how and experience to rapidly convert data into insights.

Insight…Which means having the capacity to gain an accurate and deep understanding of the needs, wants and worries of the consumer you are targeting. This is where brilliant design comes from. It’s the fusion of creativity and insight from the data. This is what creates on shelf magic.


3. The right enterprise architecture, built for action.


According to Shantanu Narayen, the third ingredient for creating a great experience, is making sure that you apply the right enterprise architecture. Architecture that’s built for action. “The problem is that enterprise IT systems today were designed for a different time and a different task,” he said.

Think about why bringing design “in-house” fails. In the short term it makes total sense. Saves money and resources. Yet the creative force of the designers is now hamstrung by the “corporate architecture.”

This architecture includes both the companies “robust and often slow and archaic IT system” with all of its restrictions of the typical corporate heirachy politic. Neither bode well long term for creativity.

Whereas creative agencies on the other abound and are fuelled by creativity.

Their IT systems are far more flexible and allow the floodgates of creativity to flow un-hampered. In agency land there is a whole lot more collaboration between the CEO, the head of digital and IT and the Creative director.

The agency is primarily focused is on client outcomes and creativity more than turf protection and budget deployment agenda’s.

So for brands and products to thrive and provide experiences for the consumer in the highly competitive market space they operate in, they must design for brilliance, drive their designs by actively seeking insight from their data and operate under the auspices of the right architecture.

Of course it’s always easier to take the short term approach to quickly meet the screaming needs of the board-room.

That said, when one does so, one totally underestimates the complexity of the task at hand as to all it really takes to not only get someone to take our product off the shelf, read it, engage with it, put it into the shopping cart, take it home and share it with others.

Make experience your business.


“Making experience your business is good for business, if you and your company have not placed it at the top of your agenda, you need to get started — especially if you want to stay in business.” ” Brad RencherExecutive Vice President and General Manager of Adobe Experience Cloud