On Wednesday 25 November, postgraduate students on the International Business and Management MA course visited the Museum of Brands, Packaging & Advertising to participate in a real-life case study workshop on how to brand and market a product to a new audience.  A change of scenery from the usual campus environment, it turned out to be an intensive, engaging and enjoyable experience for all involved.  The trip was organised by Richard West who led the workshop. I joined as the official photographer for the day to cover the event.  In the morning, once everyone was assembled, Richard briefed them on the agenda for the day ahead.  The product in question was crisps: a staple snack in the UK often taken with sandwiches at lunchtime or in a pub with a pint of beer.  Richard opted for an Apprentice-style competitive format for the workshop as the perfect incentive to get the best out of everyone.  All the students present were to be assigned to a team, set a task with a strict timeframe attached, sent away and then come back to do a five-minute presentation group-by-group.

The International Business and Management cohort gather for a group photo
The International Business and Management MA cohort gather for a group photo

Introducing the London Crisp Co.

A “real-life” case study meant that the students would not be dealing with a hypothetical or fictitious entity.  That would defeat the object.  So they had the unique opportunity to look at a brand new product launched by a very young business and meet the entrepreneurs behind it: the London Crisp Co.  To prepare them for  the task at hand co-founders Gary Mesiano and Tom Lock gave a presentation all about their business and product.  We learned that the London Crisp Co. was set-up to create an original and compelling crisp brand for London’s public houses with the potential to export to supermarkets in the medium-to-long run.  With this business concept in mind they collaborate closely with Fuller’s brewery: a natural partnership for purveyors of pub snacks.

London Crisp Company packaging
London Crisp Company packaging

Brands and Packaging: What’s in a Crisp Packet?

What struck me during my tour of the museum is how brands and packaging go hand-in-hand and have an almost symbiotic relationship.  To give a famous example Coca-Cola’s logo as well as the shape and design of its signature bottle has changed little in over a hundred years and through this has retained a brand identity that has subsisted over time.  Who could imagine a Coke bottle in any other shape?  London Crisp Co. packets are designed to be like posters and have a London theme with images and symbols that ‘proper’ Londoners can relate to.  Therefore cliches and tourist attractions like the Changing of the Guards, the London Eye, and the Tower Bridge are absent.  Instead, each flavour has its own distinct packaging design with images that depict a different neighbourhood or borough of London e.g. the Camden-inspired Sweet Chili, the Shoreditch-inspired Cheese & Onion, maritime Greenwich is aptly associated with seafood: Prawn Cocktail flavour!  Given how crowded the crisp market is, Gary and Tom knew that positioning their new product in a distinctive and innovative way was a critical ingredient to success.  For this reason they sell the crisps as a grown-up gourmet snack, with an urban feel and “Hipster” image: the “Craft Beer” of crisps if you will.  The packaging is central to this marketing strategy.

Untitled design (3)

The Apprentice challenge

The challenge set was to come up with a strategy to brand and sell the crisps in one of the three countries: Saudi Arabia, Germany or United States.  The proposed method put forward by Richard went back to the very basics of marketing, namely, understanding the brand (product) and the target audience (demographic/markets).  After conducting a brand analysis the key question for students to ask was which country was the most promising prospect and how would you justify that choice?  Moreover which strategies would you employ to enter your chosen country and position your brand and product to a new potential audience?  To add an extra dimension of competitiveness and a degree of uncertainty students were split-up into 9 random groups of 6 to take them outside their usual peer groups and comfort zones.  By working in teams under pressure students had the chance to apply what they’d learnt on the course so far: research skills, presentation skills, the theory and techniques of brand analysis and marketing and of course how to work in groups!  At Westminster Business School we integrate the theoretical and the practical and workshops are an excellent teaching method for combining both aspects.

Gary Mesiano and Tom Lock, Co-founders London Crisp Co. and the judges for today's Apprentice challenge
Tom Lock and Gary Mesiano, co-founders of London Crisp Co. and the judges for the day’s Apprentice challenge

“Breakout” session, presentations and the eventual winners!

After lunch, the students got out their laptops and tablets and went off in their separate groups for the “breakout” session and the hard work began.  The various groups made use of brand analysis methodologies like the brand onion and perceptual maps as well as drawing on empirical data and market research reports from online resources such as Mintel.  Thanks to the generosity of Tom and Gary there were lots of samples of the product helpfully lying around, many of these budding brand managers tried a packet themselves just to enrich their understanding of the product!  Then before we knew where we were it was time for the group talks where the teams presented their respective cases to judges Tom and Gary.  After some excellent presentations all round there wasn’t much separating the teams so it was a tough call.  However “Team Nicole” emerged triumphant as the eventual winners for insight and originality by identifying good opportunities in Germany and Australia – which delighted the guys from London Crisps!




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