illumicap03.jpg“Run, dance, do your thing. And watch Illumicap turn it into a colourful light show.”

With the rapid-fire development of The Internet of Things (IoT), technology is speedily transforming our everyday objects and taking over the market place in its stride.

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Harnessing the fun and simplicity of IoT, a quirky cap called Illumicap that projects an LED light into your water bottle in a variety of colours to create a glowing effect. Synced via Bluetooth, the LED can be easily controlled when linked with an application on your smartphone.

The app has a number of fun options to play around with in the dark! The LED can be manually adjusted to control each pulse of light whilst a simple wheel lets you manipulate the colour. It can pulsate to your favourite playlist or react to your movements, illuminating your activity.


Creative types will love the software that captures the Illumicap lightshow in long exposure, enabling the consumer to use the light to draw pictures and words to design their own light inspired artwork.

Design wise, Illumicap doesn’t come off too strong, however it is notable that the first Apple computer didn’t have any frills either. The cap comes in 5 different colours with a simple spiral to illustrate its application into the bottle.

Although this is not the first product to utilise IoT and LED lights, it adds a playful element that everyone can access. Various artists, most notably Taylor Swift, have used objects to harness similar technology to heighten entertainment. Giving out bracelets that pulse and change colour together united Swift fans in a glowing spectacle during her concert – an experience the entire audience could share!


As the nights grow darker, the cap has the potential to be a great safety tool for joggers to take on a late run or strapped to the bicycle, proving both a practical and enjoyable product.

Designers WHITE design agency, in partnership with The Kirin Group F&B company in Tokyo, has set a release date for the end of 2016. Until then, check out the Illumicap in action here:

IMG_4455Personalisation accomplishes a key objective that every brand shares – connection to the consumer in an intimate and lasting way. But will personalisation transcend from being a trend into tactic?

Consumers have an almost contradictory desire to belong to the collective whilst maintaining their individuality. They want to use the most popular brands that are best-in-class, own the brands that epitomise the category, and participate in the socio-cultural conversation about iconic brands. However, they want to balance this tribal mentality with feeling special. They want to be seen as a real person, not just a part of the masses, and to feel that their choice in a brand is important.

Share-A-Coke-tourPersonalisation is a way brands can give themselves back to the consumers. It builds loyalty and advocacy in a real honest way, a tangible reflection of the switch from brands influencing consumers to consumers owning brands. It is an area rich with opportunity as brands can find more creative and imaginative ways to connect with consumers on an individual level. The pitfall here will be thinking that customisation is a simply process of putting names on a label. Success in using personalisation will be a matter of being able to authentically link it back to a brand’s values and ethos.

Coke’s personalisation campaign worked well for at least two important reasons: they were one of the first ones to do it and the campaign connected their brand values (happiness, friendship and the power sharing). Iconic brands like Marmite and Nutella will most likely be successful in their personalisation campaigns simply due to their status, but at the end of the day, are they just being copycats?

Marmite could’ve pushed the envelope by using the language of their most famous campaign, ‘Love It or Hate It.’ Imagine gifting two jars to a couple who had conflicting feeling about Marmite with one saying, ‘Tim Loves It’, and the other saying ‘Mary Hates It.’ This would’ve been a much more engaging campaign that and it would’ve reinforced the brand’s famous message.


Another one of the pioneers of personalisation is Nike. In 1999 they created NikeID, a platform allowing consumers to tailor their very own Nike shoes. Revolutionary at the time, Nike recognised the potential in giving to power to the consumer. Still growing and going strong in 2015, it is clear Nike was right in seeing that consumers seek brands that reflect their personal values and style. That they respect brands that see their consumers as individuals and make it personal.

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With the 2016 Spark Award open for submissions, we continue to highlight the winners that took on our previous challenge.

We believe in identifying and cultivating fresh, new talent. The Spark Award gives the next generation of designers the chance to gain valuable industry experience in studio and the opportunity to make their designs a reality.

The Brief: Design a new alcohol brand inspired by what makes your city unique.

We narrowed it down to two braver designs, each tackling the beverage market from opposing perspectives. The next in our showcase of winners is David John from Cornwall.

Merging the distinctive lifeguard palette of red and yellow with the naval alphabet, David took on the environmental issues endangering the beaches of Cornwall to create a modern, ethical brew with the coastline at heart.

Capturing the unhealthy state of the coast, his mood board illustrates the decline of one of Britain’s best-loved beaches in Cornwall. Strewn with rubbish polluting the shores of southern England, his desire to create a brand that tackled the issue head on was contagious.Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 09.43.34.png

Using a clever innuendo, the playful Dirty Beach brand emerged with the goal to use the social ethos of an alcohol brand to provoke a wider environmental conversation.

Taking inspiration from the naval alphabet he combines the iconic red and yellow associated with lifeguards, incorporating their valiant efforts to safeguard the coast into a collection of contemporary flag designs. The 26 designs represent beaches around the UK that have severe marine litter warnings.Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 09.41.57.png

The bold, contemporary style wraps the bottle for an impactful, sleek design with a strong conscious. David expanded his campaign through printing reusable canvas bags free for visitors to help clean up the coast. Visitors will receive a free DB beer once their bag is filled to the brim at many cafes and bars across the UK beachfronts.

The tone of voice and confident typeface delivers a playful brand rooting for the Cornish coastline.

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Think you’ve got what it takes?

If Bethany and David have inspired you to take on the bluemarlin design challenge, the 2016 Spark Award is now open for submissions.

When was the last time you tried fried insects or salted squid? As ‘exotic’ foods become dietary staples the world over, we want to know how you would inject the buzz for insect cuisine into the UK market.

Only the bravest ideas will make it to the bluemarlin table. The reward? The successful applicant will follow in Bethany and David’s footsteps in receiving a paid internship at one of our UK studios and the opportunity to gain real experience working with an award-winning design agency with a reputation for excellence.

For more information on how to take on our bug brief, click here.

Bluemarlin’s Spark Award keeps a vigilant eye on the rising stars in the next generation of designers.

Winners are given the opportunity to nurture their talents whilst gaining valuable industry experience that will serve as a foundation for a prosperous career in Branding and Design.

With the 2016 Spark Award open for submissions, it’s time to highlight the winners of our 2015 challenge. The brief was to create a new alcohol brand inspired by what makes your city unique. We narrowed it down to two braver designers, each tackling the beverage market from opposing perspectives. The first of our winners is Bethany Richardson from Stoke-on-Trent.

bottle present 2Honing in on the rich, ceramic history of the Stoke-on-Trent region, Bethany translated a proud sense of heritage through designing an iconic, kiln shaped bottle energised under the name ‘Fired Up’.

Bethany wanted to invest a sense of community and pride that highlighted the city’s ceramic roots in her design. Stoke-on-Trent is soaked in a rich, ceramic history dating back to the 17th century, with famous pottery companies such as Royal Doulton and Wedgwood emerging from the towering kilns here.

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Her final design drew inspiration from the shape of the kiln, using a dark brown bottle to translate its smoky, stone brickwork, further illustrated directly on the bottle. Taking the literal term for setting clay, Bethany named her pale ale ‘Fired Up’. Linking the cooking of clay with the brewing of beer, Bethany tops her design with a flame to unite the concept with the content.

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Next we will be showcasing our second 2015 Spark Award winner, David John, whose beach inspired beer drew our attention to the troubles along the coastline.


Alex Hamilton, Senior Strategic Planner at bluemarlin London, examines how brands are marketing to women.

Women are the world’s most powerful consumers. In the UK, they influence 80 per cent of buying decisions and by 2025 are expected to own 60 per cent of all personal wealth.

While marketing to women has been big business for decades, the tone with which brands are communicating with women is changing. Pink and pastel packaging is being usurped by a new wave of brands that are championing female empowerment and overturning gender stereotypes. Social media channels provide a platform for brands to share pro-female messaging, and our shelves are being stormed by products that connect with women on a modern, meaningful level, understanding and attending to their lifestyles and needs.

What these brands realise is wealth and buying power are just a part of the new sense of confidence being instilled in their target audience. On a global scale, women are tackling sexism, social inequality and a swathe of feminist issues head-on. This movement, enabled by technology and social media, is hailed as the ‘fourth wave of feminism’ and has given rise to an open, far-reaching and reactive community, both online and offline, that is unafraid to hold individuals, governments, businesses and brands publicly to account for sexism.

How this manifests itself within women’s expectations of brands and packaging is exemplified in no better way than the backlash following the launch of Bic’s ‘For Her’ range in 2011. The patronising, pastel-coloured pens were such a misfire in understanding how to appeal to women today that they became a global laughing stock, receiving a deluge of sarcastic online product reviews.

The fact that Bic has just ploughed into further controversy with an ad campaign telling women to look like a girl but think like a man shows how deep-rooted the corporation’s antiquated view of women remains – and how quickly and broadly people will pick up on it.

Empowerment at shelf level

On the other hand, many brands are successfully encapsulating fourth wave feminism and having a positive impact of women’s self-esteem. Ad campaigns like Sport England’s ‘This Girl Can’ and Always’ ‘Like a Girl’ are great examples of brands engaging with and empowering women in an authentic way.

This becomes a lot more challenging for brands to achieve at shelf level where products have mere seconds to embody female empowerment, appeal to women in the mainstream and hold their own in an increasingly activist brand landscape. However many are succeeding.

femfresh for instance is leading a new category of products dissipating the taboo around feminine hygiene, which is often thought of as something embarrassing to be kept hidden. By revolutionising its packaging and identity from being delicate and demure to bold, expressive and colourful, femfresh is reflecting female empowerment while encouraging women to relocate feminine hygiene from the cupboard to the bathroom shelf.

Similarly Fur Oil, a new line of pubic hair grooming products, is based on the mantra that women like to take care of themselves and their bodies for their own interests, not for men. Emily Schubert, who came up with the idea of Fur Oil, describes the packaging as timeless like Chanel or Yves Saint Laurent but with a bit of shock factor with the label boldly stating ‘For pubic hair’. In doing so, the product moves from being shameful or clandestine to proud and sophisticated.

In a world where the biggest selling point for a brand of probiotics to help fight vaginal yeast infections was the side effect of smelling like ripe peaches, the likes of femfresh and Fur Oil are important because they listen to the needs of women, understand them and improve their wellbeing without prior third party approval.

Kotex is another brand that has implemented this approach for a number of years. Its ‘U’ by Kotex product line, which launched in 2010, has a target audience of 14-22-year-olds. Rather than adopt the regiment pastels and flowers associated with female sanitary products and girlhood, it redefined the category with black outer cartons that are attention-grabbing on the shelf while the inner wrappers are bright, colourful and non-uniform to encourage and express the confidence and personality of this age category.

Products like these that are designed and packaged directly for women can have a hugely positive impact on their self-esteem and rightfully tap into feminist issues when done so in a way that is meaningful and based on genuine insight. But can unisex products have the same impact? If their reason to engage with feminism is authentic and in keeping with the brand, then most definitely.

Consider substance over style

Cerveja Feminista, for instance, a new brand of red ale, has been produced by a team of creatives in Brazil to campaign against sexism in advertising, taking particular aim at the beer industry which has a long history of objectifying women for marketing means. A woman is killed every 90 minutes in Brazil through domestic violence and the feminist beer aims to draw attention to this underbelly of Brazilian society while holding Brazilian advertisers to account for endorsing men to think of women as possessions which ultimately leads to violence.

While the messaging is feminist, the packaging has nothing about it that is stereotypically ‘female’. Brands like Bic might seek to distinguish women from men with pinks and purples, but for Cerveja Feminista the message is that when you treat women differently for no other reason than because they are women, that is a form of discrimination. The bottle is uniform and the label is bold, showing that quality is first and foremost, something that people who enjoy beer don’t need gender-targeted marketing to understand.

No conversation on feminism in branding would be complete without a nod to Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ campaign. Since first airing over a decade ago and filling our TV screens and billboards with underwear-clad women, all of whom had big smiles, big personalities and, most shocking of all, ‘big’ curves (at least by industry standards), Dove has continued to overturn beauty stereotypes and champion women’s self-esteem. However while its Real Beauty advertising campaigns are widely hailed as having pioneered this new, proactive approach to female empowerment in the media, the message is perhaps yet to translate to what appears on our shelves.

As Dove’s female-centric products remain pure, white and delicate, the glinting metallic dove a barely-there emblem, and its ‘Men+Care’ range stands stoically grey, it seems that with even the most powerful brand messaging there is an opportunity to reconcile it with the products we use and interact with on a day-to-day basis. And, while female empowerment is taking centre stage, the unnecessary engendering of products works both ways, something that Cerveja Feminista is mastering in keeping its product and conversation open to both men and women.

The past couple of years have been ground-breaking for both female empowerment and uniting people over gender equality. On an international scale, Emma Watson’s landmark ‘He For She’ UN speech has encouraged the popularisation of feminism; more locally, countries like Sweden are leading the way with gender neutral toys. Brands can use the opportunities this presents to make a meaningful impact on people’s lives, but this is only totally achievable when the messaging is translated into the products and packaging in our homes and pockets.

Alex’s article was first published on 

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In this world of instant gratification and unlimited access, brands are struggling to cement their position year on year as consumers hastily discard them for the latest new trend. The rising popularity of ephemeral media, such as Snapchat and character-limiting Twitter, encourages the younger generation to spread their attention shallow and wide, without deep investment whilst the onslaught of information pushes marketers to tactlessly overuse the words ‘classic’ and ‘iconic’ to capture the attention of naïve millenials hunting for the next big thing.

Featured in L’Officiel Manilla’s article ‘Everything is Iconic’, Lisa McWilliam expands on her idea that a true icon is something that is culturally embedded into society and cannot be instantly ‘made’.

“Technology has sped every thing up exponentially and that includes how quickly emerging icons can make an impact on society. This impact should work quicker because there’s a faster and farther reach, but will it endure? That’s the real question. Endurance is key to make the shift from being a flash-in-the-pan sensation to becoming a true icon. True icons must stand the test of time.”

So what makes an icon?

“MINI is obviously iconic. It’s a brand that is embedded in culture. It’s been featured in films from the original Italian Job to Austin Powers. It connects with consumers with a deep sense of patriotism, whilst managing to keep it very fresh and modern,” highlights Lisa. What has driven MINI’s success is its ability to establish itself as the norm, erasing its predecessors to become a first and inescapable point of reference.

To evolve into something that is truly iconic, it must first disrupt ‘the norm,’ to make you re-examine what you already know. Lisa comments on the illusive nature of Banksy as his works create debate through the restructuring and pairing of commonplace images; “He’s got a cause, a movement and belief about creating art that’s omnipresent and surprising. It subverts our expectations, rattling us out of complacent thinking”.

o-IHEART-facebookThis disruption shifts the perception of a founded understanding, encouraging consumers to take a second look, think differently and then linger. With disruption, you reconsider what you thought you knew, paving the way for a new embodiment of truth, and therein lies an opportunity for a brand that really stands for something meaningful.

To repurpose a sense of familiarity is a difficult challenge that relies on time, a slow process for a world addicted to instant access. Challenging what we consider as ‘fact’ and creating a lasting influence on society really bottles down to something that is openly visceral. Media ‘hyped’ buzz words may encourage profits, but a label doesn’t ensure a legacy.

Reading nutrition labels is common practice for all food and drink categories except for one: alcohol. We know how easy it is to rack up calories with any alcoholic beverage, but without accessible labels on the bottle the actual numbers aren’t as clear. Recently Diageo, the world’s largest spirits company, became the first alcohol company to voluntarily begin to include nutritional information on packaging for its products in the US and European market.

screen-shot-2015-10-06-at-11-14-37-am1Whether this attention to nutrition will make consumers feel more or less prone to start comparing and switching their drink is still up in the air, but we can’t help but think – is the lack of information a blissful negligence, or is this something we’ve been waiting for? Alcohol occasions, whether drank for a wine down or celebratory drink (or two, or three) loses enjoyment when counting calories with every sip.serving_facts

Regardless of the consumer consumption impact, package design will be inevitably affected. Alcohol brands prior to this had the freedom to be creatively expressive in their package design, without needing to focus on anything but design itself. If regulations becomes policy, brands will now need to mix the beauty of design with the nutrition information of the alcohol itself to meet new consumer expectations. This new factor, over time, will introduces new notions to what consumers are looking for – and is something brands everywhere will have to adhere to.


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