Interview with Olaf Van Gerwen – Creative Director and brand

London Packaging Week recently had the pleasure of speaking with Olaf van Gerwen, Founder and Global Creative Director at Chuck Studios.

During the interview, we gained fascinating insights into Van Gerwen’s world: the realm where art intersects with packaging design. Van Gerwen, a film director and director of photography by trade, shared his expertise, remarking, “I’m a film director and the director of photography, so there is basically a creative and technical craft. And in that field, I specialise in food and drinks.”

Van Gerwen claims there is a prevailing issue within the food industry, stating, “There is so much sameness in the depiction of foods, there are very strong trends, and there are very dominant category traditions.” In response to this, van Gerwen and his company endeavour to tackle the problem by developing unique culinary identities. He explained, “A culinary identity is a strategy that dictates choices in food depiction. So, we make choices in food depiction that steer you, first of all, in the direction of consistency, but second of all, to be distinctive. Your brand has to be recognisable and it has to be meaningful.”

Packaging, according to van Gerwen, assumes a pivotal role in establishing a distinct brand. He said, “Packaging can be part of the food depiction. Clearly, if your pack design is distinctive, you will definitely use it in advertising and to achieve differentiation.” He underlined the significance of iconic packaging, using the glass Coca-Cola bottle as an example, “The bottle has become so iconic that it is a brand asset. The shape and the texture and the way it feels is very distinctive.”

Van Gerwen continued to discuss the triumph of brands like Arla, who has created a brand from ‘Lurpak’, highlighting their innovative marketing campaigns, “Lurpak is, in fact, a generic name for a variant of the butter-making process, but they have made a brand from it. It’s the best example of adding value through marketing. They do great promotions. They use bold typography that’s very recognisable and the consistent blue and silver brand colours are also key.”

Acknowledging the challenges faced by brands in an overcrowded market, van Gerwen stressed the significance of every touchpoint conveying the brand’s essence, “Every touchpoint should speak the brand. That goes for the packaging… It’s not just about the product itself, but the brand story behind it.” He emphasised the need for marketing support to exhibit the brand’s value and engage potential buyers, saying, “They demand a campaign… That’s where we add value.”

Delving into the realm of luxury branding, van Gerwen explained the importance of consistency and meticulous attention to detail, “The unpacking is important. It is for that reason that unpacking videos are a thing. The package is the first touch point with the brand… It is your first interaction with it.”

As the topic turned to sustainability, van Gerwen expressed reservations about its impact on consumer behaviour and questioned the extent to which eco-conscious choices genuinely drive purchasing decisions, “I’m unsure if it is a really strong driver for consumers naturally they will buy it… but it still remains a luxury position.”

Van Gerwen also recognised the uphill battle faced by smaller brands in a fiercely competitive market while simultaneously acknowledging their potential for success. He said, “The big brands have so much more to work with than the small brand… But generally, you have to get a proper Share of Voice before you can become famous.”

The interview concluded with van Gerwen offering reflections on the challenges of launching new products and the critical role of consistency in brand building. He said, “If you change constantly, you will never be big; you will never be recognisable. Big brands have an easier life… If you’re big, your chances of becoming bigger are much greater than that of small brands.”

Van Gerwen’s expertise and valuable insights shine a light on the significance of culinary identities, packaging design, and brand building within the food industry. His creative perspective underscores the importance of consistency, distinction, and meaningfulness in food depiction, as well as the hurdles and opportunities encountered by brands within a highly competitive market.

London Packaging Week is set to explore further insights and discussions on the dynamic world of packaging design, drawing from van Gerwen’s valuable perspectives and many other experts from the packaging world. For those eager to dive deeper into the industry, London Packaging Week offers an exceptional opportunity to engage with experts and stay at the forefront of innovative packaging trends. Mark your calendars for September 22nd and 23rd at the London Excel Centre, where the packaging community will gather to exchange ideas, knowledge, and inspiration.

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