As Creative Director of UP Creative, Ben Wang has worked in commercial graphic design, brand planning, and package development for almost 35 years. Since its establishment in Shanghai in 2008, UP Creative has successfully provided design and branding services for numerous leading Chinese enterprises. Wang believes that a clear strategy should always be decided on before starting a new design project, and that a focus on breaking fixed patterns and resisting “copycat” design is the key to achieving success in the Chinese market.
As Wang indicates, the Chinese market is a difficult place for those agencies that only provide design services to their clients. Companies should strive to develop a set of “total solution” services that combines front-end product development, brand strategy, design, and back-end channel integration. “Design in and of itself is not the key to providing good design service within the Chinese market. We don’t focus on detailed features like decorative ribbons or strokes of calligraphy. Digging out the strategies behind a product, its target consumer groups and the features of these groups, is key. Design details can be discussed after you figure out what the design should be. Frankly speaking, design is something that you only focus on at the end.”
Ben specializes in daily use products like food, beverages, and cleaning goods, and as such he has an extensive understanding of what he calls China’s “fast consumers group.” According to Wang, a middle class developed in the wake of China’s economic liberalization, a sector of society that he names the “fast consumers group.” “These people are very willing to experience new things,” he explains. “They might spend 10 or 20 thousand [NTD] on a bottle of wine in just one night. Every designer has a Macbook Air in his or her hand. So long as you can provide them with a product or service that will satisfy them or give them contentment, they’ll be willing to spend their money on it.”
Brand strategies need to center on an understanding of the target consumer group for a product or service, which can be achieved through extensive market research. A project should only be started once the brand strategy has been confirmed. A few years ago, Wang says, UP Creative Shanghai offered its services to a Chinese instant noodle brand called JML. Before working with UP Creative, JML was a second or third-tier food brand that always followed the trends set by the leading companies in the industry. Wang suggested his client modify their current packaging design and reject typical design features such as large images and text, and the use of particular colors to represent flavours–red for spicy, blue for seafood, and green for vegetarian. “We created a white package on which the instant noodles themselves barely featured. At first glance, a customer wouldn’t even realise the package contained instant noodles. On the shelf, this package design stood out from those of other brands, and it drew the attention of customers, who were compelled to pick the package up to find out what was inside.”
This method, which sought to create a point of difference in a sea of similar products, worked. Prior to the package redesign, one pack of JML instant noodles sold for 8 cents (RMB); after the package redesign, the price per pack rose to 1.2 RMB. Daily revenue for the product was recorded at 5 to 6 million NTD. This example proves that a qualitative change to a brand can result in revenue increases if the right strategies, combined with innovative design, are applied.
Wang notes that Taiwanese designers possess excellent competitive advantages in China because of their understanding of design and brand integration. In the minds of Chinese clients, Taiwanese designers are just as “international” as designers from Japan or Hong Kong, and, he urges, they should take advantage of this situation to ensure they maintain their position in the Greater China market.
About Ben Wang
Born in 1962, Wang received his master’s degree from the Unit of Art Direction, Department of Art at National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU). He is currently Creative Director of UP Creative Taiwan and UP Creative Shanghai; Honorary Director-General of the Taiwan Graphic Design Association; and Executive Director of the Taiwan Poster Design Association. He has over 25 years of experience in the graphic design and commercial advertising industries, and has won numerous awards and prizes for his work including a Gold Prize-Package Design Category in TGDA Top Star 1993 (Taiwan); 1st Prize-Poster Design Category in the ISTD International Typographic Awards 1996 (United Kingdom); and 1st Prize in the R.O.C. Centenary Foundation Memorial Stamp Design Contest 2011 (Taiwan). He is a winner of the Golden Pin Design Award (Taiwan) and the Good Design Award (Japan). Due to his specializations in graphic design, brand planning, package development, and logo development, Wang is often invited to speak at industry events. He is also a published author with numerous Chinese-languages titles on subjects such as commercial package design, merchandise packaging, and design and management.