1 April 2001
Design Excellence Bolsters Product Outlook ( Design, Marketing & Communications )(HKTDC Hong Kong Trade Services, Vol 01,2001)
Vol 1, 2001
DESIGN, MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS
|Hong Kong's packaging industry fulfills SME needs with options like bottles and paper carrier bags.|
HONG Kong's international character gives it a tremendous advantage as a design centre. Its designers easily grasp the needs of consumers in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as those from the major markets of Europe and North America or elsewhere.
The gradual shift of Hong Kong's manufacturing base to inexpensive locations on the Chinese mainland and beyond prompted a move from OEM to ODM work. Many small and medium-sized companies must employ their own product designers because they recognize the need to add value and create brands.
New-product ideas involve three factors: improvement, innovation and invention. A new idea can improve an existing product by increasing value or enhancing appearance. Innovation is the introduction of a new idea, method or device, while invention is the creation of a device, contrivance or process through study and experimentation.
Ideatech Group Ltd design and marketing manager Ignatius Lam says launching a new product requires combining a range of factors into a successful design concept.
To begin with, market conditions must be clearly defined by resolving general and specific conditions in target markets. Product users or buyers must be defined and marketing strategy developed.
Designers must resolve the dilemma of whether a product is directed at high or low ends of a specific market. Comparative price analysis is needed to fix competitive prices for the new creation while defining its mix of positive features. Determining a target price range can be very subjective, especially if products have "killer applications" creating a competitive edge.
Hong Kong designers develop close working relationships with companies and factories on the Chinese mainland. They are exceedingly active in designing toys, gifts, electronics and electrical appliances.
"Due to the Chinese mainland's well-established manufacturing industry, many companies look to Hong Kong product and packaging designers for their skills and abilities to communicate with mainland factories," says Design Innovation (HK) Ltd administrative and business development executive Maureen Lau.
For Hong Kong industrial design companies, the mainland is the major market, one possessing technical know-how but often lacking adequate knowledge of overseas markets.
|Product design is important, but packaging design is no less so, as demonstrated by Kan & Lau Design Consultants for the food and beverage products industry.|
Yip Design Ltd focuses on design consultancy in consumer electronics. However, Yip also created a house brand, the Alan Yip Design Collection, with gifts, premiums and stationery sold around the world.
His "masterpiece" is the Flexical, a calculator that rolls up like a bamboo mat after use. Called the "sushi calculator" in Japan, this product gained numerous awards while selling more than one million units. The biggest order, for 100,000, came from GAP in the US. The Flexical is on permanent display in the Hong Kong Heritage Museum and The British Design Museum in London.
According to Kan & Lau Design Consultants partner Freeman Lau, "Hong Kong designers really only got started in the 1960s, whereas Japanese product and packaging design can trace its roots to the beginning of the 20th century."
Hong Kong has a distinct advantage over other design centres. "Hong Kong designers can interpret all aspects of Chinese culture in ways that are understandable and sought-after by international brand owners," Lau says.
Kan & Lau does corporate branding work for selected clients. "We did The Bank of China's new corporate design now in use throughout the mainland. This helped build our reputation," Freeman Lau says.
"Beijing's successful bid for the 2008 Olympics will present great opportunities for Hong Kong designers. They will need lots of products and premiums. We already are involved in the Olympics. My partner and I designed the logo and posters for the 2008 bid. The poster won an award in Finland," he says.
Zanif Advertising & Promotion Ltd director Pang Chi-kong offers another perspective. "Hong Kong designers are of equal quality to those in Japan, Europe and the US due to their vast, hands-on experience in Hong Kong's OEM manufacturing days of the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s," he says.
VARIOUS challenges must be clearly identified and overcome for SMEs to successfully design a new product or service, says Ideatech Group Ltd design and marketing manager Ignatius Lam.
Among the constraints are limits on production cost, product size and features and appropriate timing to launch a new-product concept.
In the case of, say, an electronics product, systems parameters like voltage, LCD customization, electronic-circuits design, operational-software development or testing and approvals are all vital to the launch process.
Devoting attention to packaging, user manuals, catalogues and effective advertising campaigns in target markets are all equally important.
To develop marketing strategies on the basis of added value requires niche marketing, repositioning, packaging design, a need to be the best in any category, balancing quality versus price and the naming of new products or services.
NO product can achieve maximum success without strong packaging, an aspect of business in which Hong Kong offers bountiful support. But what are the basics for SME executives to bear in mind?
Catering to both consumer and industrial packaging, the Hong Kong industry primarily assists regional and Chinese mainland manufacturers.
Paper and plastic materials are the current market leaders, says Hong Kong Packaging Institute (HKPI) administrative officer Jennifer Tai.
The industry's consumer branch features shopping bags and boxes, gift-wrapping, PET bottles and laminated packages for food and beverages.
Industrial packaging includes protective materials - like vacuum packaging, heat-sealed products, air-bubble and blister packaging, shrink wrap and foam packaging - to ensure safe transport for manufactured goods.
The way to secure packaging advice is to go directly to experienced industry players, says Tai. HKPI's 200 members possess first-hand practical experience. Referrals and links to Chinese mainland packaging organizations are available.
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