Image is Everything
Branding Specialist Jérôme Bérard knows how to make a product pop
Story by Lauren Drell / Photography by Dorothy Hong
In the world of brand management, image is everything and packaging matters. Each brand should have its identity embodied in a trademark color, script, presentation, shape, and experience — and the logo is just the icing on the cake. Fortunately, Jérôme Bérard knows exactly how to keep brands fresh and audiences engaged.
Before construction began on the vast New York office space of Bérard Associates, his brand development and management firm, Jérôme Bérard erected temporary foamcore walls so he could measure the width of the halls, the dimensions of the offices, and the height of the doorways. He needed to visualize the office, life size, before it was actually executed.
Bérard is no less thorough or visionary when consulting with the brands that he shapes. He uses the spacious back room to erect mock retail environments, enabling a client to see his designs in context, at full scale. Certainly a drawing or rendering is pretty — but it’s flat, small, and not lifelike. The ability to see the display in its true form and size enables him to tailor his modifications so as to enhance the retail experience. For one beauty line, Bérard purchased an entire shelving unit from Sephora so he could perfect the display. He helps brands “own a niche in a very competitive landscape.” He tests company’s boundaries, pushing them toward perfection, inquiring “What is your brand? What was it? What could it be? How far can you go?”
And it doesn’t go unnoticed. Bérard has been honored with numerous design and packaging awards, including three Clio awards. The shelves of his office are adorned with the edgy designs that flaunt Bérard’s versatility — wood encased, “antique” J. Peterman cologne, brightly colored bottles of Granado’s Brazilian foot powder, gold-wrapped Godiva delicacies, Technicolor tubes of beComing body mist. Bérard views everything he designs — compacts, skin creams, lotions, glass perfume bottles — as little sculptures (he is a trained sculptor), miniature pieces of art that adorn your vanity and become “icons” in your daily life, so they ought to be pretty.
In 1997, Laura Mercier sought branding advice from Bérard. They discussed a few ways to reposition the product, to deliver something unmistakable and unique. Bérard suggested a color change, a dramatic veer from Mercier’s classic black, but she was reluctant since black was “iconic,” — and was the color used by higher-end brands like Chanel, Trish McEvoy, MAC, and Bobbi Brown. But one fateful day at Bergdorf Goodman’s Laura Mercier counter, an Upper East Side woman hastily whipped out her empty lipstick container, eager for a replacement. The saleswoman glanced at the generic black tube and pointed across the aisle to the Bobbi Brown peddlers. “That’s theirs,” she told the customer. At that moment, Mercier went mocha. Bérard believes this is the perfect signature for Mercier, a warm, rich hue to match her “warm soul.” Yes, black makes a statement, and it’s easy, but brown is bold, just as a luxury retailer should be.
But a sense of luxury should not be limited to those who can afford luxury. In fact, one of the greatest joys for Bérard is making a mass brand exude luxury, which is difficult given competitive price points. Avon’s Anew Perfecting Complex was skincare for the masses, but was overlooked because of its bulky, frosted glass, bland cerulean screw-top, and barely-there gold logo. Bérard revolutionized the container, simplifying the shape and adding sleek silver accents and a bold, navy script, which later became Avon’s simple, yet authoritative corporate logo.
Then there’s mark, a cosmetic company for teens, for which Bérard has won design awards. Innovative dual-ended products (a concept later appropriated by MAC) allow fickle teenagers to mix and match eyeshadow and lipstick to fit their mood, “whether they’re happy on Friday or sad on Monday.” The ease of customization adds a sense of luxury and personalization, a feeling that this product is unique and was made for me. It is this skill, the clever ability to be sensitive to both the needs of the consumer and the wants of the company that makes Bérard such a genius.
Clearly, Bérard has the ability to prescribe and concoct an effective remedy for any brand that comes a-knocking. But is there a line he can’t wait to get his hands on? He purses his lips and furrows his brow while he formulates a response: “I think . . . well, I think . . . airlines!” Traveling is Bérard’s indulgence and he sees weakness in the industry, believing airlines can do so much more to better the experience. Sure, they have been redesigned, rebranded, and emblazoned with trendy graphics, but where’s the customization?
It’s doubtful that if Bérard does take to branding an airline that he will construct a life size aircraft in his back office, or suggest that a plane be painted brown, but it’s obvious that for Bérard, the sky definitely will not be the limit.