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Zsolt Unger | „This is about responsibility”



Unger and Partners, Zsolt Unger’s company specialized on premium brands pursues the design and physical implementation of diverse high quality products and services with approximately 52 brands on the Hungarian market currently. Their portfolio includes the brand image and sometime overall concept of wineries, cosmetics companies, mineral water or even shisha tobacco. Bortársaság, Kreinbacher, Sauska, Gere, Vis Vitalis, Ilcsi, Gerbeaud, Libri – just to mention a few brands. Nothing romantic, only conscious, cooperative work and responsibility above all. 

The story of Unger and Partners goes back twenty-four years. Initially, the company only worked on the online realms, and since 2004, it works in a modern construction – specialized on professional brand management and product development services – with its direct colleagues and partners on the different projects. 

“We build the theater…”

Currently there are fifty-two brands on the Hungarian market that owe their success to Zsolt Unger and his team. This number is even higher in reality, as there are another 5-8 projects in progress in the background, with a subtotal of 80-100 billion HUF in revenues.

They also work for foreign brands: currently they try to expand on a regional level, primarily in Serbia and Slovakia. At the same time, they also plan to launch on the Austrian, Transylvanian and Ukrainian markets, principally targeting major food processing brands and wineries.

“We are not a classic agency. We don’t take part in tenders. We take on the projects with responsibility” – Zsolt told us.

Photo: Csaba Födémesi

Unger and Partners leads several fields of the advertising market, and yet they still don’t follow the structural model taken over from the United States. They don’t work with a contact person, they work directly with the owner of the brand. They work along a very precise project schedule covering not only design but the technological processes, too. Launching a product or certain services on the market or the alteration of the same are extremely complex and integrated process – this is where Unger and Partners offers professional assistance. 

“Many times our work ends when we make available the materials documented by us during the design process in the form of a thick brandbook, and then we hand the company over to an advertising agency or an online communication agency. So we build the theater, put on the movie and we let them run it” – Zsolt added.

After they handed the given company or brand over to an agency, Zsolt and his team still have some influence, but the extent of this largely depends on the client. Naturtex Kft. in Szeged is the biggest feather processing family venture in Europe, where Unger and Partners also established a training platform in addition to the entire concept so that the knowledge related to the developments can be delivered from time to time to the local marketing professionals and graphic designers in the most effective manner possible.

“We follow up each and every client of ours, we keep an eye on them. We get in touch with them in some way or another every two years at least to have some tea together. This is a good opportunity to raise issues or tasks in which they request our help – these always happen quite organically”– Zsolt told us.

So that such a serious business machine can be functional, Zsolt also developed a quite expansive and universal network of partner companies over the years in addition to the eight direct workers displayed on the website: very many people participate in each project, from print brokers and illustrators through the research team of the University of Pécs. “This is a very complex matter. Since each and every job is quite special, I couldn’t define a specific group of experts who could cover all, as sometimes we work on an electronic cigarette and other times we work on an experience design. We always adjust to the given tasks, and then we compose the team accordingly” Zsolt added.

There is only one solution

Their clients are mostly local brands holding traditional values that were built from family assets or heritage. “It’s like this simply because these are the companies and organizations that are compatible with our system – with minimized corporate bureaucracy, we can get closer to the decision-making competence; they don’t want to waste their money on administration. They trust me and my team, they know that what we do is good, and I take responsibility that it will work. Even if if doesn’t. Of course, it’s very important how far we put the solution from the company’s current level. This is a kind of routine, with which we sense what we have to do” – he added.

Photo: Csaba Födémesi

In the case of Unger and Partners, the personal story is very important in branding. The creation of each concept is a result of strict and concentrated work. Not only beautiful graphics can be seen on the packaging of a cosmetic item, a mineral water bottle or a bottle of wine, but an authentically displayed story and content reflecting on research-based market requirements. 

“They don’t choose us because we have a certain style we work in, as that would be a very limited service environment. They choose and purchase potential.That this guy and his team will tell us what’s going to work. So they pay for a specific solution” – Zsolt told us.

According to the premium brand specialist, it’s extremely dangerous if a job is assigned to a creator who only thinks with a designer’s logic and who only tries to convert his artistic ambitions, with zero knowledge about the market. “Things don’t happen overnight here. Solid plans must be prepared based on detailed research. The most important is to understand the responsibility for our work” – Zsolt added. Of course, it isn’t easy for the client, either. The team must help them overcome many emotional phases and help them make decisions, as it’s about their future. “Here we are, the prepared team that works on the first design concept for one and a half months, in the course of which we consider many parameters: site inspection, meeting with colleagues and so on. And then there will be a Tuesday when we’ll say “look, this will be your future in the next five years!” There are quite a few people who say something straight away because while they talk to us they realize that what they designed for themselves in their minds will probably not work. And then they ask the question “but will what this team designed work?!” to themselves. Necessary dilemmas and trust issues come up. This is why thinking together and a cooperative attitude and that we all feel the importance of the given job are so important.”

“What the client wants emotionally is not that important. I don’t trust them more than my own vision, which we put together in a synthetized manner, from a lot of parameters. It’s like a function that only has one solution. There are no two others. Only one.”

It comes with a great responsibility, as the visual environment can determine, but at least influence for a lifetime what we consider beautiful and exigent. The goods, chocolate packagings on the shelves of stores, flyers and TV commercials influence us from our childhood, and so does the way people dress or whether the cars are clean on the street. These all give some kind of quality to us. Reflecting on this, according to Zsolt, we put our common heritage at risk if we don’t opt for the comprehensive and most optimal solution and concept in the case of each brand.

Then there is another important issue: responsibility for our environment. Unger and Partners has been working on giving relevant answers to this issue on a company level, too, for years. “We design boxes for the different products that are very tight-fitting so that they can be moved on a unit area easily. Everything is tiny, minimum, compact, only what’s necessary. We also discourage everyone from promotional gifts and unnecessary banners. I think I did the most for making these corporate image elements disappear. After the corporate envelopes and folders, now I also try to dissuade our clients from using business cards. Hard copy communication has become virtually unnecessary” – emphasized Zsolt.

What Zsolt distances himself radically from is vesting their activity with a kind of romanticism that could suggest that they don’t work for the profit or the money, because they do. “Of course, our company also aims to get business and profit, and this will only take place if we generate profit for our clients. This all is driven by an extremely simple merchant principle” – he adds.

GRAPELOVE

The same way as in the majority of their projects, Unger and Partners’ work also reaches beyond visual design in the case of Gere Winery, the seventh-generation winemaker family in Villány, including the wines and cosmetics. While in the case of the Gere wines, in addition to bringing the brand to an international level, the task was to rearrange the entire line of wines and making the portfolio cleaner, in the case of the cosmetic products of Andrea Gere, the goal was to design and launch a completely new brand. A precise and well-thought continuity can be observed in the case of the design of Gere products (also important from the point of emphasizing the generational quality): the special orange-red color is, for example, a completely one of a kind blend, there is no other in the whole wide world.

Photo: Csaba Födémesi

In addition to the wines, the Gere family also extracts virgin grapeseed oil, groats and essence out of the organic grapes, which they have been applying in cosmetic treatments at the spa belonging to the estate in Villány for long years now. In 2016, Andrea had a thought and imagined her own cosmetic product family: they involved Zsolt and his team into the process of design at the very beginning

“This time, we did not begin with research. It wasn’t needed here. You simply can’t measure how a 35 year old woman will respond to an EUR 120 premium serum on the Hungarian market realistically. Or the things you could measure are so trivial that they aren’t worth the few million Forints that a focus group research costs. In this case, only instinctive feelings work. And market analytics.”

The product development was carried out by a laboratory in Switzerland which is one of the most professional labs on a global level that could guarantee the world-class quality without compromises we are used to in the case of Gere winery. Naturally, Unger and Partners’ comprehensive brand concept also followed this premium standard: starting from packaging (also including containers and boxes) to coming up with the perfect domain name and everything in between. After three years of careful and continuous testing in Switzerland, countless samples and experiments, the Andrea Gere Skin Care family was born, the summary name of which, “Grapelove,” is also the courtesy of Zsolt.

“If time is 100%, then we figured out how the product should look like and what it should do in 10% and in the remaining 90%, a great many people worked on its realization.It was the greatest challenge of the past times. We worked on it for two and a half years without stopping, but it was all worth it.”

Gere is one of the quite few local family enterprises that Unger and Partners did not hand over to an advertising agency, but decided to keep within their control. This way, their work together did not stop at the launch of the premium cosmetic product family in November last year: an image film is in progress, and they also plan some photo shooting in the near future.

“Naturally, we also intend to launch Andi’s cosmetics on the international markets. Currently we are trying to make it as popular as possible in Hungary, in which my friend, Zsolt Zólyomi, is also a great help. We still need a couple of months to put together the set of means with which we can do a solid market launch. Now we ignite the boosters and we give it everything we’ve got!”

Currently there are 9-10 additional outstanding Unger and Partners projects waiting to be launched, including the reimagined Bambi soft drink, which is expected to debut in the summer.

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