You may have noticed that brands are refreshing their
packs more frequently than ever before. Most noticeably in the past
four or five years, speed to market with a pack refresh appears to
play a larger role in overall brand activity.
Advances in technology and social networking expose consumers to
new things at a rapid pace—people expect some level of change all
the time. Rather than keeping the same package around for years, or
even decades, many brands are acting more nimbly, balancing the
need to maintain familiarity with the need to remain relevant by
This increased frequency of package refreshes brings the return
on investment (ROI) into question. While ROI is difficult to
measure as it relates to branding on pack, the cost of not
refreshing over time can easily be more than the cost of redoing
your packaging. Below are a few ideas that can help you get the
most out of your brand package design:
Packaging shouldn’t be a one-off project.
Packaging plays a key role in defining your brand and driving
relevance in this fast-paced market. Revitalizing a brand’s
packaging presents opportunities for new and established brands to
break out of the clutter and let their identity shine. Many
companies evaluate packaging only when their brand is languishing
or when a new variant is about to launch. Don’t think of refreshing
your packaging as a project with an end date; instead, the
“evolution of packaging” should be a regular conversation and
strategic choice as your brand strategy evolves.
Ground your brand in its core. Redesigning a
package requires brands to be very clear about their ownable
equities (and those they wish to own) so they can remain consistent
at the core and drive consumer relevance at the same time.
Packaging structure and graphics go hand in hand and sometimes
offer the only points of differentiation for a brand. Getting help
from a branding or packaging firm can help identify and strengthen
ownable equities. Whether this includes evolving your brandmark or
just those equities that bring your products’ benefits to life,
partners can help you stay true to your brand’s core while
injecting fresh elements into it.
Keep it simple. Consumers are overloaded and
don’t have time to figure out your brand. If your package is too
complicated, the consumer will move on in mere seconds. Simple
ideas are best understood by consumers when you don’t have lots of
marketing dollars to explain your big idea or the meaning behind
your nomenclature. Start with crafting efficient and effective
priorities of communication (POC). Brand teams often create briefs
listing seven to ten (or more!) POCs for a tiny front label.
Consumers get lost after three, so make sure you prioritize the
most important aspects of your brand. You can share all of the
other information on side or back labels—or better yet, in other
Make time for inspiration. Trends in the market
play a key role in assisting designers to mine what is relevant
today. It’s important to look at what’s happening outside your
category for inspiration. For example, if you are a consumer
packaged goods brand, look to the automotive or architecture
industries for ideas on how structure might bring a package to
life; and fashion could inspire patterns, textures, and color
palettes. Layering trends with your core equities is a way to help
keep a brand relevant.
Real world applications
To bring to life how these concepts can be put into practice,
consider how Landor has recently designed and refreshed the
following packaging for our clients:
MiO: Creating a new brand. Something rare these
days, the chance to create a new brand in a new category is like
winning the lottery in the branding and packaging worlds. Creative
teams love to imagine what-ifs and explore various scenarios that
address consumer challenges. It’s much easier to measure packaging
ROI if you are creating a new-to-the-world brand or category. If
you are starting from scratch, very little external activity could
cloud those numbers. With new brands, you don’t have years of a
brand’s life shaping consumer perceptions.
With MiO, a liquid water enhancer used to flavor beverages,
Landor set out to create a brand that would reach immediate iconic
status. With very little space for branding on the tiny package,
the big idea was to activate the MiO promise and tell the brand
story through a powerful graphic “M.”
The newly crafted brand identity was brought to life with
insightful design, delivering structure and graphics that worked
together to define the brand. During the first year following
launch, MiO had exceeded all expectations and Kraft Foods had
another $100 million brand. The return on investment as a result of
the packaging seems to be pretty clear.
Gevalia: Stretching a brand for new
distribution. For a brand that has been around for well over a
hundred years, a packaging refresh may seem like a daunting task.
Gevalia needed to understand its ownable equities and Landor saw an
opportunity to dig deep into the heritage of the brand to find
visual territories that would bring the brand story to life.
Landor’s team of designers explored various brand stories and
pack design options. For Gevalia, the high quality of coffee was
not in question, and its Swedish heritage was the springboard for
the big idea. And from that nugget of history, the entire identity
and look, tone, and feel of the brand was crafted.
Even the brand colors of yellow and blue came from the Swedish
flag. Designers used imagery to evoke modern and traditional
elements of Sweden and the source countries of the coffee beans.
For example, French folk traditions are saluted on the graphic for
French roast; Colombian coffee comes in a bag depicting a clay
house, reflective of Colombian residences. Never before on the pack
had the brand taken advantage of its heritage and rich coffee
Sour Patch: Refreshing an iconic brand to
remain relevant. Some brands do it to combat copycats, others
refresh only when introducing a new variant. Sour Patch refreshed
its package to avoid look-alikes and breathe new life into the
brand. Before starting the project, the team mined the brand’s
equities by identifying what was important to stakeholders. They
took time to understand how the brand differentiated from the
competition and how it didn’t.
Landor helped strengthen the brand’s ownable equities and
created a new cast of Sour Patch characters. While still in the
early stages of marketing, it appears that Sour Patch’s graphic
system will be compelling at shelf and draw consumers in during
that first moment of truth.
Making the decision to either slightly refresh your package or
do a major overhaul depends on the health of your brand. We often
see brands that have been declining over the years, yet are
hesitant to implement a packaging redesign. Today brands need to
continually advance forward to remain relevant. If you think of
your brand’s packaging as the living, breathing way in which your
product is brought to life, then continually evolving your package
makes ROI sense.
A version of this article was first published at
FastCompany.com. (2 August 2012).
© 2012 Landor Associates. All rights reserved.