All posts in Branding
At the end of last month, Hershey’s began rolling out their “Flavors of America” campaign, which has the company including signature regional tastes and ingredients into varieties of some of their most beloved products. So far, options include:
1) Reese’s Honey Roasted Peanut Butter Cups, for Georgia
2) Hershey’s Cherry Cheesecake Chocolate Bars, for New York
3) Strawberry KitKats, for California
4) Orange Cream Pop and Key Lime Pie Twizzlers, for Florida
5) PayDay BBQ, for Texas
6) Hershey’s Coconut Almond Kisses, for Hawaii
This campaign is very much on trend, as food brands are becoming increasingly local. For example, last year ConAgra launched new Slim Jim flavors inspired by regional cuisine, including New York Buffalo Style, Philly Cheesesteak, and Cali Taco. Interestingly, Jill Dexter, brand director from Slim Jim, referred to this rollout as their “Flavors of America” platform. Not only is the concept growing in popularity, the name itself is being applied across different companies.
2016 also saw granola producer Maple Nut Kitchen combining two major trends into one campaign with the release of four regional flavors for their Paleo line: Northern Berry Harvest, Eastern Apple Pecan, Southern Cherry Almond, and Western Cocoa Cayenne.
Frito-Lay might actually be at the top of the regional flavor game, and they’ve been doing it for a long time. It was way back in 2011 that Lay’s introduced three localized varieties at once, with Honey Mustard for the Northeast, Creamy Garden Ranch for the Midwest, and Chipotle Ranch for the Southwest. Even prior to that, they released Balsamic Sweet Onion in the Northwest and Cajun Herb & Spice in the Southeast. As far back as the early 2000s, the company experimented with options such as Chicago Steakhouse Loaded Baked Potato, Santa Fe Ranch, and San Antonio Salsa. Similar to ConAgra and Hershey’s, Frito-Lay predictably named that campaign “Tastes of America”.
Some of Lay’s regional flavors have been so popular that the company transitioned them into national rollouts, such as Garden Tomato & Basil. Unlike Hershey’s, which is rolling out their “Flavors of America” varieties across all regions, Frito-Lay tends to initially introduce a regional flavor into its appropriate local market.
Taking flavor inspiration from local tastes is huge in the snack category, and the trend is expected to continue gaining momentum. Not only does the practice help tailor products to markets based on preferences, it also gives big brands an opportunity to connect more personally with consumers across the nation (and beyond). By incorporating ingredients and styles of various areas of the country, national brands like Hershey’s are able to compete at the local level with smaller companies.
For example, one of Hawaii’s most popular candies, simply called Coconut Balls, comes from local company Hawaii Candy. It is easy to see the similarities between this coveted confection and Hershey’s Hawaiian treat, Coconut Almond Kisses.
It is unclear right now whether or not Hershey’s intends to develop flavors for all fifty states, or how Californians, Hawaiians, Floridians, Georgians, Texans, and New Yorkers will react to Hershey’s attempt at capturing their distinct local tastes. The campaign definitely has an interesting concept behind it, and other brands that are considering localization will surely be watching to see how successful it is.
Founded in 2010 by Rony Abovitz, Magic Leap is a fast-growing startup that has been shrouded in mystery since its inception. In fact, it has earned the reputation as one of the most secretive firms in the tech industry, and its headquarters are located in Southern Florida to maintain its discretion (which would be nearly impossible if it were located in Silicon Valley).
The startup evolved from a small company called “Magic Leap Studios”, which was focused on creating a graphic novel series and feature film franchise. Abovitz had hired visual effects studio Weta Workshop to develop the imagery, following their work on The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.
However, Abovitz became frustrated that the augmented and virtual reality world he’d read about in sci-fi novels wasn’t available in real life. He aimed to make it so. In 2011, Magic Leap Studios became a corporation, releasing an augmented reality app at Comic-Con that year called Hour Blue.
How They’re Trying to Change the World
Magic Leap is working on a head-mounted virtual retinal display that has been compared to the Microsoft HoloLens. It superimposes 3D computer-generated imagery over real world objects by tricking the brain into thinking that digital light signals created in the headset are in fact reality. Gizmodo said they are trying to build “a Google Glass on steroids that can seamlessly blend computer-generated graphics with the real world”.
Forbes perfectly described the experience in relation to Pokemon Go: “VR takes you to another place. AR can make a Pikachu appear in your living room. Mixed reality keeps you where you are-and makes that Pikachu come to life.”
While this technology has outstanding potential for gaming and entertainment, Magic Leap aims to use it to revolutionize the way we work, communicate, and play.
Quick Success Led to a $4.5 Billion Valuation
Forbes estimated that Magic Leap was worth $4.5 billion, even though they have not released a product to market yet. It raised $1.4 billion from a list of impressive investors, including Google and China’s Alibaba Group.
It earned highly publicized early contributions thanks to its overwhelming claims that the technology would “forever change the way we interact with images and information”. The prominent investors were convinced with early prototype demonstrations and technology that was still in development.
Standing Up to Big Competition
Magic Leap is not the first (or only) company to pursue mixed reality. Apple is working on an AR device, startups Meta and Atheer are working on their own headsets, and the MIT Media Lab has also constructed a 3D display using “compressed light fields”. The Microsoft HoloLens is the largest competitor and already has developer kits available. The difference, according to Magic Leap, is that Magic Leap’s breakthrough technology provides better resolution than the HoloLens, making it far superior.
Misleading Claims Revealed
Most people who have tried Magic Leap have positive things to say. However, not all of the attention surrounding the startup has been good.
Magic Leap may have exaggerated what it was able to provide. In a recent interview, it was revealed that Magic Leap posted a misleading video demonstration of its tech. Magic Leap didn’t help things when it used YouTube videos to prove what its tech can do, using a video that was later revealed to be created by Weta Workshop.
As it stands now, the Magic Leap tech won’t outshine the Microsoft HoloLens’ tech. During a recent rare demo with The Information, the images produced by the headset were often blurrier and more jittery than Microsoft’s prototype.
While the startup wasn’t ever planning on rushing to market, it seems as if the technology is in reality years away from completion. The fiber scanning display that was set to be Magic Leap’s breakthrough tech has also been demoted to a long-term research project. They have also promised to provide a small headset resembling glasses, but have not yet trimmed down from the bulky helmet prototype.
However, this hasn’t slowed Magic Leap, which just acquired the 3D division of Swiss computer vision company Dacuda and formed a partnership with Disney’s Lucasfilm and its ILMxLAB R&D unit to create a joint research lab at Lucasfilm’s San Francisco campus. Abovitz believes that one day, Magic Leap’s technology will replace phones, tablets, computers, and televisions.
Chris Burton, our Art Director, travelled all the way to Anaheim last week for Expo West 2017. The four-day event is the country’s largest natural foods show, and it gives industry professionals the opportunity to see what’s in store for the future of organic foods. Shifts in consumer tastes usually lead to major design shakeups, and here are four of the biggest packaging trends that we noticed.
With consumers becoming increasingly interested in buying local small-batch products, branding is taking on a distinctly “handmade” look. Handwritten logos, drawings, and rough edges are all major trends, as brands are moving away from the overly polished “hipster” look of the last few years in favor of appearing wholesome and healthy.
Protein Protein is in everything right now, from plant milk to pancakes (FlapJacked wins best name). As a result, we’re seeing categories looking a lot more diverse than they have in the past. For example, protein-packed cookie brand Bite Fuel is using a very heavy black font in all of its branding, which is unrecognizable from the bright colors and gentle script of more familiar players like Mrs. Fields and Famous Amos.
With this sudden interest in protein, we’re also seeing more artisanal varieties of meaty products like beef jerky. Duke’s came to Expo West with dried brisket and Cajun-style dried sausages, with elegant packaging that highlights the seasonings and flavor additives over the meat.
This protein phenomenon is manifesting itself in two ways – products that traditionally would not contain much protein are being set apart with strong, commanding designs, and products that have always been known to be great sources of protein are trying to appeal to new consumers.
Consumers want to feel closer to the food that they eat, which means becoming more comfortable with the animals at the source. Meats, cheeses, and flavored snacks are all beginning to feature realistic depictions of livestock, sometimes using straight-up photographs.
Meat-and-dairy-free products are using images of animals as well. Los Angeles’s Kombucha Dog, for instance, puts photos of homeless dogs from local shelters on their labels, using store shelf space to help them find homes.
Mascots were all over the place this year, which is interesting for a natural foods show – mascots are most commonly associated with sugary cereals and fast food. Brands are now recognizing that mascots can help build relationships with consumers, who can feel personal and emotional connections to them. They can also considerably boost a brand’s recognition potential, which is especially attractive for new products in crowded categories.
Package redesigns are famously tricky. On the one hand, updating a product’s look can be an important part of appealing to new consumers and staying fresh in an evolving market. On the other hand, companies risk losing valuable brand equity when they sacrifice recognizable design. When faced with the challenge of a redesign, sometimes brands just don’t get it quite right, and would have been better off sticking with their original look. Here are three recent examples of redesigns that did not deliver the effect that companies intended.
In Kraft’s defense, Miracle Whip was due for a modern upgrade. The redesign that they chose in 2009, however, was uninspiring and bland. It’s clear that they were trying to go more minimalist, but the result made the product look unappetizing and generic, with no indicators of flavor other than the words “The Tangy Original”. Kraft quickly realized the error of their ways, and in 2010 a new design was released that retained more of the fun and color of the original packaging.
In 2012, Weight Watcher’s had their logo redesigned by Pentagram. Keeping with the trends of the time, they opted for a gradient and a heavy font, with no space between the words. The company, which sells products related to dieting ranging from books to packaged foods, wanted their new look to highlight the transformation that consumers experience through the brand. What they were not counting on, however, was that a vulgar British slang word was now smack dab in the middle of the logo, which consumers in the U.K. found very difficult to look past.
The Happy Meal
Few things are as iconic to the children of America as the Happy Meal box. The simple, sweet design had a lot of personality, and it represented years of brand loyalty that McDonald’s had built with families. In 2014, the company decided to reintroduce mascots into their branding, including a new one in the form of “Happy”, whose realistic smile and crazy eyes terrified consumers. The new boxes quickly became the subject of public ridicule and scorn, inspiring everything from memes to thinkpieces about how McDonald’s had evidently lost their minds.
An important thing to keep in mind here is that all three of these companies – Kraft, Weight Watchers, and McDonald’s – are multimillion-dollar corporations with huge marketing teams and expensive consumer research, yet even they have gotten redesigns very, very wrong. It’s difficult work, and both the design community and the food and beverage industry are still figuring out the best ways of going about it. But for every failure, we all learn a little more about how to do better next time, which is especially true for companies that are as large as these three. If the public disaster of the new Happy Meal box prevented us from having to deal with more disturbing mascots that may have been in the works, then it was worth it.
Pop culture has always and will always be a great tool to leverage for information. It is a bridge that connects marketing teams to consumers when updating an old, tired look or developing a new product for a new target audience.
A Yale University study from a few years back revealed that the use of movie and TV characters on food packaging is designed to access certain feelings, memories, and associations, making them seem more desirable.
That’s why cartoon characters are often used on packaging to help sell junk food and other foods that companies are trying to appeal to little ones. Not that it’s all bad; for every Fred Flintstone on a cereal box, there is a Dora the Explorer or a Big Bird being used to help sell fruit and vegetables.
But it’s much more than food. Other brands have tied TV and movie character packaging to items such as wine, vitamins and even electronics.Tien Nguyen , lead industrial designer for Studio One Eleven, a division of Berlin Packaging, says that in the past couple of years, the firm has noticed companies of all sizes have been leveraging endorsement from celebrities in the music, TV, and movie industries to gain more brand awareness, and the impact can be seen on packaging.
For example, Studio One Eleven recently launched a multivitamin gummies package with a leading nutritional supplements manufacturer, where they were able to leverage the multi-generational following of the Star Wars saga.
“Our team designed and engineered special-edition overcaps based on the characters from the series to make their products more fun and appealing for kids and adults,” Nguyen says. “We were able to target both young kids that may be experiencing Star Wars for the first time (with the recent launch of Episode 7), and the diehard fans that fell in love with the saga from the original series.”
Davidson’s Organics—the first certified organic, fair trade and specialty tea company in the U.S.— just completed a package redesign for its 400 varieties of teas and accessories, centered around pop culture, such as its teas featuring movie legend Bruce Lee. “We identified that millennials need to be visually stimulated with colors and buzzwords before they take a look at price and nutrition labels. We identified the words that young and old tea-drinkers look for, and put them on the face of our packaging,” says Davidson’s owner, Kunall Patel. “Pop culture has everything to do with what’s interesting right now. Every company should aim to stay that relevant in today’s fast-paced, social environment. No content is evergreen forever.”
A new energy drink released a few years ago capitalized on popular cartoon character, Popeye, who is known for his incredible strength after eating a can of spinach. That association led to a strong rollout.
“It’s important to stay in touch with the multi-cultural and ever changing lifestyle of today’s consumers, especially for younger and smaller companies. Staying up to date with trends and what consumers want is vital to build brand awareness and ultimately market shares among the larger players,” Nguyen says. “The CPG industry is a very fast pace industry. On average, we’ve seen companies target a complete redesign of both structure and branding within 2-3 years, depending on the breadth of their product portfolio.”
Before the Internet and social media, people were perhaps less informed, or they at least did not have such easily accessed resources to become informed. This led to the need for more content on packaging, as opposed to imaging.
“At that time, in order to create a brand, you first needed to introduce it. And more often than not, your first introduction to a consumer was through the physical handling of your packaging,” Patel says. “Now we’re able to establish brands through videos, websites, online images, etc. This emergence of visual interest has now led to this interest as it relates to physical products and their packaging. Our new packaging paints a picture worth a thousand words about content literally through brand imaging and design.”
Marvel has deals with numerous CPG companies—representing drinks, shampoos and yogurts—and you can find plenty of Pixar characters on packages of similar items when new movies come out.
Packaging that relies on TV or movies to help sell a product is a savvy move by companies, and is a strategy that won’t be going away anytime soon.
With the trend of minimalist, stark packaging still going so strong, some brands are pushing back with designs that scream from the shelf. Hot pink, blood orange, teal – all are showing up in product categories that have never gone so bold. We know that color choices evoke different emotional responses for consumers, and playing with combinations can help shoppers connect with brands. Clashing colors are also usually more memorable and therefore are great for brand recall, especially when the colors are unique to the product.
Using loud, expressive colors is a way for brands to differentiate a special edition product, allowing them to break out of their standard molds and appeal to new groups. This can be highly effective for brands looking to target younger consumers, who are appreciative of companies that are willing to take on a little edginess and aesthetic risk. Large brands looking to emulate the look and feel of small brands should take note of how the following companies have successfully crafted exciting packages by taking chances with color.
Last spring, D.C. chocolatier Harper Macaw released a series of bars inspired by the election. Naturally, the wrappers use bold reds and blues, and the result is gorgeous and striking. Rather than feeling like political cartoons, the chocolates are elegant and find the beauty within the absurdity of our current political climate. For a time that has been so stressful and dividing, at least we got a little something sweet out of it.
Bud Light is now the official beer sponsor of South by Southwest, and the funky, psychedelic cans that they issued in limited release last year were such a hit that they are coming back for the 2017 festival. With bright blues, orange, yellow, red, purple, green, and a shock of black, the packaging perfectly captures the vibe of the festival and of the famously “weird” city of Austin.
Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP sticks out like a sore thumb among competitors, with a heavy fuchsia font that pops (pun intended) against solid feminine backgrounds. This is a great example of how color clashing can be used in a way that is playful without being childish – this design communicates maturity while remaining effectively eye-catching. The color choices here indicate that the snack is something indulgent and luxurious, a cut above all of the Orville Redenbachers and the Act IIs.
Most tea brands try to communicate the same themes: tranquility, peace, smoothness, etc. Wild Leaf has decided to take an entirely different approach, with wild colors that would be striking on their own and are even stronger when put together. Energetic and youthful, with a large callout for its specific properties, it’s certainly more fun than your grandma’s Lipton.
The bright, beautiful color palette that Ciao Bella used for their line of gelatos is a great example of risk paying off. Brands of ice cream and similar treats often struggle with how to clearly target adults, and the rainbow of color could have easily made it seem like it was a dessert for children. Instead, the careful color pairings elevate the packaging to a new level of sophistication, while still looking just as visually interesting and trendy as competitors like Ben & Jerry’s.
Everybody knows that the real star of the Super Bowl has nothing to do with football – it’s all about the commercials. Every year, millions of people tune in just to see what brands have come up with, and Super Bowl LI is expected to be no different. It’s a real opportunity for brands to go all-out, getting as creative as the networks and their wallets will allow. Snickers, for instance, is going to air the game’s first-ever live commercial, featuring Adam Driver (of Star Wars and Girls) as some kind of cowboy hero. That’s not the only first for this year, either – Yellow Tail is going to be the first wine brand to air a Super Bowl ad in four decades, and both Wendy’s and Tiffany’s are finally putting out their first game day commercials.Sometimes, a brand can make as big of a statement by staying off-screen as they would by running an ad. Kraft Heinz has been getting a lot of buzz lately for their public decision to not produce a Super Bowl ad, and instead use those millions of unspent dollars to give employees the day after the game off. And Tostitos’ ingenious chip bag design – which doubles as a breathalyzer to determine when partygoers have had too much to drive home, and can even call an Uber for them using smartphone-enabled technology – is a great example of a brand making the packaging an integral part of the consumer experience. With social engagement and technology being where it is today, brands have lots of options for showing off innovation.With the spotlight on sponsoring companies, it can be easy to forget what an undertaking it is to brand the Super Bowl itself as a national event. The process for designing the brand identity of a Super Bowl game begins as far as two years in advance. In fact, the identity and graphic design guide for the 2018 game is going to launch on February 6th, the day after Super Bowl LI.
The design of nearly everything tied to this year’s game, including banners, apparel, advertisements, etc., all use deep reds. This was chosen because it draws from the NFL’s official logo (helping create cohesiveness between the event and the organizers) and also because the designers felt that it best captures the spirit of energy and excitement that the league is trying to promote. Super Bowl LI is also featuring more colors in its designs than in years past, namely turquoise and yellow, as they are attempting to connect with a younger audience.The Super Bowl is like Oscars season for those in branding. It is the moment to show off months or years of hard work and planning, and the competition is always fierce. With millions of expectant eyes watching, we will have to wait and see whether or not this year delivers. If these pre-game releases – like what we’ve gotten from Tostitos and Snickers – are any indication of what is to come, then Sunday is going to be one of the most exciting Super Bowls to date.