Pop Culture Packaging: The Impact of TV and Movies on Design

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.Homer-Marge-wine-572x354Tien 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.

StarWarsVitaminsHero_2a “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.BruceTea4 “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.

Super Bowl Branding

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.addriverSometimes, 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.tostitosWith 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.supbowlThe 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.

5 Designs We Love: Movie Posters of the 70’s

In our latest edition of 5 Designs We Love, we take a look at 5 classic movie poster designs. When we decided to focus on movie posters as a subject, it immediately became apparent that there are far too many great poster designs throughout the history of motion pictures to ever narrow them down to a list of just five. So we thought we would share some of our favorites, and separate them into individual categories.  Here are our favorites from the 70’s era.

1. Jaws (1975)

Jaws one-sheet

From the subtle fish hook “J” in the title treatment to the not-so-subtle shark emerging from the depths focused on his unsuspecting prey atop the ocean surface, the poster for Jaws is “Iconic” to say the least.  While the proportions of the shark are almost cartoon like, the image feels completely realistic and believable through the masterful painting of artist Roger Kastel

2. Animal House (1978)

The movie poster design for Animal House can really be summed up in one word… chaos!  And it fits the film perfectly. Not only does all the wildness and fun of Delta House depicted in Rick Meyerowitz’s illustration make you want to see the movie, but there are so many points of discovery from the film that it becomes one of those images that you have to look at a second time after watching it to understand them all.  Then you want to see it again.

3. Star Wars (1977)

There are so many great poster designs for Star Wars, we could almost do a 5 Designs We Love just on Star Wars. However, we are choosing to focus on the original One Sheet by artist Tom Jung. The image portrays a much more glamourous and sexy depiction of Leia than we ever came to know in the movie and a muscle bound Luke we never knew either. The image effectively struck a cord in the imaginations of just about every child of the 70’s, immediately carrying them off to that “galaxy far, far away”. The most iconic element in the poster, also never seen in the film is the pose of Luke holding his light saber high above his head. This image of the design has become part of countless images, packages and logos ever since.

4. The Stepford Wives (1975)

Not one you normally find on people’s all time favorite poster lists, but the poster image for the film The Stepford Wives is downright disturbing – and that’s what makes it a great poster. The movie about a group of submissive suburban housewives obsessed with housework is represented perfectly by a single image of a broken, emotionless woman. Long before the days of photoshop, the photographic image of a shattered woman made of fragile ceramic is very effectively executed.

5. Alien (1979)

Another great example that sometimes less is more when it comes to creating a great movie poster design. From it’s simple title treatment to the quiet anticipation of what horror is about to emerge from the disturbing egg centered in the black of space, the poster does not say much but speaks volumes. Maybe most frightening of all is the tag line “In space no one can hear you scream”.


Drew: The Man, The Myth, The Master Key Art Designer

From the “golden age” of Hollywood, advertising (and most importantly the movie poster) has always been part of the movie-going experience.  Billboards, newspaper ads and brightly lit theater displays all featured ornate illustrations that provided a glimpse into the stories they represented and acted as a doorway into the filmmaker’s world.

There is something so much more grand about these images which seem to have the ability to carry you away to a specific time and place.  Whether its the passion of Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in Gone With the Wind or the adventures taking place in a “galaxy far far away” in Star Wars, these bright color illustrations represented movies in a way that photographs never could.

Drew Struzan's Star Wars Poster - From the Master Key Art Designer

Then in the late 80’s something changed when Photoshop first hit the scene.  Although the effects were not felt immediately, Photoshop would go on to change the landscape of advertising, and would signal the death knell of this creative approach to motion picture advertising.  Before that happened however, one name emerged as the greatest of all movie poster artists: Drew Struzan. Not everyone knows him by name, but we guarantee that just about everyone has seen his work.

Drew Struzan's Temple of Doom Poster - From the Master Key Art Designer

The 70’s and 80’s produced some of the most iconic movies in Hollywood history, and many of these movies were represented by the beautifully designed illustrations of Drew Struzan.  As an inspiring artist who was consumed with movies and pop culture, I was heavily influenced by Drew’s work.  Throughout my four years of art school in the early 90’s and before Photoshop would have its lasting effect, my goal was to follow in Drew’s footsteps as a movie poster illustrator.

Back in 2005, I had the pleasure of meeting Drew.  What an inspiring dream come true it was for me to sit with him for a while discussing his work, the state of the industry, and art in general. After a near 40 year professional career which began painting album cover art, Drew announced his retirement on September 3, 2008.  Although I understand and respect his decision, it’s hard to ignore what a great loss it is for the movie industry and how it truly marks the end of an era.

Just recently we were asked to design the DVD packaging for his official documentary “Drew: The Man Behind The Poster”, from Kino Lober Inc.  It was a tremendous honor for me after all of these years of admiration to have been asked to create the imagery for his documentary.  The film features an endless parade of the biggest names in Hollywood (George Lucas, Stephen Spielberg, Harrison Ford, etc), and they are all there to honor the man and his work.

The concept behind our design was to pay homage to arguably one of his earliest but most famous Star Wars posters – his 1978 re-release style D “circus” poster (created in partnership with artist Charles White III).  We hope he approves.  Thanks for the memories Drew!

Drew: A Documentary About the Master Key Art Designer

To view some of Drew’s amazing work please visit his web site www.drewstruzan.com or visit his official Facebook page. “Drew: The Man Behind the Poster” is now available on DVD from Amazon.com as well as other retailers.

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The Man From Earth

Perhaps one of the most iconic and widely seen movie posters in Works Design Group’s portfolio is that of Jerome Bixby’s The Man From Earth. It remains one of the best examples of our philosophy that it is never too early to think about how you are going to package and market your film.

The Man From Earth Key Art Designer

Key art by Dave Wilkinson (our resident key art designer)

Work on the poster started before the film was fully cast or principal photography had even begun. Initially thought to be a teaser image or a stop gap until until a “final” image was produced, the poster not only remained to represent the film but was also eventually used on the home video packaging from Anchor Bay / Starz Entertainment.

In the years since it’s 2007 production, The Man From Earth has built a “cult” following that began before the film was even released to the public. As described in a recent article in the Hollywood Reporter, a copy of the film had gotten out and was being illegally downloaded through file sharing sites across the internet, while becoming perhaps the first “BitTorrent blockbuster”

What is normally considered a negative became a more valuable marketing tool than the producers could have ever afforded on their modest budget. “In one week, Man From Earth jumped 7,700 percent on IMDb’s MOVIEmeter, a statistic that tracks activity on a film’s page, becoming the most searched sci-fi movie on the site.”  It remains among the top rated Sci-Fi movies on IMDB.

With the internet being so instrumental in the success of the original, the filmmakers are relying on it once again as they have recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund a sequel… or prequel as it is titled “Man From Earth Millennium.”

Once again David Wilkinson and the creative team at Works Design have been called upon to create the key art and marketing campaign for the project. We are hopeful that the filmmakers are successful in raising their $175,000 budget goal. We are extremely excited to be part of the project and are looking forward to the challenge of creating an image that is as iconic and successful as the original.