Retro Packaging Is All the Rage

Today’s world is fast, non-stop, and all about constant communication and information gathered through our phones and tablets. But even in this modern, technology-driven world, sometimes looking back to simpler times is the best way to draw customers, and that’s where retro packaging comes in.

Retro packaging hits people’s sense of nostalgia, and also implies longevity. When a well-known company brings back old designs, or designs a new look that looks vintage, it reminds people that the brand has been around a long time. For example, M&Ms are marking their 75th anniversary and is rolling out several designs inspired by its packaging over the years, but at the same time are also introducing new flavors of the beloved chocolate candy.


New companies are also savvy enough to take advantage of the retro look. In 2012 for instance, Small Town Brewery, in Wauconda, Illinois, introduced Not Your Father’s Root Beer, an alcoholic beer with a root beer taste, with packaging featuring a man dressed in 19th-century clothing. Other features of the logo included a barrel and old-style fonts. Even the cardboard container for the beer’s six-pack is designed to look like a small wooden crate.

“Retro packaging and labeling carry the appeal of quirkiness and nostalgia, and they project authenticity to shoppers,” says Bruce D. Sanders, a consumer psychologist, retail consultant and author of “Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers.”

He notes that during a three-week stretch in 2011, Heinz Ketchup re-introduced its eight-sided glass bottle from the 1990s; Hostess Cakes used retro packaging; and PepsiCo rolled out throwback versions of Pepsi and Mountain Dew.

“But trends do have a freshness date,” he says. “The special edition of Heinz Ketchup disappeared after five months. The Hostess Cakes items made their Brigadoon-style appearance for one month.”

The bad economy that has marked much of the 2000s is one reason for all of this looking-back, according to Sanders.

“Nostalgia is more attractive to shoppers during times of uncertainty, such as from economic downturns or social isolation,” he says. “Consumer behavior researchers find that when people are feeling lonely, they get interested in nostalgia. In one study, when consumers were made to feel socially uncertain by the experimental manipulation, they became more likely to prefer automobile makes, food brands, TV shows, movies, and even shower soaps which reminded them of their personal history.”

He adds that some brands are “perennially retro,” such as L.L. Bean and Restoration Hardware.

“They aim to project authenticity via continuity,” Sanders says. “A retro image is associated in shoppers’ minds with a store being in business for a long time, carrying trustworthy merchandise and staffed with reliable people.”


Isaac Cohen, Chairman of the JNCO clothing line, says the company has embraced its retro roots.

“Back in the ’90s, JNCO was an international sensation thanks to its comfortable wide-legged jeans and non-conformist philosophy that represented the best of retro SoCal culture,” Cohen says. “When we revived the brand in 2015, we tried to reinvent the brand and the style of our clothes to match the modern trends. This approach yielded moderate success, but after answering the pleas from our followers asking for a return to our ’90s styles, our revival really took off. For our die-hard follower base, our retro products and packaging have worked to our advantage and helped strengthen our overall brand.”

Randy Gunter is the owner of the Gunter Agency, a marketing, advertising and design firm. His company acquired a consumer company, McNess Consumer Products, last October. McNess has been selling home, health and cleaning products since the early 20th century, and Gunter is emphasizing the company’s long history with its packaging.

“McNess has been around since 1908 and we are in the process of changing some of the packaging, but everything is with a retro design,” Gunter says. “When we took over, there was a lot of inconsistency. There are still some products that need to be changed yet, but we’re doing that when we need to replace inventory… We’re in the process of also bringing back several old products that had been discontinued.

So when it comes to retro packaging, you could say that everything old is new again.

Packaging for Millennials

Millennials are the next wave of influential shoppers. Born between 1981 and 2000, studies show they will be 50 percent of the workforce by the year 2020 and will spend more than $200 billion annually, starting in 2017. Millennials are loyal to brands that treat them well, offer new experiences, and are aligned with their beliefs. That’s why it’s important that packaging appeals to this generation in the best way.

Joseph Anthony, a millennial marketing expert and CEO of HERO Group, has worked with some of the world’s leading brands such as Pfizer, Nintendo, Pepsi and Nike, says Millennials look for a personal connection to their preferred brands and are more likely to buy a product if it makes them feel special through this personal connection or the idea of exclusivity.

A new report from Mintel, Marketing to Millennials, revealed limiting the availability of a product creates a unique purchase experience in which brands effectively satisfy the pronounced desire of Millennials to have the latest, greatest and most exclusive products. It notes that offering a limited-time-only rollout of personalized packaging has the ability to create unique connections with consumers who might be mulling a purchase.UnknownDigital Plays a Role

The role of packaging in the digital space plays more of a brand-building role than in traditional brick and mortar shopping environments. In social media, packaging may not have to do the job of shelf impact and differentiation, but there’s an opportunity to play with brand elements in a simpler, more iconic way that makes consumers want to share across their social channels.

For example, packaging that includes quick-response (QR) codes right on the label gives consumers immediate access to a community that is also participating and purchasing the same products as they are.

Recent examples of brands doing this include Coca Cola, Frito-Lay’s and Heinz.

Lorrie Frear, an associate professor in package design and packaging science at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, N.Y., says that when communicating information about a brand, it is critical that brand managers and designers consider mobile as a key component of the entire brand strategy and not as an add-on

“Consumers use devices in making buying decisions quickly, so be sure that information is easy to find on the packaging and not small or hidden,” she says. “The user experience is critical to acquiring return customers, so be sure that any interaction takes less than a few seconds to accomplish and that the destination is reached within three clicks.”UnknownIn Vogue

A big trend in packaging with Millennials in mind is reseal. Over the last few years, the snack aisle has seen more and more packaging with reseal tabs to allow consumers to eat a handful and then reseal the packaging for later.

There are a few main benefits to this type of packaging, particularly for Millennials. It’s convenient and portable for their busy lifestyles; it promotes healthy snacking as many of these items are pre-cut, peeled fruit; and the food stays fresher longer using a moisture vapor film barrier.

Ryan Lupberger, founder of Cleancult, which delivers non-toxic laundry pods, designed his packaging with Millennials in mind. The company’s market research has shown that Millennials want to buy responsible products, but are actually 23 percent less likely to purchase a “green” brand.

“We saw that Millennials wanted two things. They wanted packaging that could be recycled, but they also wanted this packaging to be durable and design focused,” he says. “Most were not interested in packaging that signified it was cheaper or just eco-friendly. They care about purchasing products that combine design, convenience, and responsible packaging. They are not willing to sacrifice one of these things for a more eco-friendly package.”

Millennials also seem to care about humor in the opening experience of the packaging. Companies like Naturebox and Dollar Shave Club have done well because they combined all three things with a focus on humor.

Sustainable Packaging

While packaging design is crucial to set your product apart from competitors, a recent Asia Pulp & Paper study found that packaging appearance, including design, is less of a factor for purchasing than one might think. According to the research, Millennials are placing less focus on packaging design and demanding more functional and sustainable packaging. In fact, only 21 percent of Millennials surveyed indicated design as the most important feature when making purchasing decisions.

Reducing the volume of packaging – and the types of materials used – continues to be a good way to improve functionality and the sustainability of a product’s packaging and a goal of many companies around the globe. It not only makes sense from a business standpoint but also from a sustainability and customer relations standpoint.

Companies are discovering that one way to ensure and build customer loyalty is to prevent situations that may cause a delay in opening their packages. The simple solution is to utilize packaging that can be easily opened – no tools required. Paper-related products are not only the most frustration-free type of packaging, but they’re also one of the most recyclable and sustainable at this point.

Busch + NASCAR = Awesome Branding and Packaging

Busch Light No. 4 Car

Anheuser-Busch is creating limited-edition packaging throughout the 2016 NASCAR season and celebrating the brand’s return to the sport of racing by leveraging its packaging assets via its racing platform.

“Busch obviously has a great track record and strong roots in NASCAR and the sport of racing overall. We’re thrilled to be back,” says Chelsea Phillips, senior director, US Value Brands, Anheuser-Busch. “Our marketing efforts already focused on our long-running association with outdoor pursuits, especially those who enjoy hunting and fishing. We’re able to leverage the racing platform to amplify these initiatives, taking advantage of the natural synergies that take place across our interests in NASCAR, hunting and fishing.”

For example, the paint schemes for Kevin Harvick’s No. 4 Chevrolet are heavily inspired by the look of its iconic can. Every time Harvick’s car is seen—whether it’s during a race or on social media—fans make an instant connection to the Busch product.

Harvick has been very involved in the process since Day One. The goal was to create highly visual cans that would resonate with the company’s core target—passionate outdoorsmen and fishermen. The cans display some of the most popular species of fish that are found in our nation’s lakes and streams.Busch Fishing Angler + Trophy Cans_“When we approached Kevin with the idea of using the No. 4 car as a platform to launch our fishing campaign, he was instantly on board,” Phillips says. “He’s an avid outdoorsmen himself, so it just made perfect sense and feels super authentic to us.”

Overall, Busch’s “Here’s to Earning It” tagline and overall brand persona are a perfect fit for NASCAR, and this sponsorship has resonated strongly with racing enthusiasts.

“Due to our brand’s deep racing roots and dedication to outdoor pursuits, we’re able to put some eye-catching designs on the track on race day,” Phillips says. “In addition to the standard Busch and Busch Light paint schemes, we fielded a Busch fish car paint scheme at Talladega, and we’ll have a retro car for the Southern 500 at Darlington in September, reminiscent of Cale Yarborough’s iconic 1979 Daytona 500 car.”

Busch-Fishing-Meets-RacingSince its initial design, the branding and packaging has evolved. For instance, it’s cut down on the number of species featured on the packaging so that folks can attempt to collect all varieties. Specifically regarding the limited-edition packaging—which inspired the look of the Busch fish car that ran at Talladega—all Busch and Busch Light packaging was converted beginning May 8 to feature one of four unique fish cans, or the ultimate prize: the brand new gold trophy can.

Can a Brother Get Some Weird Packaging???

As you have probably noticed, weirdness is a theme that has been used regularly in product marketing, and for many years. That said, one advertising campaign that we recently came across got us thinking, and as it turns out, writing. Trolli recently launched a new campaign that embraces weird in all its glory, from the taglines (“weirdly awesome”) to the ads to the original and co-created microcontent.
No doubt Trolli (and its ad agency, Periscope) took note of recent ad campaigns in a variety of industries that brought the weirdness. In the confectionary category, Skittles jumped on the weird train a few years ago with a hilariously weird campaign crafted by TBWA\Chiat\Day. Skittles creative has since maintained a reasonable level of weirdness. Similarly, most of you are certainly familiar with the weird ad campaigns that help revive P&G’s Old Spice brand, or the awkwardly weird Southern Comfort campaign that borrows from the awkward films of Wes Andersen (Royal Tenenbaums, et al), Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite) and others.

So why does weird work in marketing, and is it here to stay? In our opinion, yes to the latter. And as to the former, weird is a great (and easy) way to stand out in a digital landscape where content marketing is king yet truly engaging content is hard to find. Weird, by definition, is different, edgy, and eccentric. Weird does not require a storyteller to follow a formula or any conventions, as comedic or dramatic storytelling do. Weird is off the reservation, without any rules, and littered with randomness. And the weirder the better. Given the need to produce a constant stream of original and interesting content in the modern digital world, weird is a relatively easy solution that can be quickly created, iterated, and distributed. And more importantly, we humans just seem to be instinctively drawn to awkward and/or weird things. Maybe its something supernatural, or maybe it has to do with our “morbid curiosity,” as highlighted in this video. One way or another, weird works, its easier than being funny, and its not going anywhere.

Sooooo… where does that leave us? Well, Works Design is a branding and package design company, so naturally we got to thinking about weird packaging, and weird branding. Funny, but as common as weird advertising is, its just as uncommon to see a large national brand experiment with weird packaging. The ad below from Ricola is an example of weird packaging, but it seems that this oddly innovative package design was just used for print ads in Germany and did not go into production:
In most cases, weird packaging is left for student work or small (often international) boutique brands that will do anything to stand out on the shelf. Below are a few examples.Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 8.59.48 AMWith that said, does weird not work at the point of purchase, whether on product packaging or on in-store signage? Might there be an opportunity for larger brands to experiment with “weird” innovative package designs to win at the shelf with unique structural packaging or graphics?

Maybe… or maybe not.

But one thing is for sure: when a brand’s messaging and advertising is as eccentric and innovative as Old Spice…

…it feels a little uneven and disappointing when this is how their products are represented on the shelf.Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 9.17.50 AMWhat do you think?

10 Package Design Trends for 2015

Package design trends tend to change every year and while some trends can come and go, we have highlighted 10 of our favorite trends below, which we believe are here to stay.

1. Bold Shapes and Colors

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Featuring bold geometric inspired patterns and an array of eye-catching colors is one way to instantly grab your audience’s attention.

2. Transparency

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Opaque white typography is typically printed on transparent items, which allows the product inside to be showcased. It is simplistic, modern, refined, and lets the product speak for itself.

3. Kraft Paper

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Kraft paper has been an increasingly popular packaging material choice since 2013. The sustainable material can serve as the perfect canvas for a designer to explore their creativity.

4. Globalization

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Packaging inspired by shipping, freight, and travel reflects its global nature and adventurous spirit and appeals to a wider audience. Referencing particular destinations around the world, or flavors from those areas of the world, on your packaging can also transform any ordinary item into a gift.

5. Black Contrast and Black Matte

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Black, white, and pure contrast instantly attracts the eye, so they don’t need to rely on bright colors or imagery to stand apart from the other items on the shelf. Black matte is also seeing its way into this trend, especially when it comes to liquor and beer packaging.

6. Watercolor

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Watercolor tends to evoke a feeling of calm, so adding watercolor based illustrations can make customers want to sit back and relax with the products.

7. Pure White

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Beginning with a pure white canvas and layering colors on top can really make them sing. The result is a bold design that is colorful, but refined.

8. Bring Life to the Product

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Using whimsical illustrations, pastel colors, and fun imagery can make customers feel good about the product before they’ve even used it. The branding should be able to engage with the consumer from the shelf so they are more inclined to choose it.

9. Sustainable and Green Packaging

package design trends

More and more people are doing their part to help the environment. Choosing green, socially responsible packaging is good for your business, the environment, and your bottom dollar.

Most designers believe in the standard that your packaging should be able to stay on the shelf for approximately three to five years. Unless your business has the funds and time for rebranding efforts more often than every three years, it is important that your packaging has staying power.

10. Convenience

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Approximately 1/3 of the U.S. population is currently made up of the “New Millennials” or “Gen Y”, which are people born between the mid-1970s and the late 1990s. They have a heavier reliance on convenience and are willing to pay a bit more for higher quality and convenience, like packaging that is more lightweight, contains fewer materials, or has that DIY feel.

The Art (and Science) of Club Store Package Design

club store package designIf we told you that Costco is the 3rd largest retailer on earth, would you be surprised?  Yes?  Well, you are not alone.  Few people realize just how large and prominent the club store industry has become.  Moreover, it has only gotten started, with the industry as a whole expected to grow at a 6% annual clip.

While the club store channel presents a tremendous opportunity for both large and small brands alike, it is also a very specialized retail environment with its own set of rules, conventions and potential pitfalls.  One of the biggest keys to success in the club store channel is understanding the what buyers and consumers look for in club store package design (hint: its much different than traditional package design).

Below is a SlideShare presentation that goes into detail about industry background, best practices and trends in the world of club store package design.  The slideshow is based on a presentation that we gave at the Packaging That Sells Conference in Chicago in October 2014.  Enjoy, and we would love to hear your thoughts and/or questions.

7 Tips to Make Your Holiday Packaging Memorable

This time of year millions and millions of Americans rev up their holiday engines and get into the holiday spirit. In line with that spirit, it has become increasingly common to see themed holiday packaging on the shelves, for short-run and/or limited edition products.  Given that, brands shouldn’t just get into the spirit – they should capitalize on it. Now that we are in the stretch run to the holidays, we thought it was appropriate to list some of our favorite ways to make your holiday packaging stand out.

1. Add Non-Religious Holiday Elements

Limited Edition Packaging DesignLimited Edition PackagingYou don’t need to choose a certain holiday or religion to get in the holiday spirit. Stick with things like holiday color palettes, traditional holiday decorations, and non-religious characters, like snowmen. This will appeal to a mass audience and will help you steer clear of alienating any particular group.

2. Make It a GiftLimited Edition Packaging Design

Everything from a small bag of candy to an expensive trip around the world can be given as a gift. Whether your product could be considered a stocking stuffer or the main event, make sure it can be given as a gift. For instance, by simply changing your packaging to a red and green, silver and gold, or blue and white theme to welcome the winter holidays, you can make your product instantly giftable. Consider also adding a gift name tag with a blank “To:” and “From:”

3. Create a Gift Set

Limited Edition Packaging Design

Gift sets are an easy made for convenient gifting, and that is why they always tend to pop up around this time of year. If you have a somewhat varied product line and can combine a numerous products into a complementary set, that may be your best bet.  Alternatively, the gift set concept also provides an opportunity to experiment with co-branding by adding complementary products from third party companies.

4. Go Limited Edition

Limited Edition Packaging Design

Everyone wants to feel like they got (or gifted) an exclusive item. By creating limited edition packaging design for a particular holiday, your customers can feel like they received something truly unique that will be available for a limited time only. Find a way to make your customers feel special.

5. Make It Luxurious

Limited Edition Packaging Design

This is the time of year when people want to feel luxurious. They want to give gifts that make their loved ones feel special. Taking your packaging up a notch at this time of year may cost a bit extra, but shoppers are usually willing to pay it during the holidays.  Pearlescent or other specialty inks, innovative dielines, unique packaging structures and engraved/embossed lettering can take a pedestrian package and luxurify it.

6. Pre-Giftwrap It

Limited Edition Packaging Design

If possible, use the outer packaging as a type of giftwrap. This will help shoppers instantly identify the product as a holiday item, while encouraging them to purchase the item with a gifting purpose in mind.

7. Bold, Colorful Packaging for Kids and AdultsLimited Edition Packaging DesignLimited Edition Packaging Design

Colorful packaging with bold, light-hearted illustration will almost always stand out in a crowd. Children are also more drawn to friendly colorful packaging, so choosing holiday themes and elements during the specific time of year can appeal to both kids and their parents.

All About Club Store Packaging

Club Store Packaging

We are proud to announce that The Dieline has published our new article titled “Designing Club Store Packaging.”  The piece was written by our very own Kory Grushka, and features a nuts and bolts look at the club store industry, with a focus on club store packaging and design.  Below is an excerpt, and the full article can be found here.

Packaging for club stores is much different than packaging for grocery or other channels. The main difference is that club stores merchandize their products on pallets stacked with product, and the pallets create large billboards that can (and must) be used to capture a consumer’s attention. Given the minimal product assortment and the very large pallet displays, packages must both stand out on the pallet and communicate very quickly. Various rules of thumb have been established to capture the idea that a club store package must identify the product and quickly convey the core message. Whether it’s a “four- second rule,” a “five-second rule”, or some other rule of thumb, club store packaging must allow the customer to swiftly identify the product and the key selling points.

A New Look for Philadelphia (Cream Cheese)

In its April 4, 2014 issue, The Wall Street Journal featured a redesigned packaging system for Kraft’s iconic Philadelphia cream cheese brand.  The new food packaging design features structural and graphical updates that make the packages more modern and enticing, while at the same time more efficient from a functional perspective.

The old packaging caused a number of problems, in addition to being somewhat dated and lacking any significant appetite appeal. For instance, the round package would constantly spin around during stocking or shopper shifting, which caused the branding to be obscured.  Below is a look at the old food packaging design…

Kraft's Philadelphia new food packaging design

And the new package is below.  As you can see, they really boosted the appetite appeal with a splash of chunky cream cheese “schmear.”  The structure also changed, while making them elongated with a ridge on the lid to prevent them from rotating on the shelf.  And interestingly, they dropped the Kraft logo and added the “Since 1872″ line to emphasize the product’s longevity and disconnect it from the big corporate Kraft brand.  All in all, a more fuctional, pretty and appealing design that stayed within the framework of the Philadelphia brand.

Kraft's Philadelphia new food packaging design

Click here to read the original article in the Wall Street Journal.

Holiday 2013 Craft Beer Series

Works Design's 2013 holiday craft beer packaging

During the holidays, Works Design Group likes to give our clients a little something special, presented in our most creative format. This year, we decided that nothing could be more special than a series of four artfully designed craft beer labels. As a team we came up with some fun, wintery ideas to translate into hand-drawn labels.  Printing on Neenah Paper’s premium metallic line brought the designs to life. And of course, what’s the value of interesting beer packaging without great beer?  We enlisted some help from Sly Fox Brewing Company and chose some of their most festive brews on which to slap our kick-ass labels. Good beer, awesome clients and specialty designs? We’ll drink to that.


- Works Design Group

Works Design's 2013 holiday craft beer packaging

Works Design's 2013 holiday craft beer labels


Works Design's 2013 holiday craft beer labels


Works Design's 2013 holiday craft beer packaging


Works Design's 2013 holiday craft beer packaging

Works Design's 2013 holiday craft beer packaging

Works Design's 2013 holiday craft beer packaging

Works Design's 2013 holiday craft beer packaging

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