Brand Equity is Overrated


Andy Warhol once famously claimed that America’s tradition of mass production was what made it a great country. He said:

“You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you can know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke…all the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it…and you know it.”

This kind of thinking, that every unit of a product should be exactly alike forever, has been part of the foundation of branding strategy for decades. Consumers had, in the past, relied on consistency as a measure of quality. But in 2017, the relationship that shoppers have (and what they want to have) with the brands that they buy has changed. Consumers are less trusting of big brands, and overreliance on sameness may be costing companies business with modern shoppers who are looking for more personal experiences.

Even Coca-Cola, Warhol’s shining symbol of mass production, is embracing the trend towards customization in their bottle designs. They took a huge risk with their enormously successful “Share a Coke” campaign, where they replaced their legendary logo with 1,000 different names.


Not only did this create a smart, personalized experience for consumers, it also showed that the company understood the need for branding that lends itself to social media engagement. A big part of the customization trend is that the evolving media landscape has transformed company-consumer interactions, so that there are more conversations and less one-way dialogue. The “Share a Coke” bottles made consumers feel excited about drinking something that has been in their family’s fridge for generations, and by risking their brand equity, Coca-Cola saw soft drink sales rise more than 2%.



The company has taken this concept one step further with their “It’s Mine” campaign. Using HP’s SmartStream Mosaic software, Coca-Cola produced millions of glass Diet Coke bottles, each with a completely unique design. Purchasing one of these bottles means owning the only Diet Coke in the world that looks the way that it does – no movie star or President can drink one like it. This is the future of branding.

When Tazo tea first came onto the scene in the 90’s, the spiritual, mythical look was considered innovative and modern — as The Dieline put it, the packaging “really represented the times”. For years Tazo was associated with that new-age image, and the design remained virtually unchanged for about two decades, even after the brand joined forces with Starbucks. Once the coffee giant completed their own redesign in 2012, they decided that it was time to bring Tazo into the new millennium. What was once a fun standout in the boring tea market was now corny and outdated, and nearly every visual element that defined Tazo was thrown out. In its place was a clean, white background,  with the flavors present in each variety clearly displayed in a neat little picture. The rebrand here was so successful because the company understood what was valuable about the product and maintained its spirit with the new look, while still being unafraid to go in a radically different direction than what fans were used to.



Tazo post-redesign

What is also interesting about the redesign is that nowhere on the packaging does it make any claim to be affiliated with Starbucks. Starbucks is one of the most recognizable and beloved brands in the world, and if the company was trying to introduce the tea to a new generation, then the association could have been a potentially valuable asset. The fact that they distanced the packaging from the Starbucks brand could indicate how the company anticipated consumers may come to feel about big brands.

Unfortunately, years of pink slime exposés and soy chicken sandwich scares have conditioned consumers to be wary of brands that could be considered “Big Food”. Today’s shoppers are drawn to brands that seem to care about them and their families, and the reputation of national brands as a whole is that they care far more about finding ethical shortcuts in order to increase profits. One of the core tenets of brand equity is name association, and if all shoppers can think of is artificial flavors and hormones, then brand equity is worthless.

Hellmann’s has also recently had a redesign to better appeal to contemporary shoppers. The “deli-inspired” look and feel of the product gives off a more wholesome vibe, and the photographs of eggs play into consumers’ desire for fresh, easily understandable ingredients.



The color palette isn’t an extraordinarily dramatic change from what Hellmann’s had before, but the jar does look different enough that many longtime buyers searching for that distinct yellow label will have a more difficult time finding it. Some may even abandon the brand altogether, afraid that Hellmann’s is either now “too fancy” for them or that the change in design signifies some kind of major difference in flavor. Hellmann’s knows that they face these risks, and yet has chosen to ditch their iconic packaging anyway in order to stay relevant.  Ultimately, relevance does matter more than consumer loyalty.

Some companies are forgoing their usual branding in order to compete in a specific local market. For example, Airbnb, which has been hugely successful in this new anti-big-brand economy, just announced that they are not even keeping their name consistent across all markets. In China, they are now calling themselves “Aibingyi”, which is meant to be easier for Chinese users to pronounce. While it is not unprecedented for businesses to change their names when entering different markets, Airbnb faces unique risks in that this could cost them users that travel internationally, a group that is quickly growing. If a frequent Airbnb user from Sweden is vacationing in Shanghai, they may overlook the unfamiliar Aibingyi.

Brand equity, while important, is overvalued by big brands. More than consistency, today’s shoppers value niche traits like individuality, freshness, and smallness. Scarred by many years of health scandals, consumers do not have faith in big brands that way that they used to, and brand recognition is no longer the coveted feature that it once was. In 2017, companies that hold on too tightly to their same old branding risk falling behind in the new economy.

5 Emerging Packaging Design Trends

While each client and project are different, knowing what design trends are more popular can get you going in the right direction and will give you an idea of how consumers will interact with the product. Consider mobile-engaged packaging, personalized packaging, and digital print to create more personalized experiences for consumers. To engage consumers on a personal level and provide them with an experience through packaging, consider the following packaging design trends.


t-shirt-packaging-design-the-t-shirt-01Consumers are overwhelmed with the choices available to them, so sometimes, it’s best to just keep things simple. Clean, clear labeling and minimalist packaging can help to get the point across quickly, with no fluff. It also creates brand transparency and increases buyers’ confidence. When consumers are looking for products that can simplify their lives, they are attracted to minimal packaging that is simple (not boring) and instantly answers the questions they are asking. By identifying what the consumer needs and expressing how your product can fulfill that need (in no uncertain terms), your packaging will be more powerful and instill trust with your audience.

Geometric Shapes

jeannieburnside_meld_5Screen-Shot-2016-01-15-at-2.50.19-PM-768x321Geometric patterns and shapes are visually appealing and can fit nearly any product. Using familiar colors and shapes can provide a simplistic approach that reaches consumers in a nostalgic way.


038a433ff8e7485a5846c156265aea80static1.squarespace-2Old-fashioned packaging design focuses on the good ole’ days. Modernizing old design trends and presenting vintage packaging, with emphasis on calligraphy and letterpress, will relate your packaging to something of higher value.

Enhanced Shelf Life

05967f81b443a987d367f4763a7ba606Most designers believe in the standard that your packaging should be able to stay on the shelf for approximately three to five years. However, it can remain on your customer’s home shelves for just as long. That’s why it’s important to design unique packaging that looks good both in the store and at home. By accounting for how it will look on the shelves in the store, you can attract more new customers. By accounting for how it will look on the shelves at home, you can keep your current customers satisfied. It also encourages consumers to leave the packaging out on the counters more often (instead of hiding them in the cabinet), which results in free advertising for anyone who sees the item.

Sustainable Packaging

c8371dabd11828690cc7e2df6231717apd-19Sustainable packaging offers a more environmentally friendly option, which can still be functional and beautiful. It can also empower social consciousness overall. Choosing green, socially responsible packaging is good for your business, the environment, and your bottom dollar. Successful sustainable packaging needs to be less disposable and have the smallest possible impact on the environment. This can include using recycled materials to produce the packaging and/or encouraging customers to repurpose the packaging after the contents are gone.

Have you noticed other emerging design trends that we missed?

[INFOGRAPHIC] Branding the POTUS: Donald Trump vs Hillary Clinton

Political branding can be a little stale, and often follows the same tired template. That is not the case, however, when the politicians involved are running for President of the United States. We were inspired by some of the things we’ve seen throughout the 2016 Presidential campaign, and we wanted to share some of the branding highlights and lowlights for each of the candidates. Just like their campaigns, the branding of Donald Trump vs Hillary Clinton has been truly extraordinary, and below are some of thoughts that are worth sharing. donald trump vs hillary clinton branding infographic

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Some Thoughts on the 2015 Fancy Food Show

Earlier this week we sent Kory Grushka, our Director of Business Development, to the Fancy Food Show in NYC to study up about the latest trends in the world of retail food. He was also tasked with gorging himself with hundreds of thousands of small gourmet food samples. To that end, we are happy to report that Kory was up to the task, as both objectives were met with resounding success. Below are some of his thoughts and observations from the show:

Obviously this year’s show was full of natural, organic, gluten-free and other healthy food products – both new and old. These are trends that are clearly here to stay and many (if not most) of the new product development out there seem to be focused on these areas. International flavors is another trend that has been picking up steam in the packaged food industry for the last few years, and was all over the place this year as well.

Kitchens of Africa

Staying on the international flavor theme, Kitchens of Africa is a startup out of North Carolina that is bringing native African flavors to market with an interesting new line of cooking sauces and marinades. Their products stood out as bringing to market some delicious and unique flavors, while riding high on the international flavor trend (which is here to stay).

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Apinya Thai Food Co.

Staying with the international flavor trend, Apinya Thai Food Co. recently rolled out a new product packaging line for their Thai chili sauces that caught our eye. The packaging features an upside-down clear tube container that showcases the vibrant colors of the sauces, while prominently featuring the brand name in Thai letters (rather than English). Its a very compelling package structure and design and obviously capitalizes on the sriracha craze.

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Guiness Chips

A couple of really interesting licensed products caught our eye as well. Some of you may have seen Guiness Chips before… these are potato chips that are infused with the famous Guiness stout flavor, and they are RIDICULOUSLY delicious.

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They launched in Europe a couple of years ago and were first introduced into the US market in January 2015. Very unique product and flavor profile, and a great example of logical licensing in the food business. This is not Jack Daniels lip balm… this is a complementary flavor and a recognizable brand extending into a why-didnt-I-think-of-that product category. As any bartender knows, Beer, chips, pretzels and nuts are the life blood of any bar… why shouldnt they go together? Just surprising that you dont see more beer/chips combinations… yet.

Sriracha Stuff

For years, we were surprised that the original Sriracha brand – Huy Fong Foods – did not extend their brand or sauce into other food categories. To that end, I wrote this article back in 2013 which questioned why there were not more sriracha products on the market. Naturally then, I was absolutely shocked when I stumbled across the booth for POP! Gourmet Foods, a popcorn company, and I saw this on their table:

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As you can see, its a shmorgasboard of Huy Fong Foods Sriracha-branded products, from croutons to ketchup to potato chips!  All are co-branded with the POP! brand. Now, you might be asking yourself, what does a popcorn guy know about ketchup or mayo or hummus??? Probably not that much. But as you can read here, somehow the owner of the POP! brand was able to persuade Huy Fong Foods to grant them a license not just for popcorn, but for a ton of other unrelated food products. While it may be a little late in the Sriracha game, its still amazing that a popcorn company was able to license this super exclusive (and reclusive) brand for all these random products. Hope it works out for them, but really more shocked than anything.


Campbell’s Taps Works Design for Organic Soup Line

We are proud to announce that Package Design Magazine featured one of our recent branding and package design projects in their April 2015 issue – Campbell’s Organic Soups. Organic Food PackagingThe article in Package Design Magazine (find it here) details the process that we went through to help introduce Campbell’s into the organic soup aisle. From typography choices to design hierarchy to the significance of the USDA organic seal, the article shines a light on the design process to take an organic product to market.

Eco Friendly Packs for Snacks

Going green as we have said before is a common trend and becoming more and more popular. From the way things are made to their transportation every little part counts. Another company getting involved in the eco-friendly trend is Lactalis American Group. Lactalis American Group is the maker of Sorrento, President and other cheeses.

One of their brands, Precious cheese has a product called Precious Stickster snacks. This is their newest package to move to plant based packaging. The new packaging material was developed by Clear Lam Packaging Inc. using plant-based bioplastics derived from Natureworks Ingeopolylactic acid (PLA) along with ingredients that enhance performance.

According to Clear Lam Packaging, this new material, which is 50% plant-based, generates up to 35.2% fewer greenhouse gases and uses up to 36.8% less energy than the conventional petroleum-based materials it replaces. Lactalis made the packaging change as part of its corporate sustainability commitment. (source) Clear Lam produces the proprietary bio-based layer used in the film from pellets and additives, then that film is shipped to a Lactalis production facility where its Precious Sticksters products are packaged on horizontal form/fill/seal machines.

Early reports show the finished bags have a lower carbon footprint without losing production efficiencies or impacting product performance. High-speed sealing was a critical requirement. 

PoP Designs

So a lot of this blog and inspiration that we look at tends to be package design, advertising and so on. We never really mention or showcase any of the other types of marketing for example a point of purchase display (PoP).

When it comes to the idea of a PoP, some consumers overlook them, others find them very helpful. Did you know that there is a competition for these? Take a look at these below, PepsiCo and 3M were gold and platinum winners in the Convenience Stores and Speciality Store channels.


The 3M display shipper for its new apple-shaped Post-It note dispensers has an attention-grabbing header and the waterfall layering shelves that allowed the product to be shopped easily.

The PepsiCo’s Mountain Dew Cooler Door Oversize Bottle display is a large graphic replication of a bottle that used untapped real estate to draw attention to the brand.

What do you think?


SO cool, it chills itself!

It is always important to keep up with the latest trends when it comes to  graphic design, brand identities and of course package design. Trends in the design world have been to keep things simple-using clean lines and less colors. In the packaging world, we see on shelves and hear in the news about going green- using less materials or materials that have been recycled and so on.

So what about a beverage that does not need to be refrigerated? A product that will cut down on energy usage?  A can that can chill itself? I read this article from  Package Design Magazine and could not help but share:

Scheduled to launch the end of the Q1 2012, West Coast Chill Pure Energy Drink will be packaged in a self-chilling can. The can uses the EPA Stratospheric Award winning Microcool technology, developed, patented, and licensed by Joseph Company International, which is eco-friendly using CO2 reclaimed from the atmosphere, and activated carbon ascertained from a renewable vegetable source. An activation button on the can allows the beverage to drop 30 degrees within minutes. The Chill Can does not require any energy and eliminates the need for any refrigeration as it Chills on Demand™ anytime anywhere.

“The Chill Can will revolutionize the beverage industry, and the way the consumer perceives a cold drink,” according to Joseph Company International CEO, Mitchell J. Joseph. There have also been special recycling bins made for these cans. If they are re-used this will help reduce the energy drink’s carbon footprint.

So–this product is doing a little of everything!

Click here to find out more

Holiday Cheer

As 2011 comes to a close, we here at Works Design Group think about everything that has come our way throughout this year.

Even though they say times are tough out there, we have still managed to keep our doors open. We would like to personally thank each and every one of our clients–current, new and future, for choosing our team here at Works Design Group. You challenge and push us to make us a better team of designers. We are grateful for the opportunities that we are presented with and the ability to continue to satisfy each client that comes our way.

For 2012, with high hopes, we look forward to further expanding our team, capabilities and clientele. We hope to push ourselves further and showcase all that we are capable of here. We wish you and yours a very Happy Holiday Season and Best Wishes for 2012!



Hot Wheels Record Jump

Hot Wheels Jump

Watch Tanner Foust break the world record by jumping 332 feet in a life sized Hot Wheels car at the opening ceremonies of the Indianapolis 500!