redesigns that matter

Trolling through recent news from Packaging Digest, I noticed the juxtaposition of two stories that make a great point.

The first story was about a packaging re-design undertaken by Wonder Bread.  The change, by Willoughby Design, was intended to evolve the brand to appeal to an older and more nutrition-conscious audience.  They adapted the brand’s iconic balloons, fiddled with the typeface, and changed the logo.


The second bit featured another bread manufacturer that re-designed its packaging — Silver Hill.  Silver Hill’s bread line up of sprouted organic breads is also targeted to health-conscious consumers.  In this case, though, the folks at Silver Hill and the design firm they hired (Karacter Design Group), took on a totally new look.

before and after
new line-up

The new designs incorporate fun colors, illustrations, and copy, bringing whimsy and personality to a dry (pardon the pun) message about the nutritional value of the products.   Importantly, the new packaging stands out on shelf amidst the sea of brown that typifies the bread aisle in grocery stores.

Given that I’m not a design expert, my POV on these two packaging changes is strictly from a brand perspective.  It seems to me Wonder has only tweaked a few design elements in such unimaginative ways that any change in brand perception the brand managers were trying to achieve is unlikely to occur.  On the other hand, Silver Hill has made a bolder, albeit riskier move that is likely to get people’s attention and prompt a reconsideration.

It seems to me that if a company is going to invest the time and energy to redesign a brand’s packaging, they should make it a change that matters.  No?

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  • Thanks for sharing these two packaging examples, and interesting question.

    I think that your conclusion is right on that a redesign should matter, but this does not necessarily mean that more changes make it matter more. There should be a valid reason to the redesign, and if that can be accomplished with less changes that works as well.

    Although I feel Silver Hill has created more relevant packaging with a distinct identity, Wonder Bread is a historic brand with significant equity which they should not jeopardize with new packaging. Remember Tropicana?

  • I think that’s right, Jacco. Iconic brands can’t go overboard. I’m interested in what you both think about Cheetos new packaging. http://twitpic.com/5d2tb. Like Silver Hill, Cheetos makes a huge shift — in this case toward the trendy artisan portrayal of product against a softer backdrop of the key ingredient. But the name itself and the cartoonish Chester Cheetah image doesn’t work with this artisan look.

    I’m not a design expert either, but a company has to decide (like Wonder?) whether the new design trends fit the existing consumer perception of the brand before making such drastic changes to packaging. Silver Hill can pull off the change and take better advantage of trends because consumers have no brand meaning/equity against which to measure the new design.

    What do you think?

  • hey kevin and jacco — a couple of responses:

    – re: cheetos — i don’t get the new packaging either — i agree there’s a big disconnect between the chester character and the rest of the packaging — are they targeting kids and young males who think chester is cool or are they targeting adults who are interested in food quality?? — i would think the former so why not go all out and make the entire package fit the character personality??!

    – re: “a company has to decide whether the new design trends fit the existing consumer perception of the brand” — it seems the goal of both of these redesigns was to shift consumer perceptions, so i don’t think it would be as important to fit existing perceptions as it would be to take care not to alienate existing customers — also, i bet the folks at silver hill would argue they did have existing equity to take into consideration — regardless, i do agree, less may be more and there’s a fine line iconic brands undertaking redesigns must be careful not to cross

    thanks for your comments!

  • Wow, the Cheetos packaging looks pretty awkward. I don’t know whether Frito-Lay has done any research on this, but I imagine people don’t buy Cheetos for the artisan quality. I understand they also want to emphasize the quality and natural ingredients of the snack as people expect this even for Cheetos, but why not just a smaller box that communicates this instead of hijacking the whole bag… These chips are to munch!