Yogurt packaging is not black & white

A you’re probably aware by now, I make my living as a packaging designer. As such, I’m constantly looking at stuff. Whether it’s the art and information on a cereal box, or how IKEA products are so efficiently packed in those otherwise plain brown cartons. It’s all part of what we, as consumers, experience when we seek out and buy this– stuff.

I’m also the primary food shopper in my family, so I’m in the supermarket on a regular basis. And, whenever I’m out and about shopping, I ¬†have a habit of looking at the product that’s on the shelves. I’m sure a lot of people do that– maybe not in as conscious a way as designers but they do it. And after a while, whether you’re aware or not, you start to see patterns. Color selections. packaging shapes, wording.

Next time you’re in the store, take a look at the soda aisle. What color is the house brand’s cola? What about their ginger ale? Now look at the name brands. What color are they? It sure isn’t a coincidence.

But I digress

Carbonated drinks aren’t what made me think of this. It was yogurt. Walk past the yogurt case in the store and– with a couple of exceptions (I’m looking at you, Activia)– they will most likely look like this:

Dannon blueberry yogurt packYoplait strawberry yogurt pack

In short, lots of white, with accents of the brand/line colors. Oh, and the hero shot of the fruit or flavor inside. Even the upscale/gourmet brands follow these conventions.

So, when I saw this last week, it made me stop.

Stop the presses– who is that?

This is a new offering from Yoplait. I think it’s called “YQ by Yoplait”, and a couple of things became evident:

  • It’s positioned as a more premium offering. Muted tones hint at more sophistication.They don’t feel the need to be bold and screamy with their colors.
  • ¬†I’m not their desired demographic. The colors and overall design have a more feminine feel. They’re clearly targeting women with this product, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they roll out tv ads reinforcing this.
  • This ain’t your everyday type of yogurt. A gray cup? Off the top of my head, I cannot think of any other yogurt brand that has executed in such a way.

We’re still talking about yogurt?

I didn’t pick up any (though I might this week, just out of curiosity, demographics be damned!), but at first glance, this type of category disruption was certainly effective, and it made me consciously think about why.

  • It got me to stop and look at the product. This is the first step and indicator of an effective pack design. Cutting through the noise (in this case, quite literally “white noise”) and getting the attention of the consumer.
  • It created curiosity in sampling the product. I may not buy one today. I may not buy one next month. But one of these days I just might go “hmmm”… and pick one or two up.
  • It got me talking about it. Do I even need to explain this one?

These are 3 things to always keep in mind when designing a new pack. We may not always be successful in achieving these (for a number of different reasons), but we certainly need to try.

Now, I have to start thinking about that grocery list…

 

 

 

Rise of the Machine | Random Thought for July 6, 2018

When’s the last time you were asked to remember someone’s phone number? What about basic directions to get somewhere? I got to thinking about that this morning after listening to a replay on a radio show where they were taking calls on weird and crazy things that have happened as a result of wonky navigation app directions.

Old(ish), but not a fogey

I’m a Gen X’er. I’m in my 40s, so I’m part of this last “analog” population. I’ve seen the explosion of computer use. The transition from LPs and video tapes to CDs and DVDs, and now streaming. I remember having to carry loose change if I needed to call home while I was out. My dad had maps in his glove compartment, and I would help navigate on long car rides. I also needed to remember those numbers I wanted to call, or, I suppose, write them down in an address book. Come to think of it, when’s the last time you HAD an address book. The last one I bought was over 20 years ago (I’m sure I have it in a box somewhere).

I still have a stack of scraps of paper with usernames and passwords that I mean to transfer to a notebook (I just can’t bring myself to use one of those password managers). There’s a core set of websites I visit daily, and I key in login info by hand. Not only is it good mental exercise, but it’s also a way to not be dependent on technology.

This doesn’t mean I’m some sort of tech-averse luddite (I know someone like that, and believe me, I DO NOT want to be that type of person). My smartphone is my go-to piece of tech that is with me pretty much everywhere. I love my DVR. Spotify is basically my source for music discovery. I’m comfortable in that world. I embrace it.

the takeaway

And that’s it– sure, technology can, and does, make our lives easier. But it shouldn’t be at the expense of losing what, for lack of a better metaphor, is part of what makes us human.

Marketing, money, and time | Random Thought for May 30, 2018

I was listening to the radio on the drive to work this morning, and there was talk about a pilot program in Sacramento where digital automobile license plates are being made available.

(link to the article on The Sacramento Bee here).

It got me thinking… Let’s presume this program gets rolled out statewide. How long will it take until someone— marketers, maybe even the State of California– figures out a way to monetize this via advertising?

I’m not implying that it’s a bad thing one way or the other. But it is something to think about.

Do androids dream of obsolete men? | Random Thought for January 9, 2018

The title, for those unfamiliar, is a combination of the title for the novel “Do Andoids Dream of Electric Sheep” and the Twilight Zone episode “The Obsolete Man”.

I was listening to a piece on NPR about the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) out in Las Vegas. The conversation revolved a lot around automation. And it got me thinking…

We can automate a lot of things– manufacturing processes, data analysis, transportation (well, we’re collectively working on that). So what else is there? Can design be automated? As a community of designers, we argue often that design is ultimately about problem-solving and communicating. So, if we’re talking about finding the best solution, then conceivably you can establish a set of rules and parameters to reach the best possible solution.

And if we continue distilling the argument, we could reach the conclusion that design, being about solving problems, can be broken down into a set of algorithms and rules. And if we’re able to do that, what does that do to– and for– designers? Do we then become utterly obsolete? What does that do to design itself? What does an automated design look like?

And if we’re able to do that– what’s next?

I don’t pretend to have the answers to any of this. But listening to the conversation on the radio gave me pause and made me think about what, professionally, things might look like 5, 10, 20 years down the road.

Something to think about.