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…

 

 

 

To buck (conventions) or not

Sundays are usually a supermarket run for me, and, aside from getting out of the house for a bit, it’s an opportunity to walk around, explore and examine packaging and products on the shelves.

This week, as I was finishing up, I walked down the aisle containing feminine hygiene products (I think it’s also where the hand soaps are placed, since that’s something I was picking up). As I walked down the aisle, I caught these out of the corner of my eye:

Veeda-tampons-boxes

Packaging for Veeda tampons

I saw these and stopped, because they were unlike anything else that was in the aisle.

And that’s the point. So often we talk about the need to either follow design conventions established by the market leader, whether in iconography, typography, or color usage (notice, for example, that most colas are in red cans, following color standards established by Coca-Cola). On the other hand, there’s the opposite– the opportunity to lay stake to a segment of the market by differentiating from the rest of the pack. But a lot of times both approaches can miss the mark, either because of an overzealous approach to differentiating, or as a result of timidity and being afraid to actually be different.

So I found the Veeda packaging to be refreshing. To me, it managed to accomplish both. It stuck closely to some of the conventions, while steering away from others. The look and feel of the typography definitely has an air of femininity to it. The use of a simplified plant illustration, the 3-color palette on kraft stock– a stark departure from the glossy, varnished, high-contrast color palettes that have become commonplace, suggests an earthier, planet-friendly product.

Note: I checked out their website, and I found that affordable, planet-friendly products are an essential part of their story.

So, I say to the folks at Veeda– good job! You’ve managed to walk the line between common and uncommon, and made it look effective.

Short roundup of packaging that’s caught my eye

Note: I’m using the mobile app for the first time so my apologies if anything looks wonky…

A few wine labels that caught my eye recently…

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This olive oil bottle is a nice change of pace from the traditional earth tones typically found on olive oil labels and bottles.

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I noticed the other day that Ginseng Up had redesigned their labels. I remember buying Ginseng Up a lot in high school
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Design Something Every Day (#daily365)– Jan 26

I have a friend. He’s a home brewer. He’s also from Michigan, and now lives in Jersey. I decided I’d try my hand at a beer label (never really done a beverage label before). Here’s the first go-around:

©2010 rafael armstrong

I have a rough idea for another, different, look for the label. I might give that a go later on. As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome.

Branding advice from a grade-schooler

A quick anecdote of something that happened a week or so ago…

True story– I had to do some banking at Chase about a week ago, and because it was in the afternoon, I took my 6 year-old with me, rather than wait until the morning to go. Now, whenever we visit the bank, the tellers will give her a lollipop– usually red. This time, however, she got a blue something-or-the-other flavor. We completed out transaction and went on our way. When we got in the car, she commented that she liked the blue better than the red. I aked her why, and she replied that “the blue matches the bank better.” I asked her why she thought the blue “matched” better, and she replied that “the color of the bank is blue, so the blue lollipop matches better.”

And with that one sentence, my first-grader showed a keener understanding of branding than some business-owners out there.