Camel trying really hard to be cool with Williamsburg packaging

By David Kiefaber on Fri Nov 12 2010


R.J. Reynolds has been successful at marketing to children, however indirectly, but its efforts to hook those twentysomething and older are usually pathetic and weird. Its latest idea—putting the skylines of famous hipster spots like Williamsburg, Brooklyn, on Camel cigarette packaging—is pandering to the youth in ways that even Tom Wolfe would laugh at. The promotional material includes classic lines like, "It's about last call, a sloppy kiss goodbye and a solo saunter to a rock show in an abandoned building," and promises "serious street cred" for anyone who responds to their new packaging. Do they really expect this to work? People who aren't already hipsters tend to hate them (sometimes irrationally), and hipsters are by and large freeloaders who will smoke anything. Brand loyalty isn't something they engage in on any measurable scale. On the other hand, Brooklyn's reaction wasn't any better. Borough president Marty Markowitz responded to this in the lamest way possible, remarking that "when we say that Williamsburg and Brooklyn are smokin', we mean smokin' hot—not smokin' cigarettes!" Great. Any resident smoker under 35 who hears that is going to switch to Camels now just to piss him off.

Why aren't companies committed to easier-to-open packaging?

By David Kiefaber on Wed Sep 8 2010

Wrap-rage's efforts to ship things in "frustration-free packaging" (meaning no plastic cases, bubble wrap or other irritants) keeps hitting roadblocks because a lot of manufacturers, and other online retailers, are slow to adopt it. But why? It's environmentally responsible, less expensive and better for customers who hate complicated packaging. The answer, according to environmental experts like Anne Johnson of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, is that a lot of big companies drag their heels in response to change, be it fair or foul. "One of the biggest hurdles is to convince a company that it's worthwhile, or the volume is there, to sell the same product in two different formats," Johnson tells The New York Times. Stephen Lester, science director at the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, agrees, adding that "whenever you have a system set up to run your business, making any change means time and money." Which makes a certain kind of sense. But inertia isn't a good enough excuse to ignore both customers and retail giants like Amazon. Yes, "wrap rage" is pathetic, and plastic packaging isn't a curb worth tripping over. But it is wasteful of time, resources and money. Brands that don't want to come off as unsympathetic or uncooperative need to shake the lead out and find a way to incorporate simpler packaging. If nothing else, it'll give their uppity green-local-recycled product stickers that much more credibility.

Consumers loudly oppose deafening compostable SunChips bag

By David Kiefaber on Tue Aug 24 2010


Companies soliciting consumer feedback from social-networking sites should be advised that those consumers often act like petulant children. The latest example of this is SunChips' new biodegradable packaging, which is apparently too loud for 40,000 pairs of delicate ears, judging by the SORRY BUT I CAN'T HEAR YOU OVER THIS SUN CHIPS BAG group on Facebook, which is raging against the new bags. "The loudest, most annoying bag on the planet," reads one comment, while another laments that "1 week after the change I stopped buying SunChips. Used to eat 2-4 bags a week. No more! I want silence to sit and enjoy my snack, not an evil bag that makes horrible noise even sitting still!" This sounds like empty bleating, which it is, but this kind of thing works. Pepsi withdrew new designs for its Tropicana juice packaging after a couple of weeks because the response on Twitter was so overwhelmingly bitchy. Frito-Lay, which owns SunChips and is itself owned by Pepsi, is handling the criticism by resolving to come up with less annoying biodegradable bags. As ridiculous as this all seems, it's an unavoidable part of modern branding. If you're going to saturate the public with ads and milk them for content through contests and Web sites, eventually you'll have to entertain their opinions to keep them interested in your product.

Domino's soliciting public's 'pizza proverbs' to print on its boxes

By David Kiefaber on Fri Jul 23 2010


Domino's latest idea in a string of sometimes interesting, often annoying ideas is Pizza Proverbs, in which it is crowdsourcing 100-character-or-less nuggets of wisdom to print on its pizza boxes. Domino's got the ball rolling with some of its own ideas, which are a little hokey—"Life is what happens between slices" sounds like a snippet of Full House dialogue. But the fan entries aren't bad. They range from the psycho-gastronomical ("Eat a pizza at night. Dreams full of fright. Eat a pizza at day. Dreams a-okay") to the religious ("Pizza is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy") to the imitative ("A slice in one hand is better than two in the box") to the just plain weird ("The sausage doesn't fall far from the cheese"). The lines, for now, are just going on the boxes, but who knows, they might be good for use in ads, too—to distract people from Domino's newly honest product shots.

Girl on the Moon looms large on Miller High Life's new packaging

Posted on Wed May 5 2010


The old Miller High Life bottles may have reminded you of your wood-paneled basement back in the 1970s, but the new design, rolled out today, hearkens even further back. The Girl on the Moon icon, introduced with the brand in 1903, has been downplayed in recent years, but now she takes up one side of the 12-pack's design. The brand has also opted for a retro, streamlined look, which is all the rage in packaging right now. As Peter Clarke, CEO and founder of Product Ventures, noted in a recent Brandweek interview, Kraft's Ritz crackers and Oreo cookies also exhibited this "almost hyperclean" look in a Target-only rollout last year. If anything, it's a different direction from High Life's blaze orange can and deer-laden packaging from 2007, which was designed to give hunters something to get buzzed on while they were shooting at things. Seemed like a good idea at the time, I guess.

—Posted by Todd Wasserman

Six artists whip up some crazy-ass Mountain Dew bottle designs

Posted on Fri Aug 28 2009


Angry monkeys. Crazy eyes. Enormous octopi. Exactly the sort of imagery you want next to your mouth when you drink a soda. In early September, Mountain Dew will launch its third Green Label Art series, which consists of collectible aluminum soda bottles featuring designs by six contemporary artists. Each graphic is vastly different from the others, both in style and theme. One of the artists, Stephen Bliss, drew a gigantic octopus seizing a ship from the pirate era (the one before 2009). The olive-green water in the drawing looks almost as filthy as the Hudson River, which doesn't exactly give the consumer a good impression of what she's drinking. Claw Money, the first female artist of the series, drew her signature three-clawed paw with arrows winding around the bottle. While they are certainly interesting, there's really no connection between any of the six designs and Mountain Dew. Maybe the artists should have tasted the soda before setting up their easels. UPDATE: A rep for the brand wants to clarify that each of the designs was directly inspired by Mountain Dew. For example, here's Stephen Bliss talking about his octopus bottle: "I imagined there to be a world inside every bottle of Mountain Dew—an adventure—a huge ocean of Dew with sea creatures. The scene is frozen, on the brink of chaos; the ship is about to be pulled under the ocean and the volcano will erupt. The birds are scattering in anticipation. There's a different adventure in every bottle." See, the connection is obvious!

—Posted by Elana Glowatz

Coca-Cola cans can't wait to sweat on the beach all summer long

Posted on Fri May 8 2009


Coca-Cola has debuted some new just-for-summer can designs featuring traditional warm-weather imagery like a grill, sunglasses, a beach ball, a row of surfboards and the American flag. The general consensus at, where you can see the cans in greater detail, is that the sunglasses are the coolest-looking design, and we're not inclined to disagree—it's very clever and crisp. The beach ball turned out pretty well, too, and the grill isn't as bad as the peanut gallery makes it out to be. The surfboards would have been great if that weird seam didn't run through the script logo, and the flag, while an appropriate tie-in to the 4th of July, just looks forced. Still, it's a little something extra to spice up Coke's aesthetics, and we like it. They have special designs for Christmas, too, but we wonder if they might extend this into other holidays like Halloween or Valentine's Day. They should stay away from Labor Day and Yom HaShoah, though, unless they're specifically atoning for the company's past. Thanks to @TLA_Kate on Twitter for the link.

—Posted by David Kiefaber

Hey look, it's a package design by Peter Arnell that doesn't suck

Posted on Wed Apr 29 2009


Not all of Peter Arnell's designs are bad. The ad-agency head took some serious heat earlier this year for creating the new, and subsequently killed, Tropicana packaging. At the time of its launch, PepsiCo North America president Massimo d'Amore joked, at a Tropicana press conference, "Peter thinks he is Michelangelo." Yes, Michelangelo if he had plummeted from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel while painting his masterpiece. Still, Arnell's SoBe Lifewater packaging is pretty inspired. It features the brand mascot Lee the Lizard. His tail wraps around the bottle, squeezing it. Wherever his tail lies, there are grooves that allow the bottle to fit snuggly in your hand. The new look is original, which was important for this growing enhanced-water brand. Prior to the repackaging, virtually every player used a knockoff of the Vitaminwater bottle. So much so that the Coca-Cola-owned brand sued a number of competitors and won. SoBe's bottle aims to look the least like Vitaminwater as possible as it works to forge its own identity. If Tropicana proved anything, it's that repackaging efforts can have a powerful effect—for good or bad.

—Posted by Kenneth Hein

It's Mtn Dew now, as texting officially invades brand packaging

Posted on Fri Feb 13 2009


Spelling out the word "mountain" is just so damn tedious, what with its four vowels and two n's. Really, who's got the time? That's why PepsiCo has rebranded Mountain Dew as Mtn Dew. Kids who are used to texting "c u l8r" will surely get it. The move is not unprecedented. Burger is BK, Kentucky Fried Chicken is KFC, and The Athlete's Foot is TAF. (Yes, that last one probably has to do with the chain's embarrassment at being named after a fungus.) Though I have to say, it doesn't work for every brand. I still get pissed off every time a see a 100 Grand chocolate bar. WTF? The $100,000 bar had a much better ring to it.

—Posted by Kenneth Hein

Earth-friendly packaging is great, except when it doesn't work

Posted on Fri Jan 9 2009

Newton copy

Here's some funky athletic-shoe packaging by TDA in Denver for Newton Running. It's been getting lots of attention for its egg-carton-ish design, which would cut down on the amount of already Earth-friendly material being used. It's been featured on various design blogs, in Communication Arts and on Treehugger, where there was quite a bit of rejoicing. Unfortunately, it won't see the light of day.
  "We're a little late to the party here," a Newton rep says near the bottom of the Treehugger comments string, "but we were frankly surprised by all the media coverage of a box that we never actually produced. ... The shoebox featured in this story was designed by our advertising agency and submitted to several design competitions. We liked this design but after a lot of research we discovered it is not very sustainable for us to produce or ship the molded pulp shoe boxes."
  Newton goes into more detail on its own blog, where it shows off the shoebox it's chosen instead—a regular rectangular one that uses 100-percent post-consumer waste and soy-based inks. The other design? Not much more than a pretty package.
  Via @Takeoff and Lovely Package.

—Posted by Tim Nudd



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