Welcome to the new era of packaging (column)

Brands are taking more risks with their packaging and it's paying off

Today’s newest brands are taking more risks on the shelf, and it’s paying off.

Great packaging has to not only communicate a product proposition, but do it while conveying brand essence. And it’s both elements coming together with impact that captures attention and makes the sale.

However, by this logic most leading brands have done their job and should be sitting comfortably. Think again. I’m not suggesting these mega brands are not hitting targets, but as shoppers browse the aisles in search of new and interesting brands to experience, they’re being lured by more unfamiliar labels than ever before — labels that don’t adhere to traditional packaging communication “rules.”


The snacking aisle offers real proof of this. Smaller brands like Tyrrell’s and Way Better Snacks are grabbing shopper attention with single-minded designs that emphasize simplicity and transparency. These unfamiliar faces are making gains at-shelf because they’re doing something the big guys aren’t — taking visual chances.

Tyrrell’s potato chips, for example, seem to have thrown the brand standards book out the window, featuring people on their packaging and placing its logo at the bottom. Put this pack on the shelf though, and not only does it stand out, it’s creating engagement and building lifestyle recognition on a potato chip bag. The visuals scream brand identity in a way that feels truly authentic.

Then there’s Way Better Snacks, which engages consumers with a design that’s anchored to one dominant visual – the ingredient. Instead of relying on brand familiarity, it draws attention through ingredient and flavour delivery.

Consumers can get to know Neal Brothers Foods’ co-founders Peter and Chris through its packaging. Whether they’re shown playing t-ball as kids or simply sharing space with the man who inspired one of their unique potato chip flavours, their images are on the pack and the brand relationship begins there.

Brands like these are changing standards right across the board. They’re endeavouring to look better and be better. They’re reinventing everything from architecture and semiotics to navigation and expectations in order to get their PODs across. They’re snuffing the rules, and it’s working.


With the brand and product landscape in visual flux, there’s a real opportunity for clients who can rise to the challenge and “break the meter” so to speak. As agencies, we need to “buck the standard” as part of the creative process – even if we’ve bucked it once.

The shelf is relentless, offering only precious seconds to persuade, so consider this: What is your package saying? Then, more importantly, is anyone listening? It’s the challenge for a new era, but one that delivers a huge pay-off to those who can do it right.

Rob Alexiou is executive creative director at Hunter Straker. This column first appeared on MarketingMag.ca

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