Outspoken Packaging Design

What brands define you? More than ever before, what makes the cut in your basket is a personal statement. Move aside heritage household names; emerging challenger brands are desirable, relatable, and tap into the huge trends of premiumisation and brand attitude.

So as packaging takes on a whole new level of personality, there’s an opportunity for this canvas to carry a point of view or a strong message – be it one of corporate social responsibility, or embracing cultural diversity. Your presence on-shelf is now an open platform to make your voice heard – so who’s spreading a good word, and who are just jumping on the bandwagon?

Brewdog launched their 'Pink IPA' last week, to support women in the gender pay gap and to talk about gender stereotyping in marketing... in an apparent satirical move, the beverage has a pink label which reads 'beer for girls'. It's a good example of a brand looking to support a cause, but missing the mark somewhat and appearing patronising. Here are a few more examples of outspoken packaging...

Tea & biscuits take on sexual stereotypes

In a smart partnership, these two companies collaborated to support sexual choice through their combined pack designs. Kirin’s leading tea brand ‘gogo no kocha’ and Glico’s brand of Pocky ‘midi’ feature illustrations of somebody leaning in for a kiss. When you see the packs together on shelf, the illustrations join together in a kiss – and it’s left to chance whether the snog is between girls, boys, or both.

It’s probably a nightmare to arrange with the retailers in terms of shelf planning, but one which pays off – the campaign has been extremely well received by the LGBTQ community in Japan. And a smart move – 70% of consumers say they would pay a premium for a brand that supports the LGBTQ community. [Stylus, 2017]


Lipstick to the rescue

Thailand’s largest cosmetics brand, Oriental Princess, launched ‘Lip Rescue’, in response to a report that every 20 seconds, a woman is a victim of violence in their country. Devices like pepper spray or tasers are bulky and inconvenient, so the small purple lipstick tube doubles as a whistle. It emits a sound of up to 120 decibels, which can be heard from 100 meters away – fantastic packaging innovation from a care-conscious brand that wants to look after it’s consumers.

Curvy & contentious

In 2004, Dove launched their campaign for real beauty, and we all sat up and listened. Since then, the campaign has evolved and continues to be a positive marketing strategy for the huge brand.

Unfortunately, they missed the mark last year when they released their new pack designs; they were meant to represent different body shapes and sizes in a positive light. Instead, there was a huge backlash for unnecessarily forcing consumers to think about their body shape at the shower gel fixture, and obsessing on image. An example of simply trying too hard with pack design – and probably a very expensive mistake for the manufacturers!

Cheers to change

Drinks brand Sparkke Change tells it like it is – their copy-lead packaging is both eye-catching and fund-raising.

10% of their profits go straight to the causes they champion, from global warming through to mental health, and the female-run company makes sure their entire production chain stands up to their strong ethics. This company truly does good and promotes good; there’s no missing the messages on pack.

Vodka values

Smirnoff. The vodka giant is one of the most forward-thinking brands on our list, leading the way and playing in the same field as these challenger brands, building themselves as a true supporter of the LGBTQ community. Our favourite example from the Diageo brand was the Limited Edition bottle for Pride 2016: simple, ownable, and cool – the perfect way to make your opinion known on pack, building positive brand equity and desirability.

It would be wise to tread carefully with this trend – not everybody wants their FMCG basics delivered with a side of politics. Nor do people want to feel patronised or singled out as a ‘feature’ for your brand to play with.

It’s a trend rich with opportunity, especially for the fantastic packaging agencies around us here in Leeds and Manchester. We’re looking forward to seeing what other companies step up to the plate with a point of view and a pack design that brings it home.