Brands like Maggi, Amazon, Coca-Cola, Ghadi and Lay’s have also eased up on brand guidelines, extending campaigns to assets like product packaging, logos and labels.
Leading hygiene brand Dettol recently replaced the logo on its packages as a part of its campaign #DettolSalutes. The brand replaced the logo on its liquid handwash packs with images of COVID ‘protectors’. The redesigned packs also included their stories.
This has happened for the first time in the brand’s almost nine-decade-long journey in India. The development draws our attention towards a trend of brand managers easing up a bit when it comes to their brand assets - and the guidelines around tweaking these assets.
Traditionally, assets like logos, fonts, mascots, colour codes, labels, etc., have been sacrosanct, meaning, while all things change, these remain constant. The only occasional changes would happen in case of planned rebranding and re-strategising exercises.
Over that, product packaging and labels have been mostly designed to carry product details, features, user guides, warnings, etc. These would be occasionally tweaked, here and there, for promotional activities.
Dettol’s making the label a part of a brand campaign points towards change.
Here are some major brands that tried making rigid brand assets a part of their campaign.
Recently, Ghadi detergent covered the logo on its packs by printing a mask over it to encourage people to wear masks. This was accompanied by the tagline ‘Bachaav Mein Hi Samajhdaari Hain’ (It’s sensible to be safe).
In 2019, e-commerce platform Amazon printed sellers' pictures on its delivery boxes, along with their stories. This was done as a part of the brand’s ‘I am Amazon’ campaign.
Nestle’s ‘Me and Meri MAGGI Stories’ campaign from 2009, which was launched to commemorate the completion of the brand’s 25 years in India, put the photos of Maggi consumers on the product packs.
A few years back, premium apparel brand Lacoste replaced the ‘crocodile’ logo on its clothing with icons of endangered animals. It was done as a part of the brand’s ‘Save Our Species’ campaign.
Online meat ordering and delivery platform Licious placed faces of its customers on its packs. Alongside the photo and the name, the packs also mentioned the favourite item of the particular customer.
Launched in India in 2018, Coca-Cola replaced the brand name on one side of its bottle labels with words like 'Bhai', 'Didi', 'Ma', and 'Papa'. The move, a part of the global campaign 'Share a Coke', aimed to establish personal connect with the consumers.
The ‘Smile Deke Dekho’ campaign (from 2018) for PepsiCo’s snack brand Lay’s introduced customised pack with people’s smiles printed on them.
However, certain brands, like McDonald’s and Google, have traditionally played around with their logos.
These initiatives can backfire too. McDonald’s Brasil’s COVID era initiative of separating the brand’s ‘Golden Arches’ logo in order to encourage social distancing, backfired. Consumers labelled the brand as insensitive and accused it of taking advantage of the crisis to further its branding.
We asked two experts about their take on the trend, and the right way of going about it.
Sourabh Mishra, brand strategist, managing partner and co-founder, Azendor Consulting
Packaging is the 'unsung hero' of the marketing communication mix. Its potential has not yet been fully utilised. Apart from the serious stuff, like ingredients and benefits, n-package messaging can be used to build excitement around a specific campaign. The possibilities are immense, if the marketers open up their minds.
Brands like Google playing with their logos has given confidence to the more conventional marketers to ease up a bit. It is also an acknowledgement of growing consumer sophistication: people are okay with brands using packaging in more disruptive ways.
Coca-Cola did this in 2011 (in Australia). It printed 150 of the most popular Australian names on its packaging to connect with young Aussies to 'inspire moments of happiness, while sharing a Coke'. It resulted in a seven per cent increase in Coke consumption among younger people, prompting Coca-Cola to roll out this initiative in many more countries.
These successful packaging disruptions by big, iconic brands have paved the way for others to try out new things.
While every brand touch point is a potential communication medium, we must remember (WPP adman) Jeremy Bullmore’s saying, "People build brands as birds build nests, from scraps and straws we chance upon." The packaging is the brand's delivery at the last mile. So, it is an important and big straw that people use to build the overall image of the brand in their minds.
Thus, it is very important to ensure that the communication on the packaging carries forward the brand story, and does not conflict with the brand definition that the marketer is trying to build. So, a hygiene check on whether the packaging innovation is in sync with the brand's essence and personality, is very important.
Karthik Nagendra, CEO of marketing consultancy ThoughtStarters
Packaging is one communication medium which has been underleveraged. Most of the communication on the package would be about the product and features. As a communication medium, it is available for telling the brand story.
If one can add human element, while further amplifying a purpose or a cause, it makes a better emotional appeal to the consumer.
Traditionally, brands have been very protective and closed about the logo, or brand guidelines. It is sacrosanct for most brand managers.
But it is changing and a lot of that probably has to do with the new consumer. With more of the Gen Z coming in, questions have surfaced around what the brand stands for, its purpose and commitments, and its communication across various touch points.
That is driven by social media too. Brands are a lot more vocal on social media on these aspects. It is kind of easing in – from the consumer side, and also as younger brand managers and marketers are coming in. They understand the pulse of the new generation and, hence, the need to be more adaptive and flexible.
The most important aspect of an initiative is if the brand stands for particular values. Many times, brands may want to do it since everybody else in the market is doing so. This can backfire if not thought through properly. Brands should check if they are really committed to the values and want to stick with them in the future.
Such initiatives need to involve the top leadership and should then be taken forward in an integrated fashion. The commitment should reflect in the communication.