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How NOT to Screw Up Your Food Brand’s Packaging Redesign

May 18, 2021

Written By
Kelly Criswell

Every CPG company has to redesign their packaging from time to time. Maybe you’re pivoting the focus of your claims, trying to distinguish your brand in an increasingly crowded category, attempting cohesion across product lines, or simply updating an outdated aesthetic.

No matter the reason, redesigning is always a substantial investment. And it’ll cost even more in both time and money if you screw it up, confusing — or worse — upsetting your loyal customers. You might not get the lift you expect from a redesign gone wrong. Or, worst case scenario, you have to go back to the drawing board.

Luckily, there are some common pitfalls you can look out for as you take on a packaging redesign project for your food and bev brand.

But first, let’s consider what could go right.

The Benefits of a Successful Food Packaging Redesign

While it’s true there are risks associated with tackling a packaging redesign, it’s vital to brand health. And, when done right, a redesign can:

  • Expand your audience. If your target consumer has been aging alongside your aesthetic, a packaging refresh could attract younger generations who will eventually have more spending power.
  • Increase sales and, therefore, market share. Better packaging equals more customers equals more sales equals larger market share. Need we say more?
  • Win you more shelf space and distribution. A more successful brand as a result of new, killer packaging often motivates stores to give you more shelf space. For that same reason, a good redesign could mean added distribution, too.
  • Revitalize digital engagement. The internet, and especially social media, are reliant on imagery. If you now have a modern, compelling package to promote, you just might garner likes, shares, comments, and (ultimately) customers.
  • Improve your products’ shopability. Shopability refers to how easy (or hard) it is for consumers to find your brand as a whole, but also find the product within your line up that most closely meets their needs. Clear, compelling, attractive packaging will make it easier for your customers to shop for your product.

All of these redesign perks add up to increased brand equity. Meaning, because of your fresh image, consumers can better bond with your brand.

4 Common Packaging Redesign Pitfalls

You’re committed to a redesign. You know your packaging needs it, and you’re loving the possible benefits. Before you dive in head first, there are four potential pitfalls you should look out for.

These pitfalls are illustrated and summed up well by an example of a CPG refresh gone wrongTropicana.

In 2009, Tropicana changed their packaging drastically. Everything was new — the logo, the imagery, the font, the colors. And their loyal customer base rallied against the brand. It was sort of epic. Tropicana sales plummeted, and they eventually removed all of the new product from shelves. Think of the money — and brand equity — they lost.

Now, let’s look at how you can avoid Tropicana’s mistakes and other common packaging redesign blunders.

1. Doing Away with Every Existing Packaging Element

Perhaps the biggest mistake Tropicana made was completely departing from the elements of their packaging that were recognizable and beloved by their most ardent customers.

The lesson? Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

As you’re redesigning your packaging, keep the aspects that people love. Shoppers should still be able to effortlessly pick out your brand on the shelf despite changes.

2. Diluting Your Brand’s Quirks on Your Fresh Packaging

It’s especially important not to do away entirely with your brand’s unique traits.

One of the (many) complaints consumers lodged against Tropicana back in 2009 was that their new packaging looked like a generic, private label orange juice. It wasn’t distinguishable or authentically Tropicana anymore.

Would we still recognize and love Honey Nut Cheerios without the goofy bumble bee? What’s Kool-Aid without the red pitcher dude? And god forbid Campbell’s ever changed their cans from red to blue.

The message here is to safeguard what makes your brand special through any and all packaging redesigns.

3. Blindly Following Your Category’s Packaging Trends

At any given time, there are a lot of cool design trends circulating your CPG category. But beware: Not every trend is relevant or authentic to your brand. A redesign complete with all the trendiest elements might make your brand feel young and hip for a hot second, but, once that trend fades, you’ll be no different from your competition.

Worse yet, large CPGs with firmly established brands run the risk of coming off as inauthentic for blindly jumping on the bandwagon of one trend or another. And consumers can spot fakeness miles away.

Sometimes, a trend really does fit your style. In that case, by all means incorporate it into your next packaging redesign. Maybe you’re a two-ingredient energy bite company and minimalism is the thing in your category. That aligns with your mission. Go for it.

The bottom line? It’s all about following trends for the right reasons, not because it seems cool in the moment.

4. Making Changes to Your New Design That Go Unnoticed

This last redesign pitfall might seem contradictory to the first, but it’s important enough to mention nonetheless. Departing too completely from your current packaging is definitely a mistake. You’ll confuse and perhaps anger your consumers (a la Tropicana).

But, believe it or not, there’s also such a thing as not enough change during a packaging redesign. In fact, packaging redesigns have gone totally unnoticed before. What a waste of money if your consumer doesn’t even recognize that you’ve made a change!

Designers might notice every little shift, but look at your new packaging from an outsider’s perspective. Will they notice small tweaks? Probably not.

Tips to Get Your CPGs Packaging Redesign Right

We’ve given you a lot of things to avoid during a packaging redesign. How about some tools that can help you do it right?

  • Conduct consumer research if at all possible. You need to know which brand elements your consumers love so you can keep them. You also need to know what needs to go. When you ask consumers outright, you’re getting real information you can use to redesign to their stated preferences.
  • Consider combining revolutionary and evolutionary design. Revolutionary design entails starting from scratch, and evolutionary means making iterative changes based on what’s already there. Too much revolutionary change alienates consumers, and too much evolutionary change goes unnoticed. You need a healthy balance of both for a successful packaging redesign.
  • Base your redesign on specific business drivers. For instance, if you need a refresh because your brand isn’t as shopable as it could be, that’ll inform the changes you make to your packaging. Don’t change something for the sake of changing it; change it because it aligns with the ultimate goal of your redesign.

Last thing: Packaging redesign is difficult.

Your CPG desperately wants the boon a brand refresh can give you, but you’re also afraid of doing it wrong. The good news? With these pitfalls in mind and an eye toward what could go right, the work of a packaging redesign will be so worth it.

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