Packaging with Purpose
Packaging with Purpose
Packaging or propaganda? A question I always ask myself whenever I buy an obviously branded product. Consumers are constantly entering into brand propaganda whenever they purchase logo-heavy merchandise. Labels and logos are blazoned across items from all genres, from skate labels like Stussy and Supreme, to high-end fashion houses like Louis Vuitton and Chanel. All of us are carrying some sort of brand propaganda, whether it be on the fresh crepes you purchased from Nike or the new Mulberry bag slung delicately over your shoulder.
Brand logo recognition has become almost a science. It has been analysed that brands with visually recognisable logos are more likely to be effective in engaging consumers. It’s a subconscious form of propaganda, but society buys into it. For instance, I’m sure we all know plenty of people who have gone to Selfridges just to obtain the iconic yellow bag. It’s impossible to walk down Oxford street without subconsciously noting the flash of yellow. And here’s where the association lies; we see Selfridges as a symbol of wealth and this transfers to the symbol of the yellow bag. The act of carrying this is a status symbol; promoting an ideology, just as propaganda aims to do.
However, the frivolous nature of brands simply emblazoning products with their logo has begun to dishearten the awakening consumer. Shoppers want accountability. As a result, many conglomerates are coming under pressure to clarify brand values and to take a stance on politically polarising issues.
So how do the major brands keep up with this? They have begun to reflect consumer needs by moving toward offering a socio-political message within packaging. Major designers like Vivienne Westwood have created socio-politically charged packaging, with her ‘Repopulate Venice’ tote bags; a message about climate change. Yes they’re functional, sustainable and stylish packaging, but they’re also a great tool for marketing, or spreading word-of-mouth about a cause.
Due to the politically polarising times we are now in, it makes sense that brands are becoming political with packaging. However, companies have to be careful not to take too serious a tone as they may risk losing consumers. One that has successfully bridged the gap between carrying political opinions without losing their target audience is Harper Mc Caw.
Harper Mc Caw is a chocolate company, that with the aid of Design Army, created a series of politically charged packaging. The wrappers in red, white and blue with bold graphics and customised illustrations were provocatively designed with a seasoning of humour. Six designs were created for six unique flavours: Red State with its mix of red berries and chocolate, Tea Party, an Earl Grey infused dark chocolate bar. When consumers purchase the product, they are also asked to make a politically based choice.
We talked to one of the main creators behind ‘The (very) Political Series’, Pum Lefebure:
Roisin O’Hare: What pushed you to create packaging with a political message?
Pum Lefebure: Chocolate sells very well right up until Valentine’s Day. From June onward, chocolate sales are in decline, so we were looking at ways to boost these sales. We asked ourselves what was selling at the minute and with last year’s election, clearly it’s politics.
ROH: What becomes more important: the brand the packaging is for, or the message the packaging holds?
PL: The brand was still the focus of the campaign as it definitely raised brand awareness. In fact the campaign’s Instagram gained a huge following over its course. The packaging did of course turn some retailers away; this is reflected in the fact that the bi-partisan chocolate bar, the “Flip Flopper’, was the most popular bar. It carries a less polarising political opinion. Of course, a brand has to be careful not to lose customers, but now people recognise Harper Mc Caw. It has changed from a small chocolate brand to one that is called on to provide products for Vanity Fair and the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
ROH: Do you believe that this prompts consumers to make a political decision whilst purchasing the product?
PL: Each of the illustrations are a symbol of political beliefs. For example, the elephant packaging is a representation of the Republican Party, whilst the ‘Taxation without Representation’ bar is a bitter tasting chocolate. Although the packaging is politically charged and the consumers do make this decision, this campaign was more about poking fun at the political situation in the US.
ROH: Do you believe political packaging could be an ongoing theme for brands?
PL: It’s definitely a trend as of now, with the politically turbulent times we live in. Consumers want to express themselves through a product. Smaller brands are able to take that risk rather than larger corporations as they have less to lose. Even though it really started as a result of Trump’s inauguration, the success of the campaign’s Instagram makes me think it is not a passing trend. It’s here to stay.
ROH: Was this more focused on the brand taking a political stance or the consumer?
PL: I think the product was more focused on a celebration of Washington D.C in a political era before anything else. Brands of course have to be careful of who and how they align themselves with political opinions but humour really helps to negate the seriousness.
ROH: What made you inject the humorous element into the packaging?
PL: You see, the packaging is humorous but it’s smart; it’s a smart product. The flavours of the chocolate and the illustrations combine perfectly. It’s noted that humour is the start of conversation, so it’s just a smart choice for the brand. DC is not known as a creative city, it is known as a political city. Therefore, we’re representing the DC that isn’t looking at politics so seriously; a creative class. Things are usually funny because they’re true.
Written by Roisin O’Hare
Visuals by Design Army