Recycling Sin

Breathing new life into a tired product is not simply a case of ditching everything and starting again. Repackaging must update the brand – and maintain its core appeal.

As consumers, we are becoming increasingly affected by image – our own, and, by extension, the products we use. This obsession is not restricted to costly designer names – it also influences our decisions when it comes to necessity purchases.

It is for this reason, that many design consultancies are increasingly busy, not with new brand development, but with redesigning and rejuvenating well-known household brands. There are few instances when any change is made to the actual product, it is simply the brand positioning or personality that changes to appeal to the target market.

Wickens Tutt Southgate client services director Mark Gandy says: “During the past 18 months, we have spent time looking at the classic brands of our childhood, brands where there is awareness which has got lost in terms of product offer and design.”

This need to reposition or revive brands is also being influenced by the vice-like grip that retailers have on the distribution of brands. The onslaught of own-label products and the propensity of retailers to stock only their brand and the brand leader is forcing normally well-established brands to rethink their image.

Gandy says: “This is not an overnight revolution, but recognition from manufacturers of design equity.”

Wickens Tutt Southgate has been involved in redesigning three major household brands – Bird’s, Bisto and Paxo – all brands that have no problem with recognition.

“With Bird’s, for example, we had to decide what the relevance of this brand was to today’s consumers. And the relevance is nostalgia and childhood memories. We needed to express that through design. This nostalgia is true of Paxo and Bisto as well,” says Gandy.

If rejuvenating brands is inextricably linked to nostalgia, what does this say for future generations? With the massive changes taking place in the way families are structured, it is unlikely that the Fifties and Sixties image of mum preparing the evening meal will last for long.

Gandy agrees, and adds: “Brand design for the next generation will focus on different products. Our generation has power in the media, and so we have the power to reuse the nostalgia of our own childhood.”

It is this ability to hold onto the brand equity of the past, but make it relevant to the present that is key in any repositioning – something that Babycham learned to its cost.

In 1993, Babycham realised that its consumer base was ageing and would soon be non-existent. It decided to rebrand the product and target a younger market.

In the era of alcopops and premium packaged lager, Babycham threw the baby out with the bathwater – it dropped the deer logo, got rid of the foil on the neck of the bottle and changed its shape – all the equities of the product.

Unsurprisingly, the new-look Babycham bombed. The younger generation still didn’t like it and the core market abandoned the product because it didn’t recognise it anymore.

Matthew Clark Breweries approached Siebert Head to repair the damage. Siebert Head sales and marketing director Satkar Gidda says: “We realised that we had to go retro. Babycham had to go back to what it used to be. You can’t dump all the equities of a brand that has been about for decades. We reintroduced the foil on the neck, brought back the deer – redrawn in a more relevant way for today – and introduced a slimmer, more elegant bottle.”

But what of the younger market who will not drink Babycham no matter how it’s packaged?

Gidda says: “Drinks manufacturers must realise that they can’t make people drink what they don’t want to. Teenagers and people in their early 20s would rather be seen dead than drinking Babycham. To make Babycham relevant for the next generation, they have to consider the actual product. They must think of where else they can take the brand and how to take it forward. There is an opportunity for variants and product formulation, a name change, or another version of Babycham.”

Most people look to Lucozade as the ultimate reinvented product. Gandy says that without changing the actual product, the brand moved from being a drink connected to illness to a drink connected to energy. But Lucozade was also helped along by the introduction of variants, such as Lucozade Sport.

Whisky has never been perceived as a young person’s drink, and in fact whisky sales are declining each year by up to seven per cent as younger consumers turn increasingly to white spirits. However, a total brand redesign has increased Whyte & Mackay’s sales among 20- to 25-year-old men.

Lloyd Ferguson Hawkins brand consultants were appointed to handle the redesign. Managing director Alistair Ferguson says the trick was to hold onto loyal drinkers, while trying to grab the attention of younger drinkers. As a result, Whyte & Mackay is practically the only whisky which has a blue label instead of the ubiquitous cream label.

Ferguson says: “We retained elements of the original design which are typical in whiskies, such as the heraldic crests. But the blue colour is urban and there are no thistles or heather.”

The blue label turned out to

be the catalyst for the whole advertising campaign.

Aromatherapy products are an example of how a sector dominated by older consumers was revived to be perceived as on the cutting edge of beauty and healthcare.

Giles Calver managing director Lippa Pearce says a couple of aromatherapy manufacturers suddenly understood that if they repackaged and repositioned their products they would tap into a whole new market.

“It started about six years ago, when hair stylist Nicky Clarke launched a range of aromatherapy haircare products, which used innovative brushed aluminium packaging. We are working with Nelson & Russell, which manufactures a range of aromatherapy oils and homeopathic products. The original packaging is quite dowdy and old fashioned, so we are working to reposition the brands,” says Calver.

Product extensions

Calver points out that repackaging is only one weapon in the marketing arsenal. She warns against the dangers of using extensions as a way of repositioning brands, which results in the core product becoming a small part of the overall brand.

Wedgwood, however, has used brand extension for a product that probably had little alternative. The Wedgwood brand is 200 years old, and therefore carries a lot of equity in the public consciousness.

Charlotte Blackburn, project manager at The Partners, which handled the reworking of Wedgwood’s new identity, says: “The perception of Wedgwood was either the blue and white pots on a grandmother’s table, or wedding china. But in Japan, Wedgwood is seen as a superstar brand and retails alongside Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent.

“We discovered that people liked products from Heal’s and Conran and were paying more for them. So we created a new logo and new packaging for Wedgwood – both of which were an evolution of what already existed.”

But, like Babycham, some product alteration and variation had to take place. “We have modernised the Portland vase which Wedgwood is well-known for. We still have the core product range of fine dining, but now there is a series of product extensions for the more casual market. Wedgwood is also developing glassware and lighting,” says Blackburn.

The market is littered with products and services that probably could do with rejuvenating. Bamber Forsyth principal Clare Fuller says brands operating in telecoms, financial services, IT and airlines tire quickly. One source claims that BT is proposing to review its consumer communications every 18 months.

Brand refreshment

Fuller says: “The travel industry is permanently tired. They would like to spend more, but can’t justify it because their margins are so slim. The sector took a big step forward when First Choice rebranded itself about five years ago – but not much has happened since then.

“I think Virgin, Stagecoach and British Midland are all looking tired. The businesses behind the brands may not be feeling the effects yet, but my hunch is that all these companies will choose to refresh their brands in some way soon – if they are not working on it already.”

One brand that has not lived up to its personality until now, is Rover. The launch of the Rover 75, according to Basten Greenhill Andrews managing director Tim Greenhill, represents the first time, in a long while, that the product has lived up to the brand values.

He says: “The problem with Rover is that in the past it has delivered an inconsistent product at best, which has hindered its ability to build a consistent brand. Since BMW’s takeover and with the launch of Rover 75, the designers were given the opportunity to express Rover in the actual product for the first time. Rover 75 oozes Rover values.”

Greenhill adds: “A brand is a belief and belief is about trust. You can only believe in something you trust. In order to gain trust, you need enormous integrity. If the product doesn’t live up to the communication – you lose integrity.”

Sticky strips revival

Anyone over 30 will remember the original Dymo label maker – the sticky strip labels that were found labelling pencil cases and bedroom doors.

If ever there was a product firmly linked with Sixties’ childhood, it is the Dymo label maker, which also represented the cash cow for owner Esselte – even after Esselte diversified into the business-to-business market.

Three years ago, however, Esselte made a decision to refocus on the consumer market and launched an electronic label maker, Dymo Pocket, to augment the existing mechanical embossing machine.

However, Chris McCleave, associate director at PSD Associates, says that for a number of reasons the Dymo Pocket didn’t take off.

“Esselte took a step back, rethought the concept and committed more resources to the second product and we were hired to look at the packaging.

“When Esselte approached us we said the company had to step back and look at the actual brand. Mechanical embossing machines were seen as things of the past and we knew the product would have to be repositioned to get into places such as WH Smith.

“At the time we didn’t know what the reposition would be, but we had to recapture the magic of the original machines,” says McCleave. He adds that Esselte “grudgingly” agreed to retaining the magic of the past and as a result PSD took the brand through its Brand Hierarchy programme – based on the theory of hierarchy of needs.

“This enabled us to glean old product values and therefore capture the past, but also to find values that look to the future. We agreed a brand hierarchy and could then design a logo, generate a name and design a package,” says McCelave.

The LegraTag was launched a few months ago and according to McCleave, “it has caused a stir in the small world of labelling”.

He says that the factory is struggling to keep up with demand – which is reassuring.

The company is continuing to manufacture the original Dymo label machines to meet a continuing demand.

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