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What's the story?

Utilising the story of a brand through packaging is a powerful tool when it comes to engaging with customers. Emma-Jane Batey speaks to brand owners from both the most established of brands to the newest, all of whom are harnessing the human desire for storytelling.




Creating an immediate connection with customers is just as important as building long-term loyalty. But effectively achieving both is even better. Storytelling is increasingly the buzz word across marketing campaigns, with packaging the perfect vehicle for strengthening brand identity. With the aim of storytelling through packaging to create an association that is both relevant yet caputures the brand heritage – however old or young that may be – brands are well aware that consumers expect more. There is no 'build it and they will come' when it comes to packaging; the brief is as demanding as the customers.


For long-established iconic British personal care brand Woods of Windsor, its July 2016 relaunch is the perfect example of how storytelling through packaging is a great vehicle for engaging both existing and potential customers. Karen Cullen, head of marketing, tells Packaging Today, “Packaging plays a very important role in Woods of Windsor's DNA, as this gives us an opportunity to explain the brand's values and positioning. Woods of Windsor originates from an 18th century apothecary, situated beside Windsor Castle. It is a premium English niche lifestyle and gift brand. Given that we rely on editorial support and in-store merchandising, there is a greater emphasis on our packaging telling a story, whilst also quickly explaining the products features and benefits. Consumer research is vital and before our relaunch we carried our research to establish how well customers responded to the packaging and whether they emotionally responded to the new imagery.”


See the heritage


This 'emotional response' is very much a desireable outcome when it comes to storytelling through packaging. Ms Cullen continues, “However our colours and content emphasis has changed, the one constant is that the packaging has always been recognisable as Woods of Windsor. The objective [of the relaunch] was to take inspiration from modern and vintage flower illustrations, the beauty of the Windsor Great Park and the romance of Windsor Castle as well as the delicate flora and fauna of the fragranced English country garden, to develop a fresh, new take on the iconic heritage of Woods of Windsor. We've enjoyed very positive feedback from our customers as it encapsulates the heritage of the brand, is nostalgic but contemporary and is perceived to be premium and highly giftable.”


It is certainly true that understanding the existing brand identity from a customers' perspective is helpful, with packaging able to both change those perceptions, if required, and cement them. For the UK's number one selling beef jerky brand, its packaging has been cleverly utilised to strengthen its position at the same time as appealing to a new audience. Owned by Meatsnacks Group Ltd, Wild West Jerky is already a category leader, as well as gaining market share in the fast-growing high protein snacking sector.


Jennifer Macdonald-Nethercott, marketing manager for Meatsnacks Group Ltd, tells Packaging Today, “Wild West Jerky required a refresh to make it more relevant to today's snacker and to meet changing consumer needs. We engaged Pearlfisher, a leading strategic design and branding agency, to review our portfolio of products and create a compelling brand proposition to attract new consumers and go beyond the expectations of existing customers.”


Design by design


This two-fold approach to refreshing Wild West Jerky's offer saw Pearlfisher create new branding that 'creates the vision of 'The Modern Explorer' with the Wild West logo reflected in the 'w' shaped mountains and the person interacting with the landscape on each flavour to bring it to life'. All the Wild West packaging is manufactured in China and is made from PTE plastic that is a heat-sealed laminated barrier film to keep the product fresh.


Ms Macdonald-Nethercott adds, “We've taken the brand away from being overtly Americana to something that the urban explorer can relate to. The brand makes jerky more accessible for everyday snacking and the needs of the contemporary consumer. The new design has strengthened Wild West Jerky as the brand for the individual with an active lifestyle and a passion for adventure. Moving away from the typical, traditional brand cues associated with jerky and becoming more sophisticated and contemporary, Wild West takes consumers beyond where jerky has been.”



As relatively new brands are cleverly harnessing storytelling through packaging to their advantage, so too can impressively-long established brands utilise their unmatched heritage for the appeal of customers. Cult classic Smith's Rosebud Salve has been a staple in model's must-haves for years, but even that claim to fame is dwarfed by the impressive history of the brand. Founded in 1892 by Dr. G. F. Smith, The Rosebud Perfume Company's now iconic Smith's Rosebud Salve in its beautiful little tin was carefully formulated as 'an all-purpose salve' using the finest fragrance oils and white petrolatum.


Today, one of Dr. G.F. Smith's heirs, Linda S. Pruitt-Michielli, is The Rosebud Company's vice president, and she takes great pride in continuing to deliver the quality and service of her ancestors. Ms Pruitt-Michielli tells Packaging Today, “The tin was first developed to protect the essential oils in the sales and balms. It is iconic because it hails back to the early days of our pharmacy and our logo is all part of that nostalgic embellishment. Our tins are made by an independent can company in the US; the designs were so old for the early versions that it is unknown who created it. The package has been redesigned several times to accommodate bi-lingual necessity and I am the one who tended to that; the design of the Strawberry Lip Balm, Brambleberry lip Balm, Mocha Rose Lip Balm and Rose Mandarin Lip Balm are all of my own designs.”


Smart customer


So weaving together the best of the brand's old and new is integral to its packaging storytelling. It would be crazy to delete a valuable heritage by rebranding in the very latest style, but similarly a start-up brand would look inauthentic if it tried to piggyback long-established imagery that could come accross as either pompous or exaggerating – the death knell of consumer engagement.


Traditional Scottish alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks brand Crabbie's has been smart in its use of storytelling through packaging, certainly aided by the fact that it has a very interesting story to tell. Owned by Halewood International Holdings PLC, Crabbie's was primarily known for its malt and blended scotch whiskies as well as its famous ginger wine. But as senior marketing manager Anja-Weise O'Connor explains, the brand has been able to capture its heritage while also moving seamlessly into growing markets.


Ms O'Connor tells Packaging Today, “The Crabbie's journey began back in 1801, when its pioneering founder John Crabbie was inspired by culinary treasures from the Far East arriving at the Port of Leigh, and thus used the Asian elephant as a symbolic sign of the drink's origin. Since then, Crabbie's has been proud to wear the elephant on every bottle neck in honour of the integral part it played in its now iconic flavour, communicating the brand's rich heritage and provenance of our famous six-week steeped ginger. Crabbie's has also partnered with the Millennium Elephant Foundation to protect these endangered giants.”


The truth is in fashion


The appealing balance of tradition and modern is clearly at play on the Crabbie's packaging. Ms O'Connor adds, “Consumer focus is most certainly on craft and Crabbie's ticks every box: it's an award-winning, daring, carefully-designed, hand-crafted product, with real authenticity and provenance. However, Crabbie's has also stayed fresh and tapped into the growing craft beer category with the launch of our first ever ginger IPA and the introductio of a bolder packaging design. Of course, the iconic elephant features and to show it caters for a range of consumer liefstyles, its gluten-free credentials now have better visibility on the bottle neck. The distinctive design dials up the brand's craftmanship credentials, ensuring it becomes more relevant and eye-catching on shelves to craft ale and beer fans, whilst remaining in keeping with the category's contemporary look and feel.”


There are no barriers when it comes to the type of brand that can tell its story through packaging. Old, new, heritage-driven or urban, brands love to engage with their customers through that very first physical point of contact – packaging. And even from social media to advertising to the on-shelf appeal, packaging can connect on a cerebral level and, as consumers across all groups are increasingly demanding products that reflect their sense of self, the role of storytelling through packaging is certainly a tale worth telling.