The eighth edition of the popular Makeover Challenge, sponsored by Brushfoil, officially begins. The Makeover Challenge asks four design firms to reimagine an existing brand and redesign its packaging. This blue-sky exercise encourages experimentation in design concepts that will take the brand to a new level of awareness at retail and loyalty in consumers’ homes.
Here, we introduce the four competing design firms for 2011—one from each of the four contiguous U.S. time zones. The firms are: Murray Brand Communications, San Francisco; LeeReedy, Denver; CIULLA ASSOC, Chicago; and Little Big Brands, Nyack, NY. We introduce the firms on the following pages, each with a short case study of a recent makeover they’re proud of.
The real work takes place in May and June, when they have seven weeks to redesign four packages for the chosen brand (which will be revealed this month). By agreeing to participate in the Makeover Challenge, the design firms are also agreeing to provide their designs to the brand owner after the contest is over.
In the July/August issue, each team will have two pages to show off its designs and explain the strategy behind them. The firm that submits the most popular redesigned packages—determined by reader votes online and input from the Package Design Advisory Board—wins the challenge and will be featured in the November 2011 issue of Package Design.
Package Design would like to thank Brushfoil, a division of Interfilm Holdings Inc., for sponsoring the 2011 Makeover Challenge. Brushfoil is a world leader in graphic brushed label face stocks, laminating films, and paper stocks for the converting industry. Founded in 1982 by businessmen involved in the initial 1960s development of brushed films as an alternative to stainless steel, Brushfoil embraces the newest technology for metallic-looking films and papers.
Think. Create. Inspire.
Founder Sam Ciulla left brand design firm Laga in 2005 when it had gone through too many changes that weren’t in line with his design philosophy. Having helped grow the business to over 200 employess, his dream was to build a more manageable firm with 20+ staff members. So he bought the 40-year-old firm MLR Design and repositioned it with his own goals in mind.
Ciulla believes in the power of images to speak to consumers and make them believe in a brand, so thoughtful design can make all the difference. “Today’s sophisticated and savvy consumer won’t settle for the mundane or banal,” says Ciulla. “It’s not a fleeting campaign approach. We’re in it for the long haul.”
The firm’s Brand Manifesto Process involves workshops that identify visual territories where a brand can live and thrive. The process involves creating large visual landscapes that encompass territories of color, typography, imagery, composition, and overall tonality. The imagery exploration and verbal positions result in prototypes that are literal representations of where the brand can go.
The Tom’s of Maine brand of all-natural products, a pioneer in the category 40 years ago, needed help to become more relevant with today’s natural consumers. Loyal consumers stayed loyal because of the social commitment aspect of the brand, but the brand identity and package design was not attracting new customers, having become stagnant among the shifting trends in the natural space.
Ciulla’s first challenge was: How do you communicate “goodness” through an identity and package system? The next impulse was to ask: How can we change the brand dramatically without alienating the loyal customer base?
The new circular “seal” logo is a positive evolution from the previous presentation, now cleaned up for today’s audience, tilted 11° to the left to catch the eye, and repositioned to a primary location. A fresher natural background stays grounded with a handmade paper texture, bright colors improve segmentation of the product lines based on their primary benefit, and flavor-identifying text and visuals have shifted in the communication hierarchy to become more contemporary, appealing accents.
We like clients with fire.
Founder Lee Reedy was a father figure of the Denver design scene in the ’60s and ’70s, and the firm’s early success came from solving marketing problems with design, though rarely in packaging. Son Kelly Reedy carries on the legacy today, along with principals Eric Kiker, Scott Snyder, and Patrick Gill. Successes with Naked Juice and Atkins have paved the way for more packaging work, and the firm recently doubled in size (to more than 30 employees) with the purchase of Xylem Digital interactive agency.
LeeReedy likes working with entrepreneurs who share their passion for developing brands from top to bottom. “‘Fire’ is the one word that encompasses everything,” Kiker explains. The companies that get the most value from LeeReedy, says Kiker, are impatient and tenacious, demanding innovation and measurable business results.
The intense “Two Weeks to Truth” workshop is Lee-Reedy’s first step to inform and kick-start positioning, innovation, product design, and communications strategy and execution. “We really attack it from a skeptic’s point of view,” Kiker says. The powerful, actionable, and often unexpected answers align the firm’s goals before the staff develops three to five positioning platforms for the client.
To discover the true essence of the Bora Bora brand of snack bars, LeeReedy staff spent a week on the namesake French Polynesian island. The directive of the brand owner was to be true to the place. LeeReedy felt that it was essential, then, that each product includes at least one ingredient sourced from French Polynesia.
The defining perspective on the brand promise was summarized in the phrase: “As pure as the place.” Consumer research helped in refining the brand positioning, in determining whether the brand should be married with “organic,” and in naming conventions around functional ingredients.
The final primary package design features a yellow thatched pattern, ubiquitous in Bora Bora, as the sky behind an original photo of the island’s volcanic mountains. LeeReedy found that the yellow cuts through the category visually on shelf, and the design elements and benefit statements help Bora Bora own the “natural energy” benefit among competitors.
LITTLE BIG BRANDS
For big brands that want to be bigger and little brands that aspire to be big.
John Nunziato started his firm 10 years ago in New York City, but it only got its current name after he moved a half-hour north to Nyack, NY. Nunziato and strategist Pamela Long have their hands in every project, which they know their clients value.
The firm appreciates the power of a great idea that’s executed in the right way at the right time, applying its diverse skills to bring any brand’s unique offerings to the masses. The firm also has deep experience in printing and packaging production, and takes pride in making sure that multiple-SKU projects with multiple substrates come off without a hitch.
Little Big Brands attacks each project with a combination of strategic branding exercises and a focus on pinpointing a brand’s core competencies. “Clients are usually very pleased with the level of thought and insights we bring to the project,” says Nunziato. He believes that in the current economic climate and with the absence of big advertising budgets, many modern package designs try to include too much information, which makes competitors look similar and cluttered on shelf.
Little Big Brands relishes taking on a brand that’s lost its way or has been relegated to the bottom shelf at retail. White Rain was such a brand, with a me-too package design that never developed a character of its own. When the firm received the recent White Rain brand redesign project, the strategy and positioning was already established, and there were many limitations.
Nunziato says the goal of the project was to elevate the brand and packaging without it feeling too stuffy to consumers. “A 99-cent brand doesn’t have to look like a
99-cent brand, but it can’t look too luxurious, either,” says Nunziato. Nor was there a great deal of freedom to explore in the brand logo, the label size, the printing, or the bottle shape. The new logo and bottle contours take the White Rain brand into new territory, but still within its proper price point and context. The illustrations of vegetation, which serve as the scent indicators, now flourish outward from the center of the package, to convey both natural freshness and pleasant scent experiences.
MURRAY BRAND COMMUNICATIONS
San Francisco, CA
R.J. Murray founded the firm in 1999 after stints in senior marketing, brand management, sales, and operations. Murray has built his staff by building teams of specialists that contribute specific areas of expertise. Aside from classically trained designers and project managers with brand strategy or project management experience, the firm’s production artists hold degrees in print and ink technology.
Murray Brand believes that working with a creative agency should be a rewarding experience. The firm’s work reflects the staff’s passion for creativity, excitement for discovery, and the daily enjoyment from partnering with clients. The firm believes that all parts of an integrated marketing campaign must speak the same voice, and many times the package design is the optimal place to start.
Before any designing begins, Murray Brand conducts research from three different perspectives. First, staffers examines the product’s end-user through purchase trends, motivations, unmet needs, and category segmentation. Second, they look closely at competitors, performing numerous analyses for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT). Third, they perform a SWOT analysis on the client’s product and packaging. In the end, the staff tries to map all of these findings together to form a complete picture that will lead to informed decisions. “If the team is well-coordinated,” Murray says, “the process can go very swiftly.”
When Nuance Communications came to Murray Brand to talk about its Dragon Naturally Speaking software packaging, there were many objectives. Besides creating greater awareness at retail and elevating the quality perception, the brand owners wanted to create a cohesive architecture and a link between the product and its app iconography.
Shrinking down the previous dragon graphic to usable icon size was abandoned quickly in favor of a more versatile, stylized flame. The identical information hierarchy on the package now holds together the entire 21-SKU line of products, with the only differentiator being color, and the clean and spare design sensibility creates an aura of sophisticated technology and high quality.