Makeover Challenge

Makeover Challenge 2009 Review

Posted: August 6, 2009 by
Ron Romanik

Package Design Magazine's sixth annual Makeover Challenge was a resounding success with world-class designs submitted from our four design teams - Beach Packaging Design in Staten Island, New York; Estudio Ray in Phoenix, Arizona; Queue Marketing Communications Group in, Chicago, Illinois; and Rex Design in São Paulo.

The subject of this year's Challenge is the Casa Visco brand of gourmet, all-natural spaghetti sauces, mustards, and marinades. Teams were given the task of creating a new brand identity for Casa Visco's products - an identity that would successfully portray the brand's products in sleek, present-day designs while keeping true to its history and family traditions. Their ultimate goal is to enhance the brand's "consumer connection" while finding innovative sustainability solutions and maximizing production efficiencies.

Like all of our previous Challenges, each team took the package design in remarkably different directions. The Casa Visco brand produces traditional style pasta sauces using only natural ingredients—and the fewest ingredients necessary. The company operates out of a plant in Schenectady, NY, and cooks batches of each product with great care, one product at a time. The current Casa Visco package designs vary
quite a bit across the product portfolio, and all the teams decided to unite the brand behind one design theme. Besides that, we think you’ll agree that each team reinterpreted the Casa Visco brand with their own vision.

Now it is your turn as an avid reader of Package Design Magazine. Let us know which package design makeover presents the best overall package design direction for the Casa Visco brand by voting on our website. The deadline for online voting is September 30, and the winner will be announced with the publication of our November issue, where the winning team will be profiled in a cover story feature.

The winning entry will be determined from a combination of three separate avenues of opinion—the online reader poll, a survey of our Advisory Board, and an in-depth study conducted by HotSpex Inc., in Ontario, Canada. The PackSpex tool used by HotSpex
is a comprehensive research tool that tests and optimizes package designs for CPG brands. The ability of PackSpex to measure consumers’ emotional response to package design will be of particular interest to our readers. The proprietary questioning methodology creates data that produces “heat maps” that quantify the weights of emotions that consumers have in response to package designs. PackSpex is able to extract the essence of a brand personality, describe it emotionally, and determine what role package design has in making that brand personality more enticing to consumers.

The study will evaluate the performance of pack- aging designs in competitive shelf environments, within rational communication objectives, and within emotional relationships. The study also uses traditional measures such as purchase interest to compare and correlate results. Finally, the study will provide diagnostic optimization to construct one best possible package design for Casa Visco’s future. CPG companies have responded to the promise of PackSpex in producing reliable insights from the
sea of data the methods produce. “By measuring emotions, we’ve increased the predictability of our research from 67% to 87%,” say Shane Skillen, founder and president of Hotspex Inc. “We’ve found that emotions and personalities are actually are analogues of each other. As consumers, we personify packages.”

Beach Packaging Design

Consistency, simplicity, and familiarity are the keynotes of Beach Packaging Design's approach to refashioning the brand image of Casa Visco line. Gone are the variations that have crept into the style of the original packages over the product family's 51-year history. In their place is a design that's clean and direct.

After reviewing the packaging of competing brands of red pasta sauce, partners Randy Ludacer and Deborah Davis concluded that the best way for Casa Visco to stand out in this crowded category was to be "just different enough" from other brands to be intriguing—but not too different.

Although the Makeover Challenge was defined as a "blue sky" project—where one could propose just about any type of package—Beach Packaging decided to stick with glass jars. "People are comfortable with sauce in jars," Ludacer says. "We decided there wasn't much to be gained by going outside of that particular comfort zone."

In Ludacer's opinion, the line's present mix of jar contours and lids presents a "very un-unified" brand image. To remedy this, he and Davis chose a sleeker shape with identical proportions in each size. In another bid for consistency, the partners chose lug lids as closures for all of the containers. (Some of Casa Visco's current jars use continuous-thread.) Ludacer acknowledges that, depending on Casa Visco's production methods and equipment, the CT lids may, in fact, be necessary, "but hey, we're talking 'blue sky' here, right?"

For the labels, they redesigned Casa Visco's logo to replace the scroll illustration and the Gothic blackletter with an informal, slightly vintage logotype with "casa visco" set in a more delicate and refined font (Filosofia). The logo is reversed out of a red circle that bleeds off the top of each label like a tomato.

A photo of a spoon with a die-cut window reveals the jar's contents. Says Ludacer, "Having a bit of the product show through the spoon hole is fun and makes a nice visual metaphor for what your spoon will soon contain if you buy one of Casa Visco's awesome products." This creative touch has been applied to all of the labels except the Jordan Almonds.

On the lower right of each label are photographs by Davis. Sometimes they're of product ingredients, and sometimes they're of the foods in their ready-to-be-eaten state. The net result is a family of jars with a cleaner, less cluttered look: no intricate patterns or scrollwork; no dropped shadows; no 3D typography with highlights or reflections.

Ludacer explains that in order for the die cut spoon idea to work well, other visual features of the label needed to be simple and direct. Although such simplicity might, in his words, "flirt with a private-label type of look," he notes that there are other elements at play as well. "We included some fun features that make it something else altogether—something that wouldn't look out of place on a shelf at Dean & Deluca or Whole Foods."

Among these fun, value-added features is one located where fun isn't ordinarily expected to be found: the UPC code on the back of the label, which morphs into a forkful of spaghetti. It's an engaging visual pun, but will it affect scannability? Ludacer, whose blog contains a thread on the surprising design possibilities of UPC codes, says that no harm will be done at checkout as long as the scannable portion of the UPC isn't altered. The laser doesn't record anything that it doesn't recognize as a bar code and does not object to a forkful of pasta in the vicinity.

Estudio Ray

Joe Ray, president and creative director of Estudio Ray, says that getting acquainted with Casa Visco quickly convinced him that the company's passion for food is authentic and that the passion is driven by a desire to share the products with those who share the Viscusi family's enthusiasm for gourmet eating.

"They don't sell it to you, they present it to you," Ray says. "This food isn't manufactured and sold—it's created and presented, from their family to yours." In this spirit, Estudio Ray's redesign for the Makeover Challenge tries to conjure the Italian-American atmosphere of the New York environs where Carmella and Joseph Viscusi Sr. gave the business its start in 1948. To get in touch with the brand, the Estudio Ray team interviewed Casa Visco's Adine Viscusi, performed research online, and visited a variety of grocers to examine as many gourmet pasta sauces as they could. A client questionnaire was another part of the studio's Creative Brand Chemistry Process™.

The conversations with Viscusi identified a number of concepts that lie at the heart of the Casa Visco brand promise. One impression that the brand seeks to deliver, says Ray, is that of "a bounty of tomatoes from somebody's garden"—the pleasure of knowing that there's an abundance of goodness in a Casa Visco jar. Another key message is that when shoppers purchase Casa Visco products, they can be sure that they are taking home something made at home by loving hands that is not mass-produced. Other qualities to convey were "good for the belly and good for the soul" and "a sensually delicious pleasure," according to Ray.

Besides conveying these qualities, Estudio Ray also wanted to assure an "afterlife" for the jars by fashioning them as containers that consumers would want to keep after the sauce was gone. That's behind what Ray calls the "sensual appeal" of the restyled jars: a tactile sensation in their bell-like shapes, miniature handles, embossed vines, and hinged glass lids that corresponds to the hand-made quality of the sauce inside. The woodcut images on the label reinforce the "somebody created this" theme.

Estudio Ray also believed it was important to retain an image of Casa Visco, the Viscusi family's ancestral home, to uphold the connection to the brand's heritage. Adding the Italian word "autentico" to the paper tab between the two seals on the jar front and lid reinforces the message of genuineness. The seals—medallions of plastic formed to resemble wax signet impressions—also are meant to evoke the Viscusi family's history of artisanship and attention to detail.

Ray says that besides setting Casa Visco products apart from the competition, the special features of the package will help the brand to raise its price point—a goal that's implicit in the redesign. Ray also maintains that decreasing the size of the logo increases the perceived sophistication of the package as a whole. The "less is more" approach also lets the high-visibility product inside the redesigned jar speak for itself. "You want to see the flavor first," says Ray, adding that all of these elements combined—and in this hierarchy—establish the visual branding of Casa Visco Finer Foods products.

Ray felt that a glass jar "doesn't do justice" to the almonds, which he prefers to offer in a cylindrical, wax-lined Kraft container that bears more resemblance to a gift box than the original glass jar does—a plus for inclusion in the gift baskets that Casa Visco sells online.

Queue Marketing Communications Group

Queue saw an opportunity to reinvent the way Italian shelf stable cuisine is marketed and change the way people related to the product experience. Using their BrandNue™ discovery process, Queue looked at the marketplace and gained insights into opportunities for Casa Visco to position their brand to win.

Ross D. Vangalis, Queue's "brand evangelist," explains their approach: "We observed that almost all Italian brands were positioned within an Italian old-world heritage spectrum. We positioned the Casa Visco brand within the 'natural spectrum' to relate the brand's positive product benefits in a more progressive way. For the brand image to align to this positioning we incorporated a natural feel through applying a light green and white brand color system and made the Casa Visco logo more contemporary to relate better to the target female's natural food packaging purchase preferences. We feel this natural positioning presents potential for the Casa Visco brand in both mass and natural foods retail markets."

From there, Queue defined their three-tier strategy—Consumer, Retail, and Manufacturer.

CONSUMER: Using research resources such as Mintel, Queue identified the core consumer and macro trends driving consumption growth. They capitalized on the natural attributes of the product line to tap into wellness macro trends and chose a packaging solution to position the brand in emerging green macro trends. According to Mintel's "Green Living, U.S. - February 2009" report, it would appear that over a third of all consumers have "gone green" and report that they regularly purchase green products.

RETAIL: Vangalis says: "Here we wanted to change the shelf experience. We wanted a structural game-changer that differentiated on shelf and also allowed for a large food billboard effect."

MANUFACTURER: Glass is heavy and contributes to the carbon footprint. "We chose the aseptic brick packaging, which is much lighter and stacks more efficiently to deliver more product per pallet," says Chris Wilhelm, v.p. and creative director. "This will save Casa Visco money and present the opportunity to maintain a lower price point in market. Additionally, the aseptic packaging we sourced was made from renewable resources and is recyclable. We promoted these benefits on the package to further differentiate the brand and appeal to the consumer in a way that could help them overcome not seeing the product through glass." To see more on Queue's BrandNue Program case study on the Casa Visco packaging entry and gain wellness research facts, visit

Queue's approach to design execution focused on simply making the promise of an exceptional, natural food experience the hero. "We wanted to play off the brand promise of an extraordinary meal," says Vangalis. "Chris Cassidy Photography helped us create a center stage with beautiful food imagery that engages consumers and helps them feel how exceptional the food experience will be."

The aseptic brick packaging was seen as the perfect package solution as it allowed for great food photography reproduction. It also allowed the food to be large on the package front, making flavor and sauce type differentiation easy for the consumer. Queue redesigned the mouth and lid to allow for ease in product dispensing. They also conducted package prototype testing and researched one Italian manufacturer already packaging sauces in aseptic, which confirmed that it was achievable.

Rex Design

"A homemade-like, natural, and traditional brand doesn't need to shout for attention," says Gustavo Piqueira in explanation of REX Design's striking approach to repositioning the Casa Visco line. As creative director of the team that has taken the packaging as far from its original look as it may be possible to go, he's determined to let the product speak clearly and compellingly in its own rich voice.

Instead of settling for the safety of a well structured, visually pleasant, but conceptually unadventurous design, Piqueira's team concentrated on making the brand proclaim itself "true, sincere, and transparent"—a set of values that REX Design has attempted to encode in the crystal-clear, minimally decorated surface of the jars. This emboldened them to subordinate or even discard design elements that would be taken for granted in most other pasta sauce containers.

But Piqueira believes that as a brand, Casa Visco has much to gain by breaking away from the pack. "Consumer habits have changed a lot in the last decade," he says. "We believe that a good packaging design project is no longer about how loud you can shout on the shelf. Neither is it about applying handwritten typefaces or drawings to pretend you're homemade."

Taking the homemade and natural connotations of Casa Visco products to be a given in shoppers' minds, the REX Design team decided that the logo could be repositioned to the lid without sacrificing shelf visibility. Here, says Piqueira, the brand name will play a more "elegant" role on a screw top that's thicker than the original closure and adorned with a two-color floral overprint. It sits atop a straight cylindrical jar shape that varies only in height from SKU to SKU—a standardization that's intended to make the "transparency" message even more evident.

After pondering what to do about the label, says Piqueira, the team concluded that the best approach would be "no label at all." Instead, the surface of the jar, flexo-printed in two colors, displays basic product information in a bare minimum of words, without graphic images or anything else that might resemble a marketing cliché. The jar copy for the sauces makes a simple statement about ingredients and serving suggestions. The roasted peppers and the Jordan Almonds jars speak enticingly about Italian consumption habits. This is tantamount, says Piqueira, to "a 1:1 informal chat with the consumer...a dialogue, not a monologue."

In the view of the REX Design team, the intimacy of this dialogue even does away with the need for a design element that might be thought indispensable to brand communication for Casa Visco: the iconic image of the ancestral family home. In REX Design's entry for the Makeover Challenge, the emblem is nowhere to be found. "We believe that the home picture was not the best way to say 'homemade,'" Piqueira explains. "Instead of it, we propose a 'chatting' label.

"It's about creating a true and transparent relationship with your consumer," he emphasizes. "To transform traditional package elements—big logos, bright claims, all grabbing for attention—into an informal chat instead of shouting, 'Buy me, I swear I'm better!'"