The year was 1929. Joseph Bilinski, a Ukrainian immigrant who'd settled in Cohoes, N.Y., started making sausage, kielbasa, and other Old World meat products in his garage. He later opened a home-based retail outlet and in the 1940s built a local manufacturing plant. Today, that plant is operated by the Schonwetter family, the present owners of the Bilinski Sausage Manufacturing Co.
Since taking over in 1983, the Schonwetters expanded and modernized the plant and added a new series of all-natural products to the traditional meat products line, including the first all-natural chicken sausage. Growing a business often doesn't leave a brand owner much time to ponder the look of the brand, so when Package Design invited Bilinski's to be the centerpiece of its first Makeover Challenge earlier this year, eight years had passed since the last major design changes.
"The Makeover Challenge came at an opportune time," says Stacie Waters, COO of Bilinski's and daughter of president Steve Schonwetter. "We'd been struggling with the problem of finding a consistent brand image for both the all-natural and the traditional lines. We wanted to simplify the design, add graphics, and project a cleaner image for our all-natural products."
Teams of package designers from five creative groups submitted fully developed proposals for revitalizing the look of Bilinski's product lines. The entries were depicted in the July/August issue of Package Design and presented in interactive 3D models on the magazine's Web site, where readers and Web surfers could vote for their favorite overall redesign.
The favorite by a definitive margin was the entry from Anthem Worldwide, which proposed notable changes both to package formats and to package graphics. Anthem's Chris Plewes thinks that his team's bid captured readers' fancy because they saw it as a "smart solution" that outdid the other entries in meeting the challenge strategically, creatively, and structurally.
Plewes says the Bilinski's line comprises "a very complex combination of products that at first glance seemed to be all the same thing until you saw the different nuances among the products." The Anthem team realized that a different mindset applies to the consumer's experience of each product. This is why, Plewes explains, Anthem's design for the pickled smoked sausage jar has a "masculine tone" that is "Old World looking," the frankfurter package bears a "more approachable, all-family look," and the chicken sausage container conveys the "wholesome, natural appearance" that the Schonwetters wanted.
The Schonwetter family was pleased by all of the exceptional Makeover Challenge entries, but, as it happens, the Schonwetters' favorite entry is not the same as the one chosen by the majority of Package Design voters. According to Waters, the company was most taken with the submission from Webb Scarlett deVlam. As agreed by all parties involved, the Schonwetters can pick and choose elements or ideas they like from any or all the entries in their own redesign strategy. Waters says that an across-the-board Bilinski brand redesign is a distinct possibility, incorporating many of the great ideas from all of the entries together with special touches of the family's own devising.
Waters salutes all of the entrants for rising smartly to the occasion in the Package Design Makeover Challenge. "They all tried to draw the continuity between our two lines," she says, "and they understood our need to make customers realize that both lines come from the same manufacturer."