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Archive for September 2011

The silent salesman revisited

Welcome to Shelf Life, the blog that reports the stories being told by packaging on the supermarket shelf. Packaging was famously called ‘The Silent Salesman’ by James Pilditch in his 1961 book of that name, but how does a mute object tell a story at all? With great ease it turns out, because our brains…

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“Easy, tasty, makes me smile”

Here’s a truly charming design, telling the brand story with wit, appetite appeal, clear variety coding and plenty of impact. In truth it’s really a product story since the Cup-a-Soup ‘brand’ is virtually generic, but perhaps the little Batchelor’s flag saves the day.

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“Grandmother knew best”

Bonne Maman desserts on shelf

I’ve always loved this brand story and also admired the fact that its owners resist the temptation to ‘improve’ it. They clearly understand that they managed to create a near perfect encapsulation of this very popular worldview: ‘Products like these tasted better in the past, when our Grandmothers had time to make them from scratch…

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“Look how tasteful I am”

The success and subsequent rampant copying of the dorset cereals design aesthetic reveals that they were definitely ‘on to something’. By any conventional measure of standout this pack has very little, until you realise that it’s all about different worldviews. To devoted buyers of Kellogg’s Special K and Coco Pops this pack is invisible; but…

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“Holy sh**, great beer!”

Leffe beer on a Belgian supermarket beer section

In Belgium there are dozens of so-called ‘Abbey beers’, many still genuinely brewed by monks as part of their traditional way of life. Others have ‘moved on’ to become part of global brewing empires, but their noble origins live on through the brand story and its design metaphors: medieval scripts, parchment and stained glass windows.…

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“Tastes of fired earth and wood”

Generally speaking the bigger the ‘food shot’ the less value can be added to the brand story, because the world is not short of good (or good-looking) products, and own-label can copy your pack before you can say ‘quattro formaggio’. I can’t believe there really is a guy whose name translates as ‘Jack Bakehouse’, but…

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“Reminds me, must visit Scotland again”

Smoked Salmon packaging

In contrast to Mr Bakehouse’s efforts (see previous post), the clichés we’re seeing here don’t tell a coherent story at all. Lovely as it is to see some Scottish scenery, both of these brands are presumably expert in the business of actually smoking the salmon, yet that story remains untold. A window reveals the product…

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“Where’s normal juice?”

Differences between juice brands designs

Juice comes from pressing fruit, but what quality of fruit, exactly how we got the juice out of the fruit, and what we added to it for your benefit, are all viable brand stories. Trying to keep the pure and natural aspect can be a challenge, but when you’re called ‘the fruit lab’ or ‘Fruit&Co’…

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“Maybe LU stands for something”

LU biscuits original and actual design

I’m not sure how many French consumers know that LU is (very) shorthand for Lefèvre-Utile, a brand with an extremely long and colourful heritage. In design terms it has long been a simple endorsement of an army of sub-brands, many far more famous than their ‘mother’. But no longer: In the face of an even…

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