“New Look, Same Great Product:” Branding Changes

I don’t know about you, but I feel thoroughly confused when one of my staple grocery items suddenly changes the look of their brand.  I search and search for the packaging that I’m used to, and then finally find it by taking the time to actually read the labels on just about everything in that section.  Whenever a product changes their brand, there is almost always a little spiky-cloud-looking thing somewhere near the name that says “New look, same great product!”  But I am always just a tiny bit skeptical, because I have grown so used to the old look.  And, being the critic that I am, I usually remark to the person I’m with how “I liked the old look better.”  Almost always.

So I got to thinking, why do companies change their branding in the first place?  What about a brand would make it look old and outdated?  And is that such a bad thing?  I think it depends.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s start with the first question.

Why do companies change their branding?

If you look at the shelves in the grocery store, it quickly becomes apparent that the design of packaging must follow certain trends, because aesthetically, the items seem to be following a similar set of rules.  So each company is seemingly trying to stay up-to-date-looking, while at the same time looking unique enough to stand out from the rest.  The really outdated-looking packaging might not appeal to people as much as the newer-looking, on-trend packaging will.  Right now, as I discussed in this article, very minimalistic, simple, homespun-looking packaging appears to be very in.

A quick word about fonts, because I couldn’t contain myself…

Oftentimes the main change that a company will make is the font of their company name.  They might keep just about everything else about their products’ packaging the same, minus a few small layout changes in the design perhaps, but they will change the font.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but right now “sans serif” fonts seem to be very in, and so the “serif” fonts appear more outdated.  Not sure what I mean by sans serif vs. serif?  I just did a Google image search and I liked how these people explained it:

“The small decorative pieces on the ends of each character are called serifs.”  So a font like Times New Roman would be a serif font, whereas Arial would be sans serif.  I would bet that if you start to look at fonts more closely, you would start to notice what I’m talking about.  “Sans” fonts appear more modern, serif fonts appear more classic and old-school.  In some cases, a company might decide to stick with their serif font because they think it goes better with their product or service.  But I’m just saying, those sans fonts seem to be everywhere these days.

Does Old-looking Always Mean Outdated…in a Bad Way?

All of that being said, there are some brands that either never change their look, and just stay the way they’ve always been, and still others that are finding the merit in bringing back their old looks as a sort of throwback to their loyal customers (like the old-school Coca-Cola bottles, which are apparently retired now).  Because sometimes, an “older-looking” brand looks even more appealing than the newer-looking ones.  It says that it has stood the test of time, that within that packaging is a classic product that hasn’t changed in who knows how long, simply because it hasn’t had to.  If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, right?

Sometimes when I’m standing in a grocery aisle, looking at all of my choices (usually if I don ‘t already have brand loyalty for that particular item), I’ll go for the newer, cooler-looking product.  But just as often, I find myself gravitating to the old-looking ones.  A perfect example is Bar-B-Que sauce, something that I take very seriously (ask any of my friends and family and they’ll tell you it is one of the joys of my life).  When I’m feeling adventurous, I might want to try a new kind (usually I just stick with Sweet Baby Ray’s, and guess why I tried them in the first place?  Because their packaging was so old-school and classic-looking.).  Usually, the ones that I would rather give a try are the ones that have that older look.  It says that they don’t need to try so hard to look cool, because they’ve been doing it right for so many years.

In Conclusion

I could ramble on and on about packaging all day.  Something about it is just so interesting to me.  Sometimes, a company might find it beneficial to change their look.  Maybe they went with a super-trendy look about ten years ago, and if so, it just doesn’t look cool anymore.  Or perhaps they’re going to try to target a different audience than they have in the past.  I can respect that, and I’m sure it is very effective sometimes, causing people to try a product for the first time, or maybe give it a second chance.  In other cases, though, I think it can be very beneficial for some companies to either stick with their original packaging (especially if it was never overly “trendy-looking” to begin with), or go back to their original.  At the end of the day, the most important thing is to get people to want to try your product in the first place–and then it’s all about making sure it’s a really great product, so they’ll buy it again.  But none of that will happen if they never pick it up off the shelf.