Stylish Packaging acts as Home Décor

September 1, 2004
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Stylish Packaging acts as Home Décor

 by Kate Bertrand
Marketers are addressing consumers’ newfound interest in design with packages that decorate even as they reinforce the brand.
Time was, interior design did not accommodate branded consumables. Packages of paper goods, dish soap, condiments—or any container emblazoned with a brand name or logo—were to be stored out of sight.
That notion is rapidly changing, as brand owners design packages so attractive that consumers buy the product with the express intention of dressing up the kitchen counter, coffee table, bureau or vanity.
In some cases, consumers like a package so much they keep it long after the product is gone. They reuse the container as a storage device, collectible or memento.
Packaging as a home décor accessory “is clearly a trend, and part of a much larger trend. It has to do with a growing appreciation of design and style in the home. Packaging has picked up on that,” says Scott Lucas, Managing Director of Brand Packaging at Interbrand.
Kimberly-Clark, owner of the Kleenex brand, was one of the first to design packaging to complement the home décor. On packaging for Kleenex Everyday tissues, the company uses graphics with mass appeal and colors that coordinate with most interiors.
Making a fashion statement
When designing the packaging for a more recent line, Kleenex Expressions facial tissues, the company took the idea a step further. “With Expressions, we offer consumers a chance to show their style. Expressions is a home décor accent. It makes a statement vs. the Everyday products, which blend with the décor,” says Christine Mau, Packaging Graphics Manager at Kimberly-Clark.
The Kleenex Expressions packaging graphics include holiday and seasonal designs, Olympic motifs, and designs with titles such as Americana, Electric Daisies and Frosted Paisley. Graphics for the Everyday line lean toward muted floral and stripes.
A new product from Georgia-Pacific, Brawny in a Box, leverages a similar concept for paper napkins. The product comes in a paperboard carton that dispenses napkins one at a time.
Brawny in a Box offers several designs, with extra seasonal patterns available for spring, fall and the winter holidays. Design themes include Apple Pie, Bright Flowers and Café.
“We market this product with attractive prints on the box to help get consumers to leave it on the table rather than putting it in their pantry and hiding the napkins. To promote more usage, we’re trying to make the package very attractive, with designs that fit into our consumers’ homes,” says Shawna Murphy, Brand Manager for Napkins at Georgia-Pacific.
The Brawny logo is highly visible on the package at the point of purchase, but when the consumer opens the package, he or she tears off the portion of the box with the prominent logo. The bottom front panel of the remaining package has a much subtler Brawny logo integrated into the graphics. “We ghosted it in so consumers know it’s a Brawny brand, but it doesn’t take away from the design,” Murphy says.
Kinder, gentler brand graphics
Georgia-Pacific’s approach with branding on this package reflects a basic truth of designing packages that double as home décor accessories: The brand elements must not detract from the visual appeal of the package.
Method Home Care’s packaging provides examples of this tenet, in the household cleaners category. The company’s translucent bottom-dispensing dish-soap bottle has a haute-design structure that looks like a stylized bowling pin. The Method brand name and product identification on the bottle are discreet and elegant.
“With Method, the brand promise is immediate,” says Dennis Furniss, Vice President of Creative and Strategy at BrandScope. Looking at this package, “You know Method cares about your environment and your world. It doesn’t try to dominate your world. It wants to fit in with your life.”
Rick Barrack, Partner and Chief Creative Officer at Coleman Brandworx, adds, “Companies are much more aware of consumer sensibilities with regard to brand staging on products.” Brand staging refers to how the brand is presented, including logo size, brand colors and typeface.
Barrack adds, “In some cases, brand staging has been minimized. They are not screaming the brand. It’s not meant to be loud. It’s a brand reinforcement.” Consequently, the item “is not overtly a package. It becomes more of a semi-permanent fixture.”
You are what you buy
Many examples of this approach emerge from the gourmet foods category. Leaving a beautiful bottle of specialty olive oil or an elegant canister of Swiss chocolates on the kitchen counter conveys a love of food and/or cooking as well as an appreciation for design.
“The image and identity of a package can mirror somebody’s personal image and identity in many respects,” says Meera Kanwar, Director of Brand Packaging at Interbrand. Packaging for China Blue Cooking Condiments, for example, mirrors the buyer’s personal identity as an epicure and aesthete.  
China Blue, a premium brand, includes several all-natural oils, glazes and sauces. To communicate the brand’s cachet and encourage buyers to leave the bottles out on the counter, Interbrand designed understated, sophisticated packaging for China Blue.
The 6.75-ounce bottles are tall and angular; package graphics include oversize Chinese characters as well as a simple white square with the China Blue logo. The vibrantly colored products are visible through the clear, colorless glass bottles.
Among packagers of ready-to-eat foods, the goal is not counter display but rather “presentability” on the kitchen or dining room table. Matthews Foods addressed this issue with packaging for Filippo Berio Olive Spread, a premium product marketed in the United Kingdom.
Instead of using a standard polypropylene or LDPE tub for the spread, the company worked with design firm Webb Scarlett deVlam and Rexam Thin Wall Plastics to create an embossed tub made of a proprietary polymer. The container is significantly heavier than others in the category, weighing in at 25 grams vs. 17 grams for standard tubs.
The weight of the package gives it a tactile ceramic-like feel, and embossing on the tub and lid emulates Mediterranean earthenware. The result is a package that looks and feels at home on the dining table.
The sides of the tub carry the embossed Berio brand name. Embossing on the lid includes the Berio brand, the company’s crest and olive branches. A coin manufacturer created the crest tooling to produce the level of detail appropriate to the product’s premium stature.
On the lid, Rexam tampo-prints over the embossed brand name. However, the embossing on the tub is not printed. At the point of sale, a paperboard sleeve with product information encircles the cream-colored tub and lid.
Package as collectible
For sturdy containers, such as metal “tins,” glass bottles and rigid plastic packages, the integration of the package with the consumer’s home décor may linger long after the product is gone.
If aesthetically pleasing, these packages may become part of a formal collection—perfume bottles on a bathroom shelf, for example. Or they may take on new life as storage containers for household goods.
Consumers have been saving empty containers and repurposing them around the house for decades. They still do it, but the “habit has become much more complex. We believe it’s part of the broader emotional relationship that consumers now have with brands,” says Simon Williams, President and CEO of the Sterling Group, a brand consulting firm.
Packages as collectibles are particularly prevalent during the holiday season. Schwan’s Home Service, which home-delivers frozen foods, has used collectible, decorative tins to package its holiday ice creams for about 20 years. At first, the company decorated the tins with Currier & Ives prints but more recently has been printing Terry Redlin’s artwork on them. Independent Can Co. supplies Schwan’s with the containers.
Even on collectible tins like these, packaging graphics incorporate brand identity. Schwan’s logo appears, discreetly, on the lid and on the side of its sought-after holiday tins.
“Tins can be both decorative and branded,” says Brad Willick, Marketing Development Manager at U.S. Can Corp.
Some companies, such as Hershey Foods, leverage the longevity of their brands by using antique versions of their brand mark or name on decorative tins. This approach “has nostalgia value,” notes Robert Budway, President of the Can Manufacturers Institute.
Combining art and branding on a commemorative tin for Equal Sweetener, brand owner Merisant Corp. decorated the package with an illustration of a café scene and printed the brand and product information on a pressure-sensitive label that consumers could remove, if desired. J.L. Clark supplies the Equal tin.
Deck the halls…
Addressing the same issue on a different type of package, Smith Dairy incorporates its Moovers logo prominently yet tastefully into holiday graphics on the front of its eggnog bottles. The decorative bottles serve as seasonal decorations, both during consumption of the product and afterwards, when consumers incorporate them into centerpieces or transform them into lamps and other objects.
The company markets its Moovers eggnog products in PET bottles, decorated to look like holiday characters. It achieves the visual effect with full-body PVC shrink labels from Seal-it Inc.
“Moovers Eggnog is our No. 1 product. We get the most letters about it during the year,” says Bill McCabe, Vice President of Marketing for Smith Dairy. Thanks in part to its collectible packaging, “that eggnog gets more attention than you would believe.” BP
The author, Kate Bertrand, is a San Francisco-based writer specializing in packaging, business and technology. Contact her at kate.bertrand@sbcglobal.net
Turning packages into arts & Crafts
The proliferation of arts & crafts has led some consumers to transform packages they admire into permanent household items such as lamps, toys and garden decorations.
Fans of AriZona Beverages have been especially creative, turning the company’s bottles and cans into decorative home furnishings.
These accessories include:
- Lamps, made from AriZona Green Tea bottles.
- Curlicue doll furniture and toy airplanes, created by cutting AriZona’s cans with metal snips.
- Trimming for flowerbeds and garden gates, made with AriZona’s cobalt blue Herbal Tea bottles.
- Floral arrangements that incorporate AriZona’s tea bottles.
The company regularly receives photos from consumers depicting unusual projects. You can view some of these at the company’s Web site: www.arizonabev.com
Some fans simply collect the packages, which are more colorful and chic than most mass-market beverage containers. “We have people who have been collecting our bottles and cans from the beginning. Of our bottles, the 20-ounce size is what they collect the most,” says Francie Patton, Vice President – Corporate Communications at AriZona Beverages.
She adds, “We have never done mass-market media advertising. What has supported this brand has been the packaging. Consumers don’t want to throw it away. They go to the trouble to take our brand and make it part of their life in their home.”
Jean Pettine Graphic Design creates the graphics for AriZona Beverages’ packaging.
Package design. At Jean Pettine Graphic Design, contact Jean Pettine at 856.303.8773 or jean@jeanpettine.com

Aesthetics shape buying Decisions
An exploratory research survey recently conducted by The Consumer Network revealed consumers’ changing appreciation for design and how it affects them at the point of purchase.
The survey asked, “What’s important to you in making buying decisions these days?” and “What was important to you in making buying decisions a year or so ago?”
On the list of choices, the researchers included “design” and “package design” without defining the terms. Among the 202 respondents, 19 percent said “package design” was important to them now vs. 11 percent a year ago. And 37 percent said “design” was important to them now vs. 5 percent a year ago.
“Quality design is being broadly recognized as a component of quality life,” says Mona Doyle, President of The Consumer Network. “This is not unlike the broader appreciation of high quality and sometimes quirky ice creams like Ben & Jerry’s, coffees like Starbucks, elegant waters, and environmentally friendly cars like Toyota’s Prius.”
She adds, “Packages that create smiles, lift a room’s ambiance or reduce spills and mess have a special welcome. Interest in ‘feng shui’ is part of this heightened recognition of the importance of good environmental design and pretty and satisfying decor. It’s a matter of ‘my space’ and self-expression that is far different than ‘keeping up with the Joneses.’ ”
Market research. At The Consumer Network, contact Mona Doyle at 215.235.2400 or mona@consumernetwork.org
Where to go for more information...
Package design. At Interbrand, contact Scott Lucas at 212.798.7516 or scott.lucas@interbrand.com
Brand identity. At BrandScope, contact Dennis Furniss at 773.722.9300 or dennisfurniss@brandscope.com 
Brand strategy and package design. At Coleman Brandworx, contact Crystal Bennett at 212.404.7932 or crystal@colemanbrandworx.com
Structural package design. At Webb Scarlett deVlam, contact Ronald de Vlam at 312.575.0700 or ronald.de.vlam@wsdv.com
Plastic containers. At Rexam Thin Wall Plastics, contact Susannah Sudwell at +44.0.8709.004400 or susannah.sudwell@rexam.com
Brand consulting. At Sterling Group, contact Trish Morley at 212.329.4667 or trish.m@sterlingbrands.com
Decorative metal tins. At Independent Can Co., contact Frank Shriver at 410.272.0090 or franks@independentcan.com
Specialty tins. At U.S. Can Corp., contact Brad Willick at 410.780.1209 or bwillick@uscanco.com
Can industry information. At the Can Manufacturers Institute, contact Vincent DiCastro at 202.232.4677 or vdicastro@cancentral.com
Commemorative tins. At J.L.Clark, contact Kari Larson at 815.966.5911 or kstrominger@jlclark.com
Shrink labels. At Seal-it Inc., contact Barbara Drillings at 800.325.3965 or info@sealitinc.com

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