Campbell’s global design director maintains the equities of her well-established brands but takes care to prime them for future relevance at the same time.

Campbell's broke from its red and white equity colors to support a breast cancer awareness campaign

Speak with most any brand steward, and you’ll hear that one of their default career goals is to come up with an iconic package. But what if your packaging is etched in consumers’ minds-what if it’s already a cultural icon?

“It becomes untouchable, in most instances,” says Darralyn Rieth, director of global design for The Campbell Soup Company.

Campbell’s had rarely changed the design of its iconic red-and-white soup labels since its inception more than a century ago (“The red-and-white trade dress is sacred to us,” says Rieth). But when a certain design brief came across Rieth’s desk, that idea took a decidedly different turn.

Kroger had approached Campbell’s to participate in a regional breast cancer awareness campaign, and an associate brand manager came to Rieth’s design group with a simple request: “Just give me a pink ribbon and we’re good to go.”

Rieth and her team knewCampbell’s could do more. “We started to question and challenge, and push back against marketing to say, ‘If we’re going to do this we need to do it right’,” she says. “We needed to be in there full force with everythingCampbell’s can bring to support this great cause.”

They explored their creative options and came up with a concept that included a pink ribbon, but went dramatically further by trading out the red and white label and going bold with a white and pink hue.

“We presented it to the marketing teams and they were completely thrilled,” says Rieth.

But that wasn’t the case with all internal stakeholders, she says. A few needed a bit more convincing. Over the course of a few weeks, Rieth and her team made their case-wearing and passing around pink products, developing a presentation that demonstrated the way Campbell’s could immerse itself in the cause and working with executives to convince them why the design was worth fighting for.

“It was a great effort,” says Rieth, “and we won the challenge, so to speak.”

Campbell’s rolled out the pink labels exclusively at Kroger, which lined its shelves with nearly seven million of the brand’s icon flavors-chicken noodle and tomato soup. And they were exuberantly received, flying off the shelves to whereCampbell’s saw a sales lift of 86.9 percent.

Rieth says the initiative was ground breaking forCampbell’s. “It generated a lot of thought and conversation, and paved the way for us to take a look at how we can use the power of Campbell’s for different-what we would consider ‘good’-campaigns,” she says.

Breast cancer is one such fit, which is whyCampbell’s re-initiated the project last October and dramatically expanded it, going national with Kroger and other grocers with 14 million pink labels.

Given that the changes were made so dramatically to iconic packaging that has deep cultural meaning for American shoppers,Campbell’s cause-marketing strategy has made a big impact. It’s just the second time the brand has deviated from its red-and-white equity colors.

A project with the Andy Warhol Foundation in 2004 was the first. It was 40 years after Warhol transformed Campbell’s soup cans into pop art and Rieth and her team celebrated the association with a four-pack containing reproductions of his famously colorful Campbell’s soup label silkscreens. The limited-edition pack sold for $2.99 at Giant Eagle stores regionally, including Pennsylvania (Warhol’s home state), but Rieth says people all over the country started looking for them and collecting them-they even cropped up on eBay.

A limited re-run of 40,000 labels went out last Christmas-but this time selling at Barney’s for $12 a pop. “They sold out in two days,” says Rieth.

Deciding what or how to change iconic packaging can be tricky, no matter what you do. You have to maintain consumers’ emotional connection and help them feel like they’re still participating with your brand, says Rieth.

"It has to be purposeful and very meaningful,” she explains. “It’s all about balance-staying true to your brand’s identity and essence and building a sense of relevance and progressiveness at the same time.”

Helping that cause is the fact that Rieth reports into strategy, toCampbell’s chief strategic officer. “That gives us a broader scope,” she says. “And we’re able to engage across the organization.”

Rieth is responsible for launching, repositioning and expanding brands across theCampbellportfolio-from Campbell Soup and V8 to Prego and Pepperidge Farm in North America to Arnott’s in Asia, Liebig inFranceand beyond. So the association with strategy helps her make her case for packaging and for putting more emphasis and backing on the importance of design.

"We’re on the verge of jumping over the fence and becoming a world-class design driven company,” she says.

That’s no easy charge, given that Rieth has a staff of seven, and contract support of just another eight.

Luckily, Rieth is just as much a collaborator as she is a leader. Several years ago, she helped document and refine the company’s workflow in a way that, she says, has fine tuned and optimized the way packaging is received within the organization.

The project has resulted in strong cross-functional support for projects across the organization, which has embedded the business objectives in the development process and has helped elevate packaging as a strategic marketing tool.

Campbell’s conversion of its V8 beverage brand from glass to PET is one such example, where Rieth’s team worked with R&D and engineering to develop bottle shapes that would effectively deliver the brand and its equities.

“It was one of those marriages of 2D and 3D that revolutionized the way we run our beverage business,” she says.

Campbell’s Soup at Hand was another. The easy-open microwavable product features a tapered shape to fit both car holders and consumers’ hands and also a new substrate for Campbell’s-a foam label-that came together to establish a whole new platform for growth.

“From the package to the graphics, we really looked at it holistically as we developed the brand and that brand essence,” says Rieth. “It wasn’t just about graphics or package form, it was a combination of all those components coming together to create a truly unique proposition.”

And that’s a key challenge for Rieth going forward. “We work hard to maintain our trademarks and our brand equities, but as we look for news ways to take our brands to new places, more places, and more offerings across the day of food desires and choices, we look to design to grow our brands and be relevant with today and tomorrow’s consumer.”

Design thinking is truly impactful and profitable, says Rieth. By keeping a good grasp of your company’s marketing and business goals along with your consumer needs, by being persistent and consistent with your message, backing it up with examples and case studies from within and from other companies, Rieth says you can win others over to your packaging-as-strategic-marketing-tool cause-and even get to have a little fun with the most iconic of package designs.

Just one thing to remember, says Rieth. “Don’t forget to be prepared so that when your company says, ‘I get it’, you’ll be ready to take action.” BP

NAME: Darralyn Rieth


AGE: Old enough to know better than tell you…but I’m 43.

TITLE: Director of global design

YEARS IN CURRENT POSITION: Eighteen years in design at Campbell’s, six years as director global design

ULTIMATE BRANDED PACKAGE: Campbell’s soup, of course!

WHAT'S ON YOUR NIGHTSTAND: A reproduction Tiffany lamp, my favorite OPI nail color “Don’t Be Koi with Me”, and books and magazines including the Harvard Business Journal; Future Think; Eat, Pray, Love; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; and The Good Dog (because I like to read whatever my daughter is reading).