Pringles: A Chip Off The Old Block Enhances Packaging To Drive Growth

Snack brand reflects P&G philosophy for winning two consumer 'moments of truth'—the point of decision and the point of use. By jim george
At Procter & Gamble, the marketing objective targets consumer needs at two key intervals. These "moments of truth" occur:
  • As the consumer decides whether to buy P&G's brand or a competing brand at the shelf.
  • At the point—two billion times each day—when consumers use a P&G product.
This focus enables P&G to deliver consistently on its brand equities, propelling the consumer products company into a $40 billon global powerhouse. Pringles—one of P&G's stable of billion-dollar brands—provides a yardstick for measuring how the components work together in sustaining a top-tier brand.
Pringles is far more than uniquely shaped potato chips in rigid composite containers. The brand answers the consumer's two moments of truth with an ongoing attention to the two packaging components where its brand equity lies.
First, the marketing team nurtures the "personality" of the brand's signature character, "Mr. Pringles." P&G has given this icon character a contemporary look that makes it relevant to a new generation of potato chip eaters.
Second, the range of Pringles' packaging has evolved beyond the "Original," rich-red canister to create more "usage occasions" for the product—and opportunities to increase sales.
The range of Pringles’ packaging leverages strong equity in the brand’s Mr. Pringles icon and the snack chips’ rigid canisters to create “irresistible taste and fun.” Core members of the packaging development team are, from left, Bryan LiBrandi, LPK Director of Brand Design Strategy; Claudia Kohlman, Procter & Gamble Design Manager Global Snacks & Beverages; John Recker, LPK Vice President/Director of Brand Strategy; and Chris Hood, P&G Marketing Director North American Snacks. Seated in the background is Matt Baughan, LPK Senior Design Director.
These moves have taken root through an integrated global marketing strategy that P&G executes to satisfy local market conditions in 140 countries. It all happens under the brand's umbrella promise of "irresistible taste and fun."
By following these principles, Pringles commands an 8 percent share of the potato chip market. Sales rose 4 percent in 2003 in a crowded, visually "noisy" middle-of-the-store category, according to scanner data from Information Resources Inc.
P&G partners with outside resources to achieve its packaging objectives. Its design management team works with LPK, a Cincinnati brand identity and package design firm, to spearhead the effort.
One recent objective was to modernize the brand. John Recker, LPK Vice President, says the creative team decided to enhance core elements of the brand without changing its core message of irresistible taste and fun.
Contemporary face for a brand icon
LPK suggested a bold move: Change the "face" of Mr. Pringles. He has looked the same since the brand's inception decades ago, and consumer research told the team that the kindly gent's appearance was dated.
P&G views Mr. Pringles as the "visual shorthand" of its potato chip brand and felt that any changes would need to maintain the equity held in the icon while reflecting the fun that consumers associate with the product.
"Consumers told us Mr. Pringles had the old look of a barbershop quartet. They told us he was old Mr. Potato Farmer," says Claudia Kohlman, Design Manager for P&G Global Snacks.
One finding out of the research was that an inviting-looking spokesman can help sell a brand. The updated design contemporizes Mr. Pringles with the festive appearance of a smiling face hidden beneath a bushy moustache.
Mr. Pringles is the single most recognizable graphic element of the package. The second is the cylindrical shape of the canister.
Rather than adopt a "one size fits all" approach, Chris Hood, Marketing Director North American Snacks, lays out an occasion-based packaging strategy that provides "situational and promotional relevance" for consumers. The approach also customizes canisters to specific retailer distribution channels.
A stable of canister packages
The range of the brand's canisters answers consumers' situational needs:
  • The single standard medium can, containing about 6 ounces of chips. It's distributed in mass merchandisers and grocery stores. These pantry-size "pass-it-around" packages are the brand stalwarts.
  • The single-serve, 2.8-ounce size. This container offers an impulse buy to satisfy immediate-consumption needs. Typically, placement is near the store checkout in a variety of distribution channels.
  • Pringles' variety pack holds six 6-ounce canisters. The secondary packaging is a colorful paperboard carton, and the variety pack sells in club stores.
LPK's John Recker says the reliance on a stable of canister sizes and multipack units "enhances Pringles' core equities based on today's consumer expectations" for different product-use needs.
Three tips for great packaging
You don't have a brand unless you can make a promise to consumers—and then deliver on it consistently. Chris Hood, Marketing Director, North American Snacks, has identified three components that enable the range of P&G's brands to deliver great packaging that sells:
1. The packaging is consumer-centric. Each of the elements—color, shape, graphics, icons—makes each brand identifiable in the consumer's mind.
2. Communication of brand relevancy is clear. Usage occasions are intuitive across each brand's range of packaging.
3. The packaging defines the user benefit in the context of the brand "experience." It answers the question, "Why is this particular package right for me?"
The canisters are boldly decorated in bright, saturated colors that spring from P&G's own color palette. Bright, saturated colors such as red, green, orange and yellow help shoppers identify flavor varieties in the line.
These colors serve as a core equity element for Pringles.
Custom typography leaps off these richly hued billboards to give the brand a playful attitude.
"The more we can touch consumers' emotions on every front, the more powerful the brand becomes," Recker notes.
While packaging is a cornerstone of Pringles' situational relevance strategy, it also answers "promotional relevance" needs.
Hood says the equities inherent in Mr. Pringles and the canister shape enable the brand to innovate in different dimensions and build incremental sales. He cites these examples:
1. Seasonal packaging, such as limited-run "Celebrating America" canisters to celebrate the Fourth of July. Seasonal Snack Stacks plastic tubs, sold in multipacks (see sidebar article), provide moms with control-portion chip packages for Halloween.
These extensions provide "a significant lift" in incremental sales, Hood says.
2. Co-equity executions. P&G teamed up with Nickelodeon on Snack Stacks packages that leverage Mr. Pringles and animated characters from the television cartoon series "The Fairly OddParents." Kids earned "Nick Points" with each package purchase.
The pairing of these two brands creates another buying opportunity for kids—and wins mom's trust. BP
The author, Jim George, is the Senior Editor of BRANDPACKAGING magazine.
Tub adds 'usage occasions'
Procter & Gamble's "occasion-based" packaging strategy capitalizes largely on variations of its canisters. But the marketing team feels there are also logical extensions into other packaging forms.
One controls product ports, and from this thinking comes a new Pringles primary package that departs from the canister. Pringles Snack Stacks is an eight-pack of smaller, shapely plastic tubs that protrude from die-cuts in the bottom of a paperboard sleeve.
Snack Stacks also come in 18- and 24-unit multipacks for club stores.
The tubs have distribution in mass merchandisers, grocery stores and club stores.
Webb Scarlett designed the plastic tubs with the idea of extending the consumption experience of a food group that had been relegated to specific meal times or places.
The tub creates another usage occasion—the school lunchbox—whose small size makes the chip canisters impractical, says Chris Hood, P&G Marketing Director North American Snacks.
Matt Baughan, LPK Senior Design Director, says the strong brand equity in the Mr. Pringles icon on the multipack sleeve, as well as on the foil lid of each tub, is enough to carry the brand on packaging that departs from the traditional canister.
"Unless you develop a package design that meets specific usage occasions, you cannot force it simply because you are in love with it," he says.
Where to go for more information...
Structural package design. At Webb Scarlett, contact Ronald de Vlam at 312.575.0700 or
More on Pringles' strategy
From a packaging perspective, Procter & Gamble's success formula with its Pringles brand revolves around on a global strategy that's executed to answer local market conditions.
Claudia Kohlman, P&G's Design Manager Global Snacks & Beverages, will discuss the P&G approach in the presentation "International Marketing: How Pringles Uses Packaging Globally to Meet the Needs of Various Cultures."
Kohlman's will be one of many presentations on strategies for powerful packaging at BRANDPACKAGING magazine's "Packaging That Sells II" conference June 9-10 at the Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel on Chicago's Magnificent Mile.