Quirky Packages Keep Them Coming Back

Customized labels and limited-run containers generate excitement and build a ’cult’ following who ’collects’ your brand.

by Robert McMath

Jones Soda has built a successful business, in part, due to its customized packaging. The company has been bottling various soda flavors, using some of the most outrageous designs on limited runs of its labels.
Initially, Jones printed the labels in black and white. Colors now appear. Some of the limited runs may include only 5,000 labels.
The label designs come from consumers who send in some pretty silly pictures. I can recall one label that showed part of a leg in an old boot.
This labeling strategy, combined with colorful product in a clear glass bottle, enables Jones to compete effectively in the crowded soft drink category.
Beer is another cluttered category. Taking a page from the Japanese who are considered masters in innovative and unique packaging, I wonder if a concept like what Suntory did some years ago in the Japanese market might not be a way for an inventive American brewer to make “a place in the sun” for a new brew? Or perhaps revitalize an “old” one?
The author, Robert McMath, has been a marketing consultant for more than 30 years. Through his NewProductWorks, he has advised major companies. He is the author of What Were They Thinking, a book chronicling the whys of product successes and failures. Contact him at 607.582.6125 or rmcmath@cs.com. Visit the Internet site: www.NewProductWorks.com
Proudly on display on the shelves of the NewProductWorks collection in Ann Arbor, Mich., are three packages from Suntory Brewery from the mid-1980s. Some people have affectionately called them “Penguin Packages.”

One of the packages is an oversized, tall can. A smaller than normal size can targeted the women’s market. The third package is a big fat opaque, white plastic bottle with a large screw-top opening for pouring. All bear the same outlandish design of a penguin to attract attention.

Americans have a passion for collecting quirky things. It’s one reason why Jones Soda became a “cult” beverage with loyal followers practically waiting in line for the next delivery of newly labeled soda bottles.

These “evangelists” became “turned on” to each succeeding label. And many set out to collect them all.
Jones garnered special personal excitement when someone’s picture entry appeared on a label.
Several years ago, I saw consumers pore over a large pallet display of beer cans bearing an unknown brand name from South Africa. The cans had strikingly beautiful, finely lithographed illustrations of wild animals, native to Africa.
There were 17 different can designs in the collection and at least 10 people at one time were scouring the display for all the different designs they could collect and take home. And the product wasn’t cheap. Each can retailed for about $3.
Consumers like to collect odd things. A quirky package could gain attention in a crowded category and become a collectible. And with frequent changes in the package design, this brand could keep consumers coming back again and again.