What is is that makes my 6 year old daughter love Kinder eggs? Is it the amazing orange and white stand-out on shelf or maybe the promise of delicious chocolate? Who are we kidding? The real lure is the gift inside. Just as important, and what makes a Kinder egg over a standard bar of chocolate, is the sense of theatre. From the nostalgic unwrapping of the crinkly foil to the breaking of the chocolate shell, you continuously engage with the brand through so many layers. By the time you’ve popped open the little yellow egg with eager anticipation of your ‘air fix kit’ style toy, you well and truly feel that your 45p was well spent. Then there are the hours of ‘fun’ fiddling to put it together.
This got me thinking that many of our favourite brands also secretly hold a valuable, almost hidden, invisible equity. Admittedly many brands have been savvy enough to capitalise on brand theatre – Orangina’s shake to wake, Grolsch’s unleashing of their ceramic stopper to the heavy thud of a BMW door followed by a gentle fade of the vanity light.
But the area I find really fascinating is when, just simply through the passage of time, a brand can own a valuable equity they never intended to have. Who doesn’t now pine for the foil on a Kit Kat bar or the little colourful embossed alphabet letters on the lid taken from a Smarties tube? Interestingly to some brands these aren’t equities hence the move to replace the Smarties tube with a hexagonal box. Yes I buy the argument that the new packaging is more environmentally aware but I can’t help but feel robbed of all the charm the brand has given me over the years (it took me about 5 years to collect the whole alphabet).
Sometimes it’s the oddities around the brand that make the brand. Take Heinz Tomato Ketchup. Sure you can put it in a neat clinical squeezy plastic bottle, but for loyalists, unless you thud the ‘diner’ style glass bottle, it just ain’t Heinz. You can keep a jar of coffee uber fresh with a modern click vacuumed lid, but what you really want is to smash your tea spoon through that lovely gold foil on a jar of Gold Blend.
However, it’s not always negative that times change and brands move on. One brand actually making this ‘invisible’ theatre the main crux of its latest advertising campaign is nestle cereal Shreddies. Rather than the theatre just being tactile it’s observational too. Watch the hilarious tongue in cheek market researchers get feedback on the taste difference of the new ‘diamond’ shape, which of course isn’t Shreddies turned 45 degrees – oh no, it’s new Diamond Shreddies! The campaign is very clever as the theatre is running through the ‘new’ old brand. In fact, the diamond shape and the ads have become a Youtube hero in their own right – you can even vote online for which shape you prefer. Very design savvy – making the existing shape of the product become what’s new (and it must have saved a fortune in R&D).
But it’s not just brands, one entire category that has successfully turned around a major piece of their ownable theatre, is wine. Who at first didn’t doubt the transition form the ceremonious de-corking to the very under whelming unscrewing of a cap? But it worked and people have adopted the new ritual whether it’s a cheap and cheerful bottle of plonk through to more premium wines. No more stressfully rattling around the cutlery drawer for the elusive corkscrew, and hey presto, at picnics you’re straight in.
But simply replacing theatre with convenience won’t always work. The real trick as we design into the future is that we continue to create and protect a brand’s potentially invisible equities. Pringles know that ‘once you pop you can’t stop’ will out live any surface graphics. The DNA of brands aren’t just visible equities but also emotive, tactile ones. Long live jokes on lolly sticks, crisps with salt packets, shamrocks drawn on pints of Guinness and yellow eggs with toys in them.
Adam Ellis is Design Director at Coley Porter Bell.