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Freddie B.

I'd love to see more brands thinking along these lines. It will probably take a brave client in today's climate to support this as it seems easier to sell whimsy or chumminess than 'art'.

I had a crack at this some years back when working with WHSmith on repackaging their arts and crafts range. My concept was simply to use one single line of copy on each product that might spark a creative line of thinking. Where we ended up after the inevitable push back on the more poetic ideas was semi-descriptive / exhortatory copy, eg. 'Make a rainbow of your own' on a pack of coloured pastels. Not quite what I had in mind.

If I were to do this again, I'd push harder on being more genuinely surprising, less obvious. For you look at some pieces of packaging many, many times. One possibly fruitful line to take would be that embraced by Jack Daniels in its ATL - to take a single product detail and tell a beautifully re-readable story about it.

Certainly when you think about products like cereal or beer which you tend to buy over and over again, there's no requirement to tell 'the whole story' at one go. You have months or years even of times spent idly gazing at the package you describe... it could be made a much more rewarding experience (as Innocent rightly surmised years ago).

As a footnote of sorts, I have to say I don't understand why more music packaging doesn't do this. As someone who still buys records and CDs, I repeatedly find myself listening to them, turning the packaging over and over in my hands, looking for something to read... and having to settle with fourteen lines of 'a big shout out to...' in 10-point type.

Daniel

I'm certain there was some product from my childhood that did exactly what you talk about … but I can't quite place it. Damn.

It would be amazing if big brands did this sort of thing, but there's also a lot to be said for small – very small – brands doing it too. Not exactly what you're talking about, but Jack White springs to mind: back when he was an upholsterer, he used to write poems and even insert limited edition records into the furniture he was working on. They'd only be discovered once the upholstering was removed or had fallen apart.

Daniel

MATCHBOXES! Don't most brands of matches have facts and pictures and things on their boxes, simply because they have some spare space?

That isn't the thing from my childhood, I should point out.

Nick Asbury

Thanks for the comments - good points. The matchbox thing also reminds me of Curious mints, which reveal a curious fact when you open the tin.

But I think that kind of lateral, creative packaging copy is probably reasonably common. I guess I'm getting at something different - actually stepping back as a brand and giving the stage to other voices.

What's great about Poems on the Underground is that TfL didn't demand that all the poems reflect their core brand values. You can imagine some jobsworth marketing manager asking for all the poems to be about speed and efficient customer service. But they didn't – they just gave over the space to create something interesting for its own sake.

Kellogg's packaging must be in every kitchen in the land and it would be a great gesture to remove their chatty self-promotional guff and give the space to interesting writing instead.

Designer

A product that give over its packaging to something irrelevant to the product could get some much coveted attention. And poems on packaging would make for a far more cultured read over breakfast than most newspapers.

Martin

A case in point is Stila Cosmetics when it was launched. The packaging was kraft board stock- a first in the industry- and each product had a terse quotation from a famous person on the lid. It helped them carve out a niche and get noticed. As they grew, they cut out the kraft containers and the quotations. Got bought out by Estee Lauder, sold, and have been owned by more private equity firms than I can count. A case of bravery walked way back.

Neil

There was a US coffee company that used to commission/accept submissions of flash stories to appear on its packaging, Nick, but I can't remember its name and I think it was a pretty small endeavour.

ScribblerNE

I particularly like the idea of 'cereal'isation.
The Rude Health brand put some interesting story type stuff on their packaging, but it does always relate back to the product:
http://www.rudehealth.com/our-food/organic-porridge/

A couple of years ago Tyne and Wear Metro did a similar thing to TfL poems on the underground with 100 word stories on posters around the stations.

Maybe something for 26 to get involved with?

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