Making a Y2Killing

As the millennium looms, what role will designers play in kickstarting that party spirit?

It seems to have dominated our TV screens and newspapers every day for the past few years, but the reality is that the millennium is now less than seven weeks away.

Taking advantage of this hype, many clients have commissioned design groups to brand products to coincide with the celebrations. Consequently, everything from food and drink to board games and clothing is now available with some millennial significance attached.

Consultancies have been cashing in on the trend, although many of them maintain a healthy cynicism towards the idea of jumping on such a branding bandwagon.

Pearlfisher has designed a celebration pack called Timeless, overcoming Absolut’s cynicism about millennium branding. But Pearlfisher creative partner Jonathan Ford still has reservations about the furore surrounding the event.

“We wanted to create something original which would stand out from the crowd, and not lose its integrity,” he says. “The large majority of millennium branding will be codswallop, merely capitalising on the commercialism that the millennium offers. People who stand out will be the ones with integrity.”

Ford also believes consumers will be “sick to the teeth” of millennium products by December, as a result of the “bombardment” by manufacturers. “I’ve seen a lot of rubbish out there already,” he claims.

Wagstaffs creative director Judi Green agrees. “The length and breadth of the globe, people are selling all kinds of everything by giving it a themed slant. The reality is that consumers will soon get heartily fed up. Many are already responding with a healthy scepticism.”

Green’s solution is to “send the whole thing up and just have a bit of a laugh”. This is evident in Wagstaffs’ design of Tesco’s Millennium Dome Pasties, which feature a tabloid newspaper theme in the packaging.

“The tone of them cuts right to the heart of most consumers’ real experience of the event – acknowledging that there’s a great deal of hype and fuss about something really fairly straightforward,” she adds.

Robson Dowry’s rebranding of K Cider was among several limited edition millennium drinks projects undertaken by the branding specialist. Other products include a 75cl champagne-style bottle for Babycham, a new litre bottle for Stone’s Ginger Wine, and party packs for cider brands such as Dry Blackthorn and Gaymer’s Olde English.

Robson Dowry senior designer Dan Grzonka believes millennium branding for drinks especially will focus on using names which are “short and sweet” such as Y2K, conveying the message as succinctly as possible.

“Abbreviations are very trendy for year 2000, because millennium is a long word and reduces shelf prominence. Branding is going in for fun, short, sharp names that have a trendy link which people can remember. It is almost becoming like clothing brand status and other lifestyle brands.”

Grzonka also believes successful millennium goods will be ones which incorporate the brand’s value and heritage. “Products which have links to the brand and a second dimension mentally are more interesting,” he says, citing Arkell’s 2M, which includes the company’s 156 year history on the packaging. “But one-dimensional brands are a bit shallow to me. They are selling off the back of something and being a bit too obvious. There needs to be something special about it.”

There will undoubtedly be designers and manufacturers who achieve this “something special” in their millennium branding, but whether this number outweighs the millennial howlers will surely be determined in the coming months.

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