Provenance wars are raging in packaging design as place of origin becomes a shorthand to denote that a brand is genuine, transparent and unadulterated. Warburtons bakery is, for example, preparing to launch a new bread brand made entirely from British-grown wheat, with packaging designed by DJPA featuring a picture of a farmer who supplied the grain, in response to a similar move by arch-rival Hovis last year.
Meanwhile, giving a brand a national or regional theme is a powerful way of drawing out its premium qualities and provides a hook on which to hang a potent brand story. Nescafé, for example, is rolling out its new upmarket Café Parisien sub-brand, with packaging designed by Coley Porter Bell, as it seeks to fight back against Kraft’s successful French-themed Carte Noire.
The current vogue for demonstrating that a brand has escaped from all that is fake and faux has moved geographical origins to the centre stage of branding. Smaller producers are making much of where they come from as they fight back against ’faceless’ multi-national brands.
With this in mind, Coley Porter Bell has just redesigned the packaging for Russian confectionery brand Krupskaya, which was named after the wife of revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin. The new-look branding emphasises the Soviet origins of the brand and features a reworked griffin logo, which is the symbol of the city of St Petersburg.
The classic Russian symbol of the troika – three horses drawing a sledge – has been modernised and the on-pack colours have been darkened, suggesting premium Western brands such as Lindt from Swiss chocolatier Lindt & Sprü ngli. This gives Krupskaya a platform from which to fight back against the encroachments of Western multinationals such as Nestlé and Mars. According to CPB chief executive Vicky Bullen, ’Consumers are suffering from a sense of disenchantment with the modern world and its madness. Brands are using provenance because consumers want authenticity and are seeking out brands that can help them to have an individual identity. Consumers have become anti-ubiquity.’
Stressing a brand’s country or region of origin can be a shorthand for its brand values. German provenance suggests quality engineering, as seen in Audi and BMW branding. Australian brands such as underwear maker Aussie Bum and haircare brand Aussie play on the country’s reputation for honesty, directness and a straightforward, unfussy approach. Motor insurance brand Sheila’s Wheels also uses Australian imagery to imply these values.
For wine, cheese, coffee and tea, regional origin denotes the flavour and quality of the products. Now other commodities are trying to acquire premium values by stressing their local roots. Chocolate, honey, sugar and rice are playing the provenance game as they try to shake off their commodity status.
Lewis Moberly redesigned the packaging for Plantation Reserve Sugar at the end of last year, for example, emphasising the product’s country of origin, the Caribbean island of Barbados. Where previously the product had been a posh brand in a tin caddy, the consultancy has brought out its provenance to give it an authentic, premium image. The cubed-shaped pack helps the product stand out on supermarket shelves against other commoditised sugars. The cube features a ’window’ in the shape of the island, through which the sugar sparkles like ’subtle coloured crystals’, says the consultancy.
Lewis Moberly strategy planning director Hilary Boys says, ’We’re tired of spin. We trust things less, so we prefer to know about where they come from and the ethics of the company behind them. If we are paying a premium for something, we want to be given a reason other than overt poshness or expensive packaging.’
Fredericks Dairies last year launched an ’authentic’ Italian ice cream brand called Antonio Federici Gelato Italiano, though the product is actually made in the UK. The packaging uses traditional Italian design cues such as Art Deco typography on a black background.
Matt O’Connor, the design consultant who created the packaging, says the best way to come up with provenance packaging is to spend time in the country or region concerned and absorb the local culture. He developed various designs for the ice cream, but scrapped them after spending some weeks touring the Italian Riviera.
’We have kept it as authentic and true to Antonio Federici as possible. The name is a mouthful. We’ve used the Italian language on the packaging where possible and have made it deliberately difficult, because we are trying to appeal to aficionados,’ he says.
Another launch last year was the Sipsmith range of spirits, which includes London dry gin and a barley vodka. The bottle designs for the range were created by Big Fish, and feature a picture of a swan, suggesting London origins. This is a refreshing alternative to more obvious symbols such as Beefeaters, London buses and Big Ben.
For many brands, it seems no image is too stereotypical to hammer home the provenance message. Haircare brand Aussie – which is owned by Procter & Gamble – uses a kangaroo as its logo.
Provenance provides an opportunity for brands to demonstrate their authenticity and to go beyond mere image-making. But if they hark on about their roots without good reason, they risk turning provenance branding into yet another form of spin.