Making Limited Edition Packs Work Harder for Your Brand

Emily Cristoforis, Director of Strategy

Emily Cristoforis, Director of Strategy

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Launching limited edition packaging (LEP) designs is a fairly quick, easy and low-risk way for brands to reach new audiences, connect to a larger promotional campaign or event, or just to disrupt and drive ‘new news’ on the shelf.

And while the outcomes of limited edition designs drive short term impact for brands, they are rarely designed to impact a brand’s equity in the longer term. But limited edition designs CAN work harder and longer for brands.

At Vault49, we approach developing limited edition designs with impact using our Back Alley Insights methodology. This big-picture approach to limited edition packs allows us to deliver solutions that meet a brands’ short-term objectives, as well as being true brand equity drivers in the long-term.

So, what are Back Alley Insights?

Our Back Alley Insights approach brings together street-level insights with creative problem solving. This greatly enhances traditional research processes through a combination of expertise and intuition. The Back Alley approach takes a creative, untraditional look at uncovering consumer and cultural insights, exploring the broader context with an open mind and eyes (not just going in looking for specific answers to specific questions).

Most importantly, the Back Alley approach gets to ideas and executions that drive meaning with people, tells stories beyond the pack design, and extends the brands’ equity. Because when you do it the Back Alley way, you uncover fresh insights that break new ground for future opportunities.

Below, we’ve outlined how we’ve used our Back Alley Insights approach to create limited edition designs that deliver on a brands’ core objective while driving positive, long-term impact for how the brand shows up in the world and with consumers.

How LEPs can reach new audiences AND strengthen the connection with your core

LEP designs are a fairly low-risk way for a brand to branch out to new audiences, inspiring consumers to trial a brand using a distinctive shelf presence. But most often, those consumers end up going back to their regular brand after the limited edition design is off the shelf. At best, it has no impact on the brand’s connection with its core consumer base; at worst it can alienate them by drastically shifting the image, promise, and value of the brand.

For LEPs to successfully reach new consumers AND build equity back to their core consumers, our Back Alley Insights approach explores consumer “tribes” instead of traditional segments. This means looking at the beliefs, behaviors and values that are shared across a range of traditional consumer segments, and creating designs that connect around those, instead of dividing them by their differences.

For SKII, we addressed this challenge with our recent LEP launch of Pitera on the Streets.

SKII is a super-premium beauty brand, with a proprietary anti-aging ingredient. As a result, the brand’s core audience has been older women. However, SKII wanted to reach a younger generation of women through disruptive LEPs. But while 50+ and 20-30-year-olds have differing skin needs, visual styles, etc., we focused instead on what these women shared by exploring beauty “tribes” using our Back Alley approach.

We identified a shared belief that beauty is a tool for self-expression. This tribe resists the notion that there is a single vision of the way women should look, choosing instead to embrace their own individual beauty.

Through this shared value, as well as the LEP objective to drive standout on shelf, we developed a bold street-art-inspired range of designs. Each variety uses different styles and techniques, delivering a bold and modern visual impression grounded in insights on individual self expression.

How LEP’s can add a compelling layer of storytelling to a brand promotion

LEPs are often tied into a brand’s promotions, such as an event, campaign, or activation. But beyond just being another campaign touchpoint, LEPs can become an integral part of an overarching brand promotion when they are able to provide an experience or tell a story that goes beyond what a consumer would take away from the event or campaign.

When Pepsi sponsored the 2018 Champions League they partnered with Vault49 to deliver a multifaceted brand experience and broad range of LEPs. We took a Back Alley approach to uncover rich player stories that were brought to life on can designs. This provided layers of meaning for consumers to uncover, adding unique richness to the core campaign.

With the objective of spotlighting key Champions League players, we went beyond slapping their glamour shots or stats on the cans. Instead, our Back Alley approach meant we got deep with the players — understanding their lives, their passions, their styles, their backgrounds — and using that depth to tell stories about the players that resonate and connect with consumers as people (not just celebrities on a pedestal).

To celebrate their individual styles, as well as the global footprint of the players, we tapped into our global network of artists, partnering with illustrators from each players’ home country, to surround each player with visually stunning graphics that intuitively conveyed their personalities and styles, and celebrated their home countries.

Results showed how impactful this approach was. Our designs – initially conceived for just the pack – were elevated and used as visuals across the campaign, including point of sale and out of home. The campaign was rewarded with a #1 ranking by Marketing Dive for delivering likeability and driving brand attention. Impressive, especially when considering this was a World Cup year when the number one competitor to Pepsi was the lead event sponsor.

How LEPs can disrupt the shelf by cementing a brands’ place in local culture

LEPs are often done on a local level due to the relative ease of implementation and they often celebrate places, traditions, and events happening in a specific market. This is especially true for global brands who are looking to drive local connection and relevance.

While they can do a great job of driving a local connection while the designs are on shelf, the local connection is forgotten once the brand returns to their global design.

But LEPs can help brands drive local cultural foundation that extends beyond the life of the pack itself by representing an authentic cultural truth that is meaningful enough for people to remember for the long term.

For Smirnoff X1 in Mexico, we did this by creating an LEP for the local Day of the Dead celebration through a Back Alley deep dive into local culture. The team traveled to Mexico, celebrated Day of the Dead with local families at the dinner table and in graveyards, and went out on the town with culture makers. We fully immersed ourselves in both traditional and contemporary Mexico.

We uncovered a tension baked into modern Mexican culture. A keen respect for tradition was merging with new excitement, and what was once a celebration of heritage was now merging with profound shifts in beliefs and behaviors. Combine this with renewed local pride and it was clear that there was a golden opportunity to capture this new energy in an inspired yet respectful manner for Smirnoff.

Through this lens, we created the Spicy Tamarind LEP that transformed the rich Day of the Dead traditions into an inspiring idea that was relevant to modern Mexicans. Our execution transformed both the bottle beyond that once-a-year celebration, and cemented the brand’s place in local culture.

Interpreting deep and profound local truths through this limited design resulted in short-term and long-term success. The campaign delivered on Smirnoff’s objectives (KPIs) within just a month of its launch, and sold out on shelves before 2019’s Day of the Dead was even over.

Making LEP’s work harder, the Back Alley way

Back Alley Insights can help brands deliver on the core objectives of an LEP. The process builds in consumer and cultural insights, transforming a flash-in-the-pan cool design into something rich and meaningful for both the brand and consumers. It delivers work that cuts through and connects.

Through this approach, LEPs become an integral element of a brand world’s ecosystem that can support and add new depth to its other activities, and drive more impact for a brand’s future.

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Emily Cristoforis, Director of Strategy

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