Dr. Jennifer Simon, semiotician at Sign Salad, talks about the important role packaging can play at a time when people spend less time shopping.
Easter is here and spring has arrived. However, due to the current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic, family celebrations have taken an unusual turn. Nonetheless, there is one popular ritual that can be enjoyed by all this Easter: indulging in chocolate Easter eggs. It can also provide a welcome reprieve from reality.
The chocolate egg has always topped the rankings of sweet treats at this time of year. This Easter it can provide much needed emotional comfort in these uncertain times, by combining its ‘popular’ and ‘traditional’ symbolism. The egg, since ancient times, has always been a symbol of birth, growth and renewal. And chocolate has a popular association with indulgence and the Easter Egg has been a traditional treat for children in Britain since 1875 - linked to the breaking of the Lent Fast.
While the eggs themselves communicate these values to the consumer, so does the product packaging. Chocolate eggs packaging can spread additional values such as nostalgia and playfulness. Reminding people of their simpler times during youth and encouraging playfulness can bring emotional comfort amid normality disruption.
Increasingly, food and beverage companies are appealing to consumers’ expectations through their packaging to gain a competitive advantage. Brands play a supportive role in society – providing fair exchanges of goods and services, one that differs from governments and not-for-profits. In order to fulfil this role, brands need to activate their purpose. Now more than ever, they have to ensure their values are communicated authentically, clearly and relevantly.
It’s important that the purpose is aligned with the prevailing cultural values during this challenging time (e.g. being understanding, providing comfort). Otherwise, they will be presumed inauthentic and insensitive, mainly using the crisis for their own gain. Therefore, brands should carefully consider tone of voice when communicating with their target audience and align it with the changing cultural landscape. This requires thoughtfulness and sensitivity to the shifting realities of consumers lives such as employment and wellbeing. Understanding the changing cultural context, the brand operates in has become more crucial than ever.
Due to the pandemic restrictions, consumers are spending less time shopping in supermarkets, which results in less attention span for brands on shelves. Of course, some product categories will be marked as a default essential in this moment, but unfortunately – others wouldn’t have that success. Brands must tap into their values that align with the perceived need of the consumer, for example the need for emotional comfort or health security. And chocolate Easter eggs are no different. While typically perceived as a child food product, more and more companies are tailoring their products and packaging to appeal to the older demographic. It is interesting to see how all brands – from the supermarket’s own offering, to the popular confectioners and the luxury brands have been able to bring playfulness and nostalgia into their design.
The calmness of nature: Emergent Easter packaging is signalling comfort, particularly calmness and renewal, through the unexpected and sophisticated reinvention of what an Easter ‘chocolate egg’ can be. For instance, Waitrose’s ‘spring lemon’ egg still depicts the newness and naturalness of spring in the light-yellow egg, symbolising a gentle warmth and a ripening freshness. The soft pastel palette alludes to this season’s colours often found in a familiar environment such as plants and sun. The imitation of a lemon suggests zesty freshness and codes gentle revitalising uplift. As such, Waitrose appears modern and culturally relevant, as they update tradition through a similarly oval shaped, yet unconventional food object in the context of Easter.
Terry’s Chocolate Orange Eggs is the perfect example that communicates excitement through its cheerful design. The ‘orange’ lettering resembles fruit peels positioned to form the brand name and encourages messy, playful enjoyment – giving freedom to ‘play’ with the food. The recalling imagery of explosion and party confetti cues to energetic release. However, youth is also combined with adult taste, as the dark blue colours contrast with the bright yellow/orange background.
Easter packaging can encapsulate a refined nostalgic comfort and Charbonnel et Walker illustrates this through the imagery of frolicking rabbits that recalls classic children’s story books. The clean and simple design, with the abundant use of negative space, reveals modern minimalist aesthetics. This visual refinement of nostalgic references connects to millennial customers looking for emotional comfort that feels age appropriate.
With the disruptions of our normal lives, brands could provide some relief. Pre-Covid, confectionary brands communicated comfort to millennial consumers through playfulness, calmness and refined nos-talgia in ways that are modern and innovative; ultimately challenging traditional Easter conventions. Given that this need for comfort and familiarity extends to all demographics now, innovative packaging that challenges category conventions will be crucial to get consumer’s attention. Therefore, product presentation that embraces elements of creativity and originality and reflects shared values with con-sumers, will fulfil the silent salesman’s mission.
Editor of Touchpoints magazine, writer for Packaging Europe magazine and design enthusiast!