Water Lilies has been a longstanding Works Design client, and has seen great success in producing frozen Asian food products as a private label manufacturer. Last year they approached Works Design about an opportunity to sell a branded frozen line of organic/natural Asian frozen food into Costco. This category–frozen Asian food products–is populated by independent and/or lesser-known brands that attempt to assert credibility on the shelf through identities that look as though they were launched by large CPG parent companies.
When we kicked off the project, we first worked with the Water Lilies team to create a targeted creative brief, while digging into their understanding of the target consumer, short and long term sales strategy, industry/category outlook and design preferences, among other things. Our research process included multiple store visits to club store retailers, significant desktop research, and interviews of experts in a variety of areas (for instance, organic foods, club channel and frozen foods). We audited cross-category products that featured natural, organic and other health claims, and we took a close look at direct competitors. To that end, we conducted a detailed analysis of the all the competitive and cross-category designs, where we charted the variance in color usage, imagery/iconography, typography styles and packaging layouts (among other things).
Our research led us to a number of key strategic decisions that we identified for our client. For instance, should we follow a “me too” approach to the branding and packaging, or should we differentiate the offering with a new look that breaks from the typical polished yet generic identity sported by most competitors? How should the visual hierarchy represent the health claims (Costco prefers an emphasis on health claims) as compared to brand elements? Should the design focus on green and natural visual cues (as most cross-category natural products do), or should it focus on product photography and brand identity (as most direct competitors do)? Ultimately we honed in on these issues in our creative brief, and explored some of these and other matters by delivering over half a dozen mood boards prior to kicking off our design work.
Given all these open questions, we provided the client with an unusually large and diverse set of concepts during our initial design exploration. We wanted to get them thinking visually through many of the issues highlighted above, while honing in on a strategic direction that they supported from a fully-informed perspective. After a significant number of working sessions, we honed in on a design that followed the conventions in the Asian frozen food category. The client opted for a look that provided credibility for this fledgling brand, rather than a design that was an outlier in the category. The focus was on the product photography and variety, as well as the brand. Organic/natural communication, while important, became part of the variety lock up.
This project really allowed us to dig in with 360 degree involvement. We handled all branding, marketing and sales materials for the launch, and helped guide the client through the printing and packaging process for the initial run. Its fun to spread your wings sometimes, even if you don’t get to do it every day.
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