Hello, I'm your crisp packet! Please be my friend!
In this week’s Observer, Eva Wiseman let rip at nauseatingly cute food packaging. ‘We’re all being babysat by the stuff we buy. Lullabied with the padded language of packaging – packaging that, in recent years, has begun to talk to us. Talk to us like we’re children...’
It’s at least the fifth time I’ve read a variation on this column. (Heck, we even wrote our own version two years ago – ‘the end of fluff’ – in the annual Superbrands round-up.) Here’s what I think every time:
1. It really ain’t new any more
Innocent started it all. They showed the world what you could do just by taking the time to think about all the little details, and they did it brilliantly. But they’ve been around for thirteen years. Thirteen years. Jesus. Copying Innocent was never exactly original, but back in the day it at least showed you wanted to be part of a different tribe. But if after practically a generation your brand is still going for an Innocent-like chatty faux-naive tone, then you’re really, really not thinking hard enough.
2. And it ain’t all bad
It’s easy to lump all ‘chatty’ brands together. But there are plenty getting it right: Puccino’s coffee bars do it with swagger and knowingness (see the ads they put out for new franchises, which started ‘Hi, I’m Luigi, the fictional head of Puccino’s coffee bars...’); Peppersmith chewing gum does it with a very English intelligence and wit; and Waitrose’s ‘a pinch of...’ products do it with a nice, under-stated naturalness. Clue: they’ve all gone beyond a vague ‘chatty’ tone and worked out what’s right for them.
3. And right now, it ain’t that surprising
In her article, Wiseman wonders whether this is all a ‘consequence of sex-sells branding... If you feed in a lorryload of thighs and innuendo at the start of a decade, does it excrete cupcakes and baby voices at the end?’ Perhaps. I reckon it’s more likely that it’s a reaction to the uncertain times we live in. The verbal equivalent of nursery food and a comfort blanket. Just like the rash of nostalgic TV ads at the moment, retreating into the sepia-tinted certainty of the past. But that’s for another blog...