A couple of days ago, Brandweek featured an interview of Peter Clarke, CEO and founder of Product Ventures, a Fairfield, Connecticut design firm that has created packaging for Heinz, Folgers and Febreze, among other brands:

Brandweek: You believe that packaging has become simpler of late. Can you describe what you mean by that?

Peter Clarke: Simplicity is one of the tenets of today’s values. It’s based on a need for clarity in this very complicated, untrusting world that we’re all living in right now. Brands are distilling their product messaging to the product essence. In a way, in this overcrowded marketplace, many brands are finding that less is actually more.

Not always easy to accomplish, but it certainly makes sense. After all, we have discussed before, the importance of brevity and, for example, how the Google homepage is a model of brevity. We also have discussed the trend toward truncation and some of the pitfalls of single letter brands. GuestBlogger Mark Prus of NameFlash has discussed the Long and Short of Name Develeopment. Brent has pointed out how NASCAR and others have not gotten the "less is more" memo, in his entertaining Sensory Overload post. And, GuestBlogger John Reinan of Fast Horse, may have identified at least part of the need for simplicity of design, in his insightful post Thriving in a Speeded-Up World.

Although Mr. Clarke did not specifically mention Schroeder Milk, it would appear they got the memo, as did our friends at Capsule, who designed these sleek and minimalist milk containers for Schroeder:

In stark contrast, another brand that appears not to have gotten the "less is more" memo is Tropicana, perhaps not surprising given all the missed memos of late for that suffering O.J. brand. The current half gallon carton promoting their 2010 Juicy Rewards program, is busier than any cereal box I’ve seen before, and it is reminiscent of the sensory overload images posted by Brent. I’ll make sure to update this post with images once we finish the carton.

Ironically, AdAge reported just yesterday that PepsiCo’s CEO Indra Nooyi has vowed to learn from its mistakes, specifically citing the Tropicana rebrand controversy from 2009, and asserting "we won’t make the same mistakes." As the comments to that report show, there appear to be more than a few skeptics in the crowd, and given Tropicana’s 2010 Juicy Rewards O.J. packaging, the pundits may be closer to the truth.

UPDATE: Packaging Diva on Does Simple Packaging Sell?

  • Great article. “Less Is More” is the only way to stand out in the confusing shelves of the grocery or drug store. However, given the constant tinkering of management and the need to add something to make a contribution, “Less Is More” is often very difficult to achieve, especially in larger companies who have many layers of approval. Hats off to strong creative and management teams who know great design when they see it…and leave it alone!

  • Please tell me that is a tamper evident security strip I see atop the Schroeder bottle!
    I have a small suggestion to make on even more from even less to add…

  • Hi Stephen,
    the move to a more clean look is as a result of both the impact of private label brand’s incursion onto the shelves at the retail and also CPG brands wanting to leverage that sensibility to appeal to consumers. By keeping costs low by not over-engineering their back end process and then passing on the costs to the consumer…
    The success of this design direction is in that it makes the brand resonate more at retail by being more iconic looking, therefore enhancing the brand equity. This is amongst the many virtues that the PLB category has embodied for decades and gained a great deal of retail traction with, especially during this recessionary period.
    I believe that the PLB industry is better suited for this than most national brands and category-leaders. They have proven themselves to be very nimble, able to work on the thinnest of margins and be more responsive to the needs of
    retailer’s profitability.

  • Actually, less IS more on product packaging if it conveys the right message. Getting the right elements on product packaging is complicated and you have limited space in which to tell the story. The most important step is to understand what your core consumer wants and needs on their product packaging. Then tell them what they should know to help them make an informed decision.
    Simple is great but is meaningless if consumers are still wondering what’s inside.