PACKAGING

Unwrapping excellence: how seasonal packaging design trends shape brand identity

By Ellie Broady

Unwrapping excellence: how seasonal packaging design trends shape brand identity

In the ever-evolving tapestry of marketing, there exists a phenomenon that remains constant: seasonality. It’s more than just a pattern; it’s a subtle shift of sentiment, environmental transformations, and the ebb and flow of consumer behavior. Seasonality is not simply a passive force but a dynamic and powerful tool leveraged by savvy organizations.

As seasons shift from one to another, so do human desires, needs, and motivations that guide preferences, and ultimately, purchasing decisions. In the realm of branding, the ability to influence the levers that drive this connection breeds a branded legacy.

Seasonality is not simply a facet on which marketing strategies unfold. Instead, it is a potent and nuanced tool in which narratives are built. It fosters connections, not just between consumers and products, but between individuals and the essence of a brand. Moreover, in this age of data-driven insights, seasonality stands as a well of invaluable information. By understanding the subtleties in seasonal shifts that spur consumers, brands can unlock huge wins in the marketplace.

Seasonal Anticipation and Appeal
Consumer behavior is an intricate study of cause, effect and opportunity. Seasonality acts as a tool well-leveraged by brands to influence purchasing decisions. There are deeply ingrained psychological ties to the emotional resonance of seasonality. If we look at cause and effect, the crispness of fall, for example, elicits feelings of comfort and nostalgia. One brand’s success in capturing this opportunity has forever redefined both the brand and its business strategy.

Celebrating its 20th year, Starbucks’s most popular seasonal beverage has taken the world by storm. The Pumpkin Spice Latte’s reputation reaches far beyond that of a simple beverage, spanning in breadth from music to generational stereotypes. Launched six years prior to the Pumpkin Spice Latte in 1997, the annual Red Cup campaign enraptures consumers, spurring countdown clocks, lines out the door, and even opportunities to submit your own artwork for the design. In this sense, the brand holds two elements of seasonality beautifully: instilling anticipation for the return of seasonal favorites while simultaneously evoking a sense of allure to discover a sense of “new”.

Image Source: https://stories.starbucks.com/stories/2023/a-sneak-peek-of-starbucks-holiday-cups/

Seasonal Ritual
Seasons orchestrate both a sense of change and a sense of familiarity. Brands who leverage their consumer data throughout different seasons elevate their campaigns and resonate with specific demographics. For brands like Budweiser, celebratory seasonal events like the Superbowl offer a unique opportunity to appeal to alternative audiences. Known as notoriously the most expensive, and often most visible campaigns of the year, Superbowl advertisements generate significant chatter for brands. These campaigns often range in scope, content, topic, etc. aiming to create a unique appeal. Budweiser, however, remains loyal to key themes for its brand: Clydesdales, dogs, teamwork, and nature. Striking a balance between storytelling new campaigns with classic themes reiterates Budweiser’s reputation as a classic American brand.

Brands leverage seasonal events to instill a shared sense of pride, between competition, drive, and challenge. The seasonality of the Olympic Games serves as the quintessential environment for brands to foster a sense of connection with their consumers. United Airlines combines consistency with strong consumer data to evoke a sense of national and global unity and aspiration, aligning with the spirit of the games. By doing so, it creates a seamless brand experience that both mirrors the enthusiasm of the event and resonates deeply with its diverse consumer base.

Seasonality and Sustainability
With the changing seasons come repeat events: occurrences that happen year on year, requiring the continual production of marketing collateral. While seasonality presents an opportunity for marketeers, sustainability is also a primary consumer concern and a guiding principle for many brands, and these potentially opposing needs must be balanced.

In the fourth consecutive year of SGK’s partnership with ASICS, we were challenged to find innovative ways to incorporate eco-friendly practices into the production of promotional materials and signage for the LA Marathon. The sponsor sought to align its actions with its sustainability commitment and brand philosophy of "Sound Mind, Sound Body.”

 

Responding to this challenge, SGK proposed a groundbreaking solution: utilizing existing resources. Instead of discarding the signage used in previous years, SGK suggested collecting and repurposing over 1200 linear square feet of fencing materials. This material was transformed into stunning, unique and distinctive GWP shopping bags. This ingenious approach not only showcases SGK's cleverness but also highlights ASICS’s commitment to sustainable packaging practices for this annual event.

With a second life as a grocery bag long after the marathon finished, the versatile and beautiful gifts now reduce reliance on single use plastic. The initiative earned SGK a win at the Transform Awards North America, testament to the example we set in the industry.

Seasonal Surprises and Scarcity
Anticipating seasonal trends and demands for consumer products can sometimes feel like building a puzzle without the picture. Brands continuously seek inventive ways to capture their audiences with the essence of the season, creating products that spark excitement and innovation. Time moves quickly, and brands take advantage by introducing seasonal products and limited editions, driving consumers to revel in the present. Understanding the nuance, however, is critical – it’s about tapping into the anticipation of the season and translating it into products. For instance, the winter months often drive a craving for opulence and luxury. Limited editions, when executed thoughtfully, hold the power to generate genuine excitement.

Stranahan’s Limited Edition Snowflake Barrels do just that. Inspired by the uniqueness of snowflakes, each barrel becomes not just a product, but a story. The limited availability amplifies the appeal, transforming a barrel aged whiskey into a barrel aged treasure. Not only does this elevate the brand’s image, it’s an action steeped in brand loyalty.

In addition to sparking excitement, limited edition products serve as an opportunity to drive purpose for a brand. Brands undergo a kind of metamorphosis, in which the brand adopts a cause or purpose rooted in values beyond business. Pringles recently partnered once again with the leading men’s charity, Movember, in an effort to drive more conversations around men’s mental health. The brand not only pledged donations to the cause, but, thanks to the innovation of the SGK team, transformed Mr. P’s iconic mustache into a scannable QR code, driving continued engagement from consumers. With the brand’s ethos centered around socializing, sharing, and coming together, and Movember’s drive to encourage more open conversations, the partnership perfectly aligns in their efforts to get people talking.



 

Seasons are not merely markers on the calendar; they are key elements that drive consumer connection. Through understanding the intricacies of consumer preferences and seasonal shifts, brands can craft narratives that are not only authentic but also resonate. Brands leveraging their data can amplify their authenticity and hone their messaging to precisely target the desires and aspirations of their consumers. At its core, seasonality lives in the art of storytelling. Through storytelling, brands weave a narrative that can transition over time, embracing the essence of each season and evolving with their audience. The stories become a mirror that reflects the values, purpose, and sentiments of a brand, crafting visions for the future.

In this ever-changing canvas of seasons, brands have the opportunity to thrive. By understanding the data-rich nature of seasonality and harnessing the power of storytelling, organizations can optimize the evolution of time to build a brand that’s timeless.

 

Ellie Broady
Ellie is an accomplished Associate Consultant with expertise in optimizing artwork and packaging workflows, as well as driving internal strategic initiatives. With a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing and minors in Mechanical Engineering and Entrepreneurship from Miami University, Ellie brings a unique blend of creative marketing insights and technical acumen to the consulting field. Her passion for innovation makes her an invaluable asset in streamlining processes and enhancing overall business performance. With a proven track record of success, Ellie is dedicated to helping businesses achieve their goals through strategic optimization and forward-thinking solutions.