We are often faced with the challenge of creating packaging that communicates the uniqueness of the product, while clearly communicating its membership in a specific product category. This is the great paradox of all commercial design: the same, only different.

To take the most banal example: a tube of toothpaste should be striking enough to be unique, but not so different as to be mistaken for shaving cream. A tube of toothpaste has to be a tube of toothpaste. And a bag of crisps has to be a bag of crisps.

But it’s not as easy as that

A good thinking creative will always try to find that “edge” or “sweet spot” between “the same” and “different” that stretches the boundaries of category and communicates the uniqueness of the brand. To take the crisps example again: once upon a time crisps were always in bags, until Pringles stretched the category by packaging them in cylindrical tubes. The idea in retrospect was a no-brainer, but at the time it smashed barriers and established a unique position that the brand is still enjoying decades later.

The Pringles package would not have worked, however, if the product hadn’t lived up to the “differentiation” of its packaging. Because the Pringels package LOOKED different, it had to BE different in a way that made a difference to consumers.

This brings us to the “relevant” in relevant differentiation. The difference in the Pringles packaging was meant to address the issues of damaged and irregularly shaped crisps – a concern that turned out to be relevant for consumers. Insight drives relevant differentiation. Rarely is this achieved by luck.

Sort of the same, but completely different. Anyone remember Cadburys Stackers?

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