March 10, 2014

3 Packaging Lessons from the Olympics

3 Packaging Lessons from the Olympics

It makes perfect sense that certain brands’ packaging designs have capitalized upon the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. Clearly, bottled sports drinks, health foods and athletic equipment will probably experience a sales spike as consumers become enthusiastic about sports and fitness, but there are products that have nothing whatsoever to do with health or athletic performance that are nonetheless capitalizing upon the nation’s Olympic fever. We’re waiting for a brand of Olympics whiskey for the bitter athlete whose dreams of glory have been, and will remain, unrealized.

The Olympics aren’t the only major occasions that merit packaging design consideration; certainly holidays and even regional events could and should be highlighted in order to maintain relevance. The Olympic Games have taught us that no matter what type of product you’re selling, it can benefit from acknowledging specific cultural events. However, how do we know that our packaging design is making the most of the opportunity? Here are three ways we can ensure our concepts take flight, beat our own best scores and wind up on the package design podium.

1. Link the product to the event.

Think of ways to make your product appropriate to the event you wish to celebrate – customers are very savvy when it comes to branding opportunities. You could try to mash your line of anti-wrinkle creams into the nation’s mania for speed skating, but it is a bit of a hard sell, since one has precious little to do with the other. You’d be better off trying figure skating, since although the athletes appear to be teenagers, but we have it on good authority that their average age is 47.

2. Think outside the box.

In order to use the Olympics logo on your product, you have to be an actual Olympics sponsor and jump through countless licensing hoops. However, there are creative ways to suggest The Olympics without ever explicitly stating it. Dos Equis, the beer brand endorsed by our close personal friend and parachuting instructor, “The Most Interesting Man in the World,” came up with a campaign that definitely calls the Winter Olympics to mind while never using actual Olympic athletes or trademarked Olympics symbology.

There are numerous events that can be implied in the packaging design but never explicitly stated. For example, the Christmas season is an enormous marketing opportunity, but there are some brands that are favored by consumers of non-Christian faiths. These brands might negotiate the associations of the winter season while steering clear of direct Christmas or religious-themed iconography.

Even if you aren’t endorsing a particular cultural phenomenon, you can use related stories to recall (or, more cynically, capitalize on) the event. The furor over Russia’s anti-gay laws has led many brands to market directly to the LGBT community very effectively.

3. Think about how the event might have changed the consumer’s needs.

With every Olympics season comes a mania for engaging in sports and athletics, and with this mania comes a change (albeit temporary in most cases) in both lifestyle and how a customer might use your product. If you think that there could be opportunities for your product to be used outdoors; before, during or immediately after a workout or as a result of becoming fitter, think about appropriate packaging modifications.

The same goes for packaging for other special occasions, like large county fairs, red carpet events or community fundraisers. Could your product package be modified for gift-giving purposes, or for prestige occasions? Maybe you could offer a version of your sunscreen or moisturizer that would be useful for carrying around at an amusement park or charity fun walk.

Yes, the Olympics unite the nation in cheering respected and hard working athletes as they strive for dominance in their fields, but they also provide fantastic opportunities for increased revenue. Nevertheless, you don’t have to wait for the next Olympics to begin thinking about event packaging design opportunities; there are dozens of local and national events that your product might be suited to. However, research the event, and research it well. “Official ergonomic keyboard of Burning Man” probably won’t fly.


by Kevin Smith
SmashBrand helps brands create, optimize, and launch successful products, services, and customer experiences. Our data-driven process is the key to accelerating sales and minimizing risks.

We use a strategic combination of market research, design, and consumer testing to solve complex brand problems more effectively, create differentiation, and forge more meaningful connections with customers.

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