The Summer of Personalized Packaging

With September’s arrival spelling summer’s end, it is a good time to reflect on the “summer of personalized packaging” in the soft drink industry.  Coca-Cola came out with the third generation of their “Share a Coke” campaign, integrating song lyrics on the packaging and a Spotify partnership to offer free music.  Pepsi extended last year’s “Say It With Pepsi” emoji campaign, replacing their logo with emojis and giving away an emoji keyboard.  South of the border, Dr Pepper introduced customized labeling for their “Pick Your Pepper” campaign, switching out their trademark logo with print designs and a chance to win the design print on a t-shirt.  The landscape is saturated with so much personalized packaging, that consumers may actually start to tune it out because it’s no longer special.  Will personalized packaging return next summer, and how will it look?

Courtesy of
Coca-Cola Share A Coke, Play A Coke.

Regardless of packaging type, the  insight that led to all these customized labels are one and the same.  Consumers want brands that talk to them on an intimate and individual level.  Each brand localized this truism and the output became the programs that you now see.  Coca-Cola’s localization touted individuality as consumers found their own names printed on Coke bottles.  Pepsi’s translation used emojis to channel how consumers felt about their own moods or moments.  Dr Pepper’s version yielded a print pattern that expressed the consumers’ own identity and a chance to extend this expression to apparel.

Courtesy of
Dr Pepper Pick Your Pepper encouraging consumers to choose the label that speaks uniquely to them. (PRNewsFoto/Dr Pepper Snapple Group)

Now that consumers have seen three straight summers of “unique” soft drink labeling, it might be time to consider changing it up.  The packaging tactic quickly becomes stale with “me too” and “me three” types of execution entering the market.  Consumer fatigue sets in and they start ignoring the personalization that the brand wanted them to see.  There is so much custom packaging to choose from, that consumers revert to basic desires of quenching their thirst.  It’s no longer special.  The shelf and coolers are cluttered.  Each brand must continually create excitement to capture consumer attention.  And just as the brands share the same packaging tactic, they share the same tactic to re-create excitement: nostalgia.  Coca-Cola brought back Cherry Coke last year, and this year they added Vanilla Coke.  Pepsi re-introduced Crystal Pepsi with this year’s Say It With Pepsi campaign.

With summer 2017 still so far away, there is plenty of time for brands to reconsider their options.  It’s true that consumers want brands to talk to them individually, but if everyone does the same thing talking to this consumer, there’s nothing intimate about it.  And there’s certainly  nothing special about it anymore.  The insight is still relevant, but the tactic is not.


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