Hill's Pet Nutrition Puts Our Furry Companions Front & Center With Packaging Redesign

by Rudy Sanchez on 02/27/2019 | 3 Minute Read

Since the late 1930s, Hill’s Pet Nutrition has focused on providing pets with science-based nutrition through their balanced and specialized recipes.

Lately, however, the folks at Hill’s found that competition in the pet food space is growing fast, so they enlisted Beardwood&Co to redesign their packaging to reinforce the scientific credibility behind their products. They also wanted to stand out and grab pet owners’ attention in-store and online, while making it easy to choose the right product, improve taste perceptions and create an emotional connection with pet parents. Moreover, Hill’s felt they needed to communicate the real food ingredients in their products, their ongoing commitment to helping place shelter pets, and make it easier to distinguish between wellness and specialty foods.

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“Pet parents are super engaged, and spend tons of time researching brands and products to find the right food for their pets in addition to talking to veterinarians,” says Jennifer Giannotti-Genes, associate global design director for Hill’s at Colgate-Palmolive. “We wanted to make sure all their questions were answered.”

Designing for the pet category is no easy feat. That's why Beardwood focused more on vibrant, engaging pet photography with less copy and call-outs, and they brought photographer Michael Faye along for the ride to capture the personality of the pets. Of course, loyal buyers of Hill’s recognize the products by the breeds on the packaging, so they chose to keep the pet breeds the same. This time, however, they dominate the packaging, drawing the shopper in by creating a connection through photography that highlights the pet’s health and character.

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The redesign retains the white background, reinforcing the clinical aspect of Hill’s products while the red and silver distinguish between everyday wellness and specialty formulas addressing needs like oral health, mobility, sensitive stomachs and skin. Because consumers are highly vested in what goes into their pets’ food, they decided to show their real food ingredients, as well as kibble size and texture.

Sticking to the same breeds on the new packaging proved challenging though. “Typically, you create early package designs using stock photography as a placeholder for the final imagery, and only invest in photography when the packaging design is proven effective in research,” says Julia Beardwood, founding partner at Beardwood&Co. “We recognized early on, however, that we needed to create an ownable imagery style that didn't exist already, and we needed to have specific pet breeds, ages and sizes. It was going to be impossible to find placeholder photography. So, we did some early research to identify an imagery style that really connected with pet parents, and invested in test photography to prove it out. It was expensive, but 1000% worth it.”

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The new packaging also brings Hill’s “Food, Shelter & Love” program into focus. Hill’s has helped 9 million pets find their forever homes by supporting over 800 shelters in North America. “Since, 2002, more than $290 million has been donated in food. Consistent quality nutrition helps make pets more adoptable,” says Julia.

While Hill’s products are firmly anchored in science, folks love their furry companions, so the packaging has to make an emotional connection with the pet parents first, then they can tout the benefits of a science-based diet.

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”That's what the pet photography does," Julia says.  "It's a visceral reaction that draws them in. Then we can give them the rational, science-based benefits and taste story.”

“Science-based nutrition is Hill's strength, but it needs to be delivered in a warm and relatable way,” she adds.

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