Pack of the Month: Unified Brands Redesigns A New Zealand Favorite
by Bill McCool on 08/31/2020 | 4 Minute Read
Wattie’s Tomato Sauce is the Heinz Ketchup of New Zealand. Of course, they’re also owned by Heinz (since 1992, actually), and while both products are beloved in their country of origin, they share very little in common—aesthetically speaking—aside from their celebration of all things tomato red.
But because they’re a heritage brand in the land of hobbits, there’s a lot more at stake when you begin to tinker with a country’s condiment of choice. You probably can’t imagine someone taking a scalpel to, say, Huy Fong’s Sriracha or Grey Poupon. So it was no easy task for New Zealand and Australian agency Unified Brands when the sauce slingers asked them to revitalize the brand for a younger audience.
We spoke with the team at Unified Brands about the impetus behind their brand refresh for Wattie’s and how they approached remaking a staple of New Zealand households.
Can you walk us through the design process you went through for this project?
Mike Robertson, founder and strategist of Unified Brands: The Wattie’s brand team wanted to explore what their brand meant for Kiwis, and how to take it forward for the "new" New Zealand. Our approach involved breaking what we all assumed Wattie’s stood for, then visually exploring places where marketers might not typically look for solutions, in order to put it back together in a meaningful way.
This uncovered a strong insight around the pride New Zealanders feel for Wattie’s, and how that connects with our entrepreneurial spirit.
Why did you decide to evolve the Wattie's wordmark?
Alex Butenko, creative director of Unified Brands: During the initial consumer research stages, we broke down Wattie’s brand DNA to understand what really mattered. What became clear was that its positioning as a family brand had overshadowed the entrepreneurial spirit of its founder, Sir James Wattie.
On top of that, the brand suffered from an identity crisis being constrained by Heinz and its keystone. It was clear that we needed to break it free. To do so, we deep-dived into the historical evolution of the Wattie’s logo and distilled its iconic personality. We then amplified and crafted those elements into a new dynamic wordmark that now sits proudly at the very heart of Wattie’s products. We like to think we found the perfect balance of heritage and modernity, and familiar but intriguing.
What was one of the biggest goals you set out to achieve with Wattie's packaging, and how did you accomplish it?
Alex Butenko: Tomato Sauce was the first range we revamped, and it's paved the way for us to reinvigorate Wattie’s entire portfolio of products that live in dozens of different categories. From the get-go, our goal was to build a strong and distinct identity for Wattie’s that also had the ability to flex in order to meet each of the category's different needs. By doing so, we were able to create a truly versatile and vibrant new Wattie’s brand. As the new products are launching slowly, we will be able to expand on this story in the very near future.
What was the most challenging part of this project?
Alex Butenko: There aren’t any brands in New Zealand more iconic and inherently Kiwi than Wattie’s. The passion for Wattie’s is real—it has been bringing generations of Kiwis together to share and enjoy great food for over 80 years! The biggest challenge for us was doing justice to the huge role Wattie’s plays in consumers’ lives and hearts. By using the new Wattie’s wordmark boldly across the new packs, almost as if signed by Sir James Wattie himself, we have put a sense of joyful pride back into the brand that means so much.
If you could pick one aspect of the finished design that you feel especially proud of, what would it be and why?
Alex Butenko: It’s got to be the new Wattie’s wordmark. It was a real challenge to distill the essence of the brand and weave it back into a short and simple typographic piece. It had to work on so many levels—be familiar yet relevant, dynamic yet iconic, soft yet proud.
Share one lesson that you learned while developing the finished product.
Alex Butenko: We’ve learned quite a few lessons in the course of this project, from the challenges of distilling the DNA of an iconic brand that is loved by an entire nation to the fact that there’s probably hundreds of different ways to photograph a tomato.
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