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Behind Bulletproof’s Redesign for Cadbury’s Iconic Dairy Milk Chocolate

by Theresa Christine Johnson on 02/01/2021 | 5 Minute Read

Cadbury Dairy Milk Chocolate is unmistakable—that purple pack pops in the candy aisle or as you turn your cart and get into the checkout line. It’s immensely popular in the UK, where it originated, but consumers from India to Australia to the US have a soft spot for it, too. But when it’s time for a branding and packaging refresh, how do you redesign a beloved brand with nearly 200 years of history?

Cadbury turned to Bulletproof for a new look and feel for their Dairy Milk line (which last went through a redesign from Pearlfisher back in 2013). Cadbury Dairy Milk had a Willy Wonka-like appearance, but they wanted the identity and packaging to reflect more of what consumers loved from the brand’s advertising.

And if you aren't yet familiar with some of the adverts, well, buckle up and grab the tissues for Cadbury’s “Mum’s Birthday” tv spot.

“The advertising was making people cry. It was pulling on heartstrings,” Nick Rees, the chief creative officer at Bulletproof, explained. “But when the corner shop owner hands the pack to her, the pack looks really out of context. And actually, that was our brief and what we wanted to do. Create a brand world that was as emotive as the advertising.”

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“That also went hand-in-hand with the new purpose for the brand, which was to ‘inspire a little Cadbury goodness,’” added Jamie Gandee, creative director at Bulletproof. “Chocolate makes you feel good, but that wasn’t something unique to Cadbury, so we saw an opportunity there to make something much more ownable.”

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Digging into this idea of goodness, Bulletproof turned to the brand’s past—one that always seemed to embrace this idea of generosity. Founder John Cadbury campaigned for the rights of the poor and animal welfare, and he also offered improved working and social conditions for his employees. Today, the company supports several inspirational organizations, and they work with Cocoa Life and Fairtrade to enhance farming communities. With all of this in mind, the Bulletproof team traveled to Bournville to visit the Cadbury archives and get a little inspiration for the brand's redesign. They hoped to bring that generosity message front and center in a way it had never been highlighted before on the packaging.

“We've worked with a lot of brands before where they say, ‘visit the archive,’ and some of them are just a bunch of PDFs they've sent you,” Nick said. “This was classic. There's a whole floor with all these filing cabinets and showcases and boxes. It's got an amazing energy.”

“It’s like having your childhood all in one room, but also your parents’ and their parents’ childhood,” explained Jamie. “There was something very humbling about it."

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Nick explained that this was a dream project to work on—Cadbury is one of those iconic logos that he remembered sitting around and drawing as a kid. That, and considering their global appeal, Bulletproof had to proceed with care with their redesign. They didn’t want to lean too far into “Britishness,” which could alienate the other markets where Cadbury gets sold. Also, they needed to create something that moved the brand forward but honored its past, giving it a bit of modern heritage.

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“It was really important that it was contemporary,” said Jamie. “With all the history of Cadbury, it meant we could put that familiarity into every single element. We could take those stories and all those learnings and present them with a contemporary lens.”

The design elements that appear are not new per se, but Bulletproof’s work makes Cadbury Dairy Milk Chocolate feel like a whole new bar. The signature, for example, has appeared on previous iterations of Cadbury packaging before. But Bulletproof updated it with a more open kerning to make it appear more natural. The graphic of the glass-and-a-half (indicating the extra milk that went into creating the product) has long appeared on the packs as well—but now it’s pouring directly into a broken-off chunk of chocolate. That little chocolate brick, Jamie added, is something that they didn’t airbrush to perfection but instead allowed to look more natural. By keeping the uneven edges, it highlights the handmade quality and care that goes into Cadbury’s confections.

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The pattern in the background, however, is new and inspired by the first-ever pack of Cadbury Dairy Milk from 1905. It’s subtle and almost seems to shift in the light, but it’s there for consumers who spend a little more time exploring the packaging.

“We liked the symmetrical nature of the milk from that original packaging, and it inspired us to do a few pack designs with it,” Jamie said. “In the end, we decided it would be great to create an element that could be seen as this discoverable thing you wouldn’t necessarily see on the shelf, but when you pick it up and have it in your hand, it has an extra depth to it.”

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Bulletproof’s redesign was for Cadbury’s Dairy Milk line. However, there are many other brands under the Cadbury portfolio. Each one poses its own unique visual challenge, and each one gets targeted at slightly different consumer mindsets—so this redesign is just the start of some more exciting things to come.

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“They’re all linked to one brand world,” Nick said. “The client will often refer to Cadbury Dairy Milk as the trunk of a tree, but Cadbury is the whole tree. It’s a lot of work when you consider everything that flows from both of those. We’re hugely proud of it, and there’s even more beautiful stuff coming.”

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