Wedge Freshens Up Canada Dry By Going Back To The Brand’s Rich Archives
by Bill McCool on 11/08/2022 | 4 Minute Read
While Canada Dry was founded in 1904, it wouldn’t truly take off until Prohibition hit the states. Canadians loved the alluring spicy and decidedly less-sweet soda, but when booze was outlawed, Americans found it was the ideal mixer for bitter, noxious-tasting bathtub gin.
It’s fair to say that, with the occasional purchase for an upset stomach, Canada Dry and its many soft drinks and mixers have long been a friend to bartenders the world over. Now, the Keurig Dr Pepper-owned Canada Dry has received its first refresh in two decades.
The brand turned to the Los Angeles and Montreal-based creative agency Wedge to modernize the brand and scrape away some of the non-flat elements from the packaging and visual identity. “The design was clearly anchored in the 90s with a lot of special effects, shadows, gradients, and decorative elements,” said Justin Lortie, founder and design director for Wedge. ”The main design challenge was for the brand identity and packaging to be refreshed and evolved in a way that felt current, but also in respect of a longstanding legacy that would speak to consumers today without alienating loyalists.
As with so many high-profile redesigns that have taken place in the past few years, Wedge went to the brand’s rich archives. “Our brand team reviewed hundreds of archival brand specimens, advertising, and packaging to inform the new work, which ended up being a seamless transition between the past and the future,” Justin added. “We intentionally wanted people to not really notice that something had changed but felt completely natural, a ‘hasn’t it always been this’ kind of authenticity. And yet, at the same time, when you compare the before and after, it is a huge difference. I think we’ve succeeded in doing that.”
Aside from a custom-drawn wordmark, Wedge strengthened many of the brand’s most notable assets, from their signature green color to the recognizable crown and badge (and just look at those thickened latitude and longitude lines). The modernized update leans heavily on the retro elements so well-known throughout Canada’s Dry’s nearly 120-year legacy, and the flexible design system gets applied to every product in the brand portfolio, reaching more than 50 SKUs.
That flexibility is the reason behind opting for a more flat system and why the shield becomes the brand’s most identifiable element (alternating colors for particular products, i.e., green for Canada Dry and its variations and blue for the club soda varieties). “When you print many colors on aluminum cans across many SKUs, there’s nothing more satisfying than simplifying the entire system with a flat design," said Justin. “Looking across Coca-Cola, Sprite, and others, this is also a ‘modernization trend’ noticed across the mass beverage industry.”
While the refresh quietly launched this past September, as Justin mentioned, it does fall in line with many companies performing what’s akin to brand maintenance. Or, similar to Burger King, looking to the past for enhanced brand recognition on the shelf by gently guiding consumers back to something that feels familiar and gives them the nostalgic warm and fuzzies.
“Refreshes are not to be confused with setting the house on fire,” explained Justin. “It’s honoring a journey and carrying that forward. Canada Dry has been on the market for over 130 years, which is incredible! If you grew up in Canada, you’d be surprised to learn that, back in the day, people used to water their Christmas trees with Ginger Ale.
“With that kind of legacy comes a lot of history, a deep connection, and cultural ownership,” he added. “We intentionally wanted to keep that spirit alive. It is a multigenerational product that everyone loves, and there was no reason to move in a direction that would alienate this feeling.”
Wedge’s work on the Canada Dry refresh succeeds because it never goes too far; instead, it simplifies the visual identity and creates an eye-catching brand world that's deeply familiar to consumers. And while we may never experience another Prohibition-style renaissance of the brand (though who knows what chaos the midterms will bring), at least we still know it’s there, even if the brand world is just a little flatter.
Images courtesy of Wedge.