The New York Times Magazine section has some new columns. One of which is called “Letter of Recommendation.” While the first two installments were cultural in nature, it was inevitable that some consumer packaged goods would also be recommended.
Mary HK Choi’s “Letter of Recommendation” in yesterday’s column is about LaCroix Sparkling Water. The thing about her piece that really caught my eye was that, although she likes the product, she does not love the LaCroix package design…
My initial reluctance was partly due to the cans’ hideousness. The first time I drank LaCroix, I half expected it to be filled with self-tanner. Or Axe body spray. The cans look somehow simultaneously obnoxious and earnest, as if they’re trying to appeal to Canadian ravers or the sort of people who have septum piercings and shop at Desigual. With its bootleg Van Gogh swirls and the not-quite Yves Klein blue logo, LaCroix would look right at home nestled in a neoprene koozie screen-printed to look like an acid-washed denim jacket. Everything about the can suggests trashy fun. The inside of my recycling bin has begun to look like a Cirque du Soleil poster.
I wonder how this critique is being received by Alchemy, Ltd., the design firm responsible…
After developing a complete branding overhaul for LaCroix sparkling water that helped generate double digit growth over a ten year span, the choice was obvious. LaCroix again chose Alchemy to draft the sequel.
Our team proposed a strategy for elevating the brand with a line extension designed to disrupt and engage new followers rather than diluting the company’s iconic presence at retail.
LaCroix’s new offerings featured a lively blend of fruit essences, and a playful attitude that was launched with an integrated program developed by Alchemy. LaCroix’s new branding, packaging, POS, OOH, and digital have premiered to rave reviews!
One fundamental tenet of market research is that the consumer’s aesthetic sensibilities don’t really count for much at the cash register. The “hideous” design that Choi critiques was also the design considered the “least appealing” by LaCroix. Until MAi Research recommended it as the best choice. (More details about this, after the fold…)
From Meridian Associates:
A Unique LaCroix Target Was Identified: The first MAI study identified a highly-attractive target segment of prospective sparkling water users not at all interested in the Perrier brand and its “snobbish / expensive / for special occasions” positioning
Label Design Least Favored by Management Wins with Target Consumers: Among package designs evaluated, MAI research led to recommendation of the design considered least appealing by the Heileman Marketing Group. The MAI-recommended design:
• Promoted an “all occasion” image
• Offered strong LaCroix name presence
• Used elements that were most consistent with water imagery to the newly-identified target segment
Sparkling Water in Cans a Surprise Winner – with Cans Becoming a Strong Long-Term Contributor for LaCroix: Another unexpected research result was the surprising consumer enthusiasm for sparkling water in cans, a packaging idea that had not yet been introduced in this category. LaCroix’s subsequent introduction of sparkling water in cans allowed the brand to capture the lion’s share of new category growth from this innovation
Results: Winning Package Design from MAI Research Was Introduced on LaCroix Relaunch – and Has Been Continued for 15+ Years: While undergoing modest updates, today’s LaCroix packaging has maintained the look and imagery of the original MAI-recommended design.
Interesting to note that although the “MAi-recommended design” was intended as a antidote to Perrier’s “snobbish” branding, Choi detects some vestigial snob appeal in LaCroix’s branding, as well…
…the brand’s vestigial Midwestern guilelessness collides awkwardly with its European pretensions: “Pamplemousse” instead of “Grapefruit”; a new line of flavors called “Cúrate” (loosely, “cure yourself” en Español).
(See also: Canned Water)