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The real story of a packaging redesign

Why does a company change the visual identity of a successful product? We asked Tru’s Jack McNamara about his new-look seltzer cans.

Tru packaging redesign
Market Insights
Consumer Brands

When we learned that our portfolio company, Tru, was embarking on a fresh new look for its cans of enhanced sparkling seltzers, we had to find out more.

First impressions count, after all. And the visual identity of a product is vital in attracting attention from customers and distinguishing it from shop shelf competitors.

Not only can a packaging makeover be a long and costly process, it’s also not without risks.

One famous misstep in the FMCG business was Tropicana’s 2009 packaging redesign fail which saw the fruit juice brand’s sales drop by 20% in two months. One of its many criticisms was that the brand had changed too many elements of the packaging at once - not just the logo, slogan, and image, but the logo typeface too. Many customers simply didn’t recognise it on the shelf. The exercise cost Tropicana more than $50 million and led to the original packaging being speedily reintroduced.

That’s a case study in how NOT to do it.

For a behind-the-scenes look at how a start-up goes about the process of a packaging makeover - and how to get it right - we sat down with Tru founder and CEO, Jack McNamara.

We delved into everything from the art and science of product design, to going against the flow, and the ‘three second rule’ of customer attraction. Plus, much more…

Tru Dream Seltzer was the first to roll out the fresh new look. We also see three new names in the line-up - Defend has changed to Defense; Refresh is the new name for Rescue and Beauty is now Glow. Why did you decide to make these changes?

"When we initially launched Tru in 2015, we naively believed that our perspective was always the ‘right’ one. After undergoing multiple iterations to our brand and its package design over the years, we realised it was time to take a breath and plan for the future. Although great product design is considered an art, it is also a science. We needed to truly listen to the customer needs, dissect the market, understand the data, and use our instincts to pull it all together. With a prime opportunity to make a change during the transition from sleeved to printed cans, we pulled together nine years of learnings to make a strong statement to the market: we are here to stay. The team also improved naming conventions for three of our products in order to further simplify each flavor's value proposition to buyers and customers."

The new look references the previous branding, particularly with its white background. But there’s now more emphasis on the Tru logo, rather than the drink’s function – such as Dream, Energy, Focus, Power etc. Can you talk us through the changes?

"With quality, transparency, and trust embedded into our ethos, we needed to lean into the brand as the highlight of the hierarchy. ‘Tru’ will continue to earn, embody, and encompass these beliefs. While the simplicity of the design pays homage to our initial iterations, it is a conscious brand choice to deviate from the complexity of competitor packaging that flood the market. Rather than dedicate space for unsubstantiated claims to push product, we decided to go against the current and follow the “less, but better” philosophy of Dieter Rams. Tired of sifting through the nonsense, customers yearn for products with integrity. Rather than place certifications, calories, and key ingredients on the back panel, we are proud to display these investments as prominent features as opposed to fanciful designs to hide questionable ingredients."

Tru packaging redesign

Will you be following suit with the rest of the enhanced seltzers in the Tru collection?

"In order to succeed at scale, a brand needs to compel a customer to sample its offering in three seconds or less. A simple clear value proposition paired with a cohesive brand block is paramount to this goal which is why every manufacturing run moving forward will result in the upgraded style. Everything from our seltzers to our shots and any extension in between will need to convey the same message through consistent branding to evoke a similarly strong emotional response. While good branding is vital, the quality of the product and the delivery of its promise are the true keys to customer loyalty."

What research went into the new design?

We literally started from scratch. Gathering feedback from customers, buyers, distributors, influencers, and our employees, we distilled information to uncover inefficiencies in our message while bringing to light our attributes. We dove into the data, researched the market, and explored trends executed well by brands in and outside of beverage. Using the tech giant, Apple, as a north star, we found inspiration in the clean aesthetic that Jony Ive infused into their product lines. This arduous process allowed us to take a step back and redesign Tru for a healthy long-term future. No stone was left unturned as we believed every voice mattered.

How long did the process take? From deciding to make the change to rolling out the new design.

"The process never ends. While the recent improvements on flavors, designs, and features are a culmination of learnings from years of data points, we don’t believe in a perfect product. Just as Apple or Samsung find ways to innovate every day, we aim to do the same. Although our goal is to build a brand that lasts, we must always innovate."

What sort of feedback have you been getting since you launched the new Dream cans in May 2024?

"Although it’s early in its lifecycle, consumers have responded very favourably to the matured look and feel with its simplified value proposition. In addition to the certifications that we now display prominently, customers have also enjoyed the glossy finish and black tops that crown our now printed cans. Not only has the transition of sleeved to printed cans provided a higher quality product, but it’s also more sustainable and profitable while delivering a premium aesthetic."

How will you measure the success of the new look?

"As with most businesses, success is largely dictated based on sales; however, we review customer feedback on a daily basis to ensure that we capitalise on every perspective while improving the overall experience. Although change is more expensive at scale, every data point is valued, as it will continue to dictate our future. Success will not be achieved until we are winning the hearts and minds of consumers on a global scale. This would mean that we’ve had real positive impact in our food system while inspiring many to live a more active healthy lifestyle."

With a refresh of this scale, you’ll need a strong marketing campaign to go with it. A marketing strategy can educate your existing customers, attract new ones and maintain the brand equity that has been built over many years. What do you have planned?

"While both designs and flavors are actively realizing improvements, our mission remains the same and our strategy consistent. While a global marketing campaign might seem like the ideal option for a brand refresh of this caliber, we prefer to focus on many micro investments in a digital landscape. Unlike a billboard which is a challenge to alter once paint hits the canvas, our digital-first strategy awards us the flexibility to test messaging, audience, and visual content in real-time with limited risk. As each upgraded product relaunches in its new armor, we have content prepared in advance. While this staged rollout keeps the brand fun and fresh, it generates new SKU-specific learnings, and brand awareness, while driving trial to the lineup. Whether you try our product for the first time via our website or in stores, each encounter will either burn or build your brand. Our priority is to keep it simple and continue to focus on the customer experience by delivering a quality product, earning trust, and empowering our community. Our marketing campaign never ends."

What advice would you give to other founders, CEOs and marketing teams who are seeking to rebrand either their entire company or their individual products?

"The key to getting a brand to resonate is to listen and understand your customer. Like me, we sometimes believe that our way is the only way. It is not until one truly learns to listen that you can evolve to your surroundings. The best designers are not those who can create beautiful art for themselves, they are the ones that can understand data, see a need in the market, and create captivating products for others."

Any other new developments from Tru we can look forward to in 2024?

"Our team is incredibly excited to launch a new peach flavored formula called ‘Gutsy’. Following months of trials and tribulations, we’ve found a way to marry the dynamic duo of probiotics and prebiotics into a great tasting shelf-stable seltzer. While competition primarily focuses on one or the other, we will be offering a balanced formula that delivers. We look forward to sharing it with the world this summer!"

Written by
Andrea McVeigh
Communications and Social Media Manager
Written by
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