WALTHAM, Mass. -- During a package redesign, brand managers tend to act like Goldilocks. They look for the design that's just right: Not enough change and the product doesn't catch the attention of potential new customers; too much change and loyal purchasers can be lost because they no longer recognize their favorite brand.
Navigating this fine line is Pastene Cos., Waltham, Mass., a 120-year-old, family-owned regional supplier of Italian foods. Tom White, director of operations, said that as the company planned to expand distribution outside the Northeast -- where it is a category leader -- it decided it needed to develop a look that could "compete with national [and store] brands while not forsaking the franchise it has developed with so many consumers in our market."
Since brands in other markets use the same yellow and red color combination, Pastene also wanted a protectable trade dress. "We saw a need to make our's a little bit different," said White. Plus, we wanted to "freshen up and modernize our image. The new look responds to a need for something new and more credible looking while still keeping our identity," he said.
At this time, it's too early to gauge results -- only 75% of products on the shelf have the new packaging, and the conversion is not expected to be completed until this summer. It also will be difficult to determine whether sales results are due to the package redesign or the geographic expansion, White admitted.
In Pastene's traditional Northeastern market, however, the redesign is expected to increase unit sales 5% to 10%. The project began about two and a half years ago. Brand-
Equity/International, Newton, Mass., was the chosen design firm, with Joe Selame as design director and Steve Smith as senior designer. Pastene issued the following objectives:
· Retain design equities while creating a protectable trade dress.
· Strengthen shelf presence.
· Organize a complex package design system for about 100 products in different categories.
· Incorporate flexibility so the design can transcend the variety of package sizes, shapes and materials used.
· Create a design that can stand alone or contribute to a strong cohesive billboard effect when products are grouped.
These goals were achieved by strengthening the logo type, customizing the background and creating design elements for the various product categories. The most visible change reverses the logo colors by positioning yellow lettering with a drop shadow on a red banner. The type style also was customized.
The second big difference is the unique shaded background pattern that repeats the diamond shape used for the company's quality seal. "It's almost like a watermark," explained White. "It makes us different from anyone else using red and yellow." The shape appears again in color-coded borders framing product names. "We also updated vignettes of the products, which are now dramatically better than what we had before and those of the competition," said White. Another departure from the existing label was the addition of a recipe on the back. It serves as "an added-value buying incentive," explained Elinor Selame, president of BrandEquity. The recipe also "allows us to do some cross-selling," added White. In addition, the back panel carries the slogan, "Chi mangia bene, usa prodotti Pastene." Italian for: "He who eats well uses Pastene products." Although the phrase hadn't been used on Pastene packaging for several decades, we discovered it had been a fixture during the company's first 50 years, recalled White. "It was even painted on company trucks," he added. "We decided to revive it. Not many companies have the history we do. We wanted to take advantage of it in a small way." Dovetailing with the redesign project was the deadline for the 1994 nutritional labeling requirements. Design decisions were made by consensus by Pastene's management group, which includes descendants of company founder Luigi Pastene. The new designs were not tested before launch.
"While we recognize the value of focus groups and doing that sort of research, we didn't have the budget or the time," explained White. Pastene products are sold directly to stores and restaurants in the Northeast and via distributors in the Southeast and westward as far as Arkansas.