When Iconic Packaging Establishes the Brand

A hall of fame

Studies have shown that packaging plays a key role in persuading consumers to choose a certain product over others. At the retail level, where equivalent merchandise is often placed together, packaging can make a product stand out and catch the shopper’s attention. This function is particularly important today, as shoppers are not only under more time-pressure, but they are also faced with more choice. Based on its ability to entice a purchase decision, packaging has been called “the silent salesman”.

From a branding perspective, packaging can also convey thoughts, feelings and knowledge about a product into the consumers’ consciousness. In the most successful cases, packaging can become a defining element of a brand. This is what experts call iconic packaging. The following examples are among the most successful stories of branding through packaging.

Pringles – the chips in a can

Few packages enjoy the instant recognition of Pringles. Normally potato chips come in bags but Pringles, stacked in cans bearing the iconic logo, have become an instantly recognizable snack in many households around the world, leaving consumers unable to stop eating them once they pop the top!

The Pringles can was invented in the 1950’s by the chemist Fredric Baur for Procter & Gamble. His mission was to create a new product that addressed consumer complaints about broken, stale and greasy chips.1

Baur devised a tubular paperboard can with a resealable plastic lid and foil-lined interior. He then invented chips2 that would be cut in a uniform saddle shape–known mathematically as a hyperbolic paraboloid–allowing them to be stacked conveniently in the can.

The Pringles can indeed minimizes chip breakage, as being stacked helps support each chip’s weight. Stacking also allows the can to be filled densely with the product, saving on space and shipping costs.

Pringles’ early advertising highlighted its unique packaging strengths. It showed traditional bagged chips as greasy and broken, under the slogan “Other potato chips just don't stack up”.

Buried in a Pringles can

Fredric Baur was so proud of his invention that he requested to be buried in a Pringles can after his death. In 2008, his heirs honored his request and placed his ashes to rest in a Pringles can. They opted for the original flavor can.

The Tiffany box – wrapping our material dreams in blue

Perhaps you don’t know it as “forget me not blue” or “robin’s egg blue”. But when you see a small box in that shade of turquoise and a white ribbon on top–red during the holidays–you know what’s coming. No other packaging for jewelry is as noticeable and so capable of raising expectations as Tiffany’s.

Tiffany & Co. knows too well the value of its packaging and guards it closely. The blue–officially color number 1837 of the Pantone Matching System chart3–is trademarked, and not commercially available. The term “Tiffany Blue Box™” is also trademarked, as is the white ribbon.

A Tiffany’s box signifies value to buyers, bestowing Tiffany’s aura of elegance and sophistication.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

For the filming of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961), the store opened for the first time on a Sunday. 40 guards were posted to make sure that not one of the blue boxes would be stolen.

Toblerone – peaking chocolate

No chocolate packaging is as eye-catching as Toblerone’s. The chocolate’s triangular peaks were inspired by Switzerland’s most famous mountain, the Matterhorn. The name Toblerone is a word play on the chocolate creator’s surname “Tobler”, and the Italian word “Torrone”, i.e. honey-almond nougat.

Toblerone affair

Sweden had a “Toblerone affair” in the ‘90s when the Deputy Prime Minister was accused of having used a government credit card for private expenses, including a Toblerone chocolate bar.


1“Pringles – Bidding Farewell to a P&G Original”, P&G, http://news.pg.com/blog/heritage/pringles-%E2%80%93-bidding-farewell-pg-original

2Pringles are not strictly speaking chips, i.e. fried cross sections of actual potatoes. They are crisps made of dried potatoes and wheat. http://www.foodpolitics.com/2009/05/latest-court-ruling-pringles-are-potato-chips-sort-of/

3Pantone is the producer of Tiffany’s blue color.