Summer special editions fly the flag for packaging | Markets

It’s been a summer of patriotism, not least for the nation’s packs. But with the Olympics following hot on the heels of the Jubilee, Simon Creasey considers if the Union Jack always the answer

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How times have changed. When the nation celebrated the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002 there may have been plenty of Union Jack bunting and flags waved by royalists up and down the land, but if you’d walked into a supermarket or convenience store you wouldn’t have seen such red, white and blue largesse on the shelves.

Roll forward 10 years and for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee the supermarket aisles are full of brands proudly decked out in the iconic flag. That the Jubilee came at the start of a mouth-watering summer of sport, with the London 2012 Olympic Games the jewel in the crown, served to heighten the willingness of brands to cash in on the nation’s patriotic fervour with limited edition packaging.

But is it really worth the extra expense associated with a pack redesign? And can you simply slap a Union Jack on any product and benefit from an uplift in sales (Union Jack sun tan lotion anyone?) or do you need to take a more careful approach?
We Are Pure founder David Rogers, for one, is a firm believer that there are numerous lucrative benefits attached to producing special limited edition packaging for special events.

Creating excitement

“Limited edition products create excitement around your brand,” explains Rogers. “It draws attention, ignites a product’s power and refreshes the public’s love for something that may have grown tired through constant placement. Finally it gives consumers a little buzz as they do their shopping, as there is nothing better than picking out a new flavour of your favourite porridge. It feels great.”

It also provides consumers with a break from the run of the mill brand associations with celebrities like Cheryl Cole and David Beckham that these days are “a dime a dozen”, argues Nir Wegrzyn, managing partner at BrandOpus. “For brands that pride themselves on quality, the Jubilee and the Olympics are the perfect opportunity to reiterate this. Twinings, Country Life, Schwartz, Fox’s Biscuits, Pimms and many other brands are using the opportunity to highlight their British heritage.”

Pernod Ricard is a perfect example of a company that’s employed limited edition packaging to reflect the ‘Britishness’ of brands like Royal Salute whisky and Beefeater gin. For Pernod Ricard UK marketing director Patrick Venning, the benefits of going down this route are manifold.

“Limited edition bottles drive consumer interest, deliver on-shelf standout and allow the trade to capture the attention of consumers on more engaging factors beyond price alone, in order to drive full value sales,” says Venning. “The heritage of our premium brands means that limited edition packaging is widely seen as credible and compelling as a differentiated proposition for key occasions with which they are associated.”

Milkshake brand Shaken Udder has also got in on the act. According to co-founder Jodie Farran the secret to creating successful limited edition packaging is to make sure it’s “on brand and true to your core brand values”. She says: “Don’t try to associate your product with something you otherwise have nothing to do with as you will lose the message.” Farran also advises providing an “on-theme consumer giveaway” to create a buzz around the brand.

But is there a danger of overkill, with so many brands flashing Union Jacks all over their products? “It’s great when you see all the Jubilee and Olympic products,” says Rogers. “It’s great for the economy as it creates a short time where spend is high, tourists adore it and it’s arresting on the eyes in the shops. However, it also becomes tedious. Personally, I can’t wait until all the Union Jack products are gone. There is a glut out there and it’s too much in one go.”

As Rogers points out, many brands appear to have fallen into the trap of believing that they can just pop a limited edition badge on the front of the product and it’s going to sell by the bucket load. But it’s not as simple as that, says Velda Croot, business development manager at JDO. “If the event has little relevance to the brand, consumers may well see through it as a cynical attempt to increase sales and take advantage of the event rather than to create and celebrate something that is relevant, engaging and desirable.”

However, it is possible to stretch the boundaries of what’s acceptable if you think outside the box a little, argues BrandOpus’ Wegrzyn, who says that creating a special campaign can bridge the gap between a product and an event that, at first glance, might seem incompatible.

“Procter & Gamble’s (P&G) cleaning brands and the Olympics may seem an unlikely duo. But the Capital Clean Up campaign, in association between the Mayor of London and P&G’s Flash, Ariel and Febreeze brands, finds shared interest by tapping into the pride that Londoners feel about getting their city in tip-top shape before showing it off to the world,” he says.

So what’s the key to creating a successful limited edition pack? “Be clever, be sympathetic to the brand, be brave and know your consumer,” advises  We Are Pure’s Rogers.

“The message should be clear and single minded and reflect the brand’s core values,” says Croot. “Desirability needs to be increased over the standard pack to justify a cost increase where relevant.”

Making packaging that’s collectable will also add to the appeal, says BrandOpus’ Wegrzyn, who believes the big winners from the current limited edition pack purveyors will be those brands that effectively reach the consumers who don’t buy the product to consume but to collect.

“Just like the Quality Street and Oxo tins of days gone by and reused again and again to store food in the cupboard and transport cakes, the 2012 equivalent has the same potential for longevity,” argues Wegrzyn. “Marmite’s Ma’amite jar, Lanson’s Black Label Union Jack edition, Kellogg’s 1950s packs and Twinings special edition tea caddies all have long term potential for repeated use and continuous association with an event of national pride. I expect that the biggest winners will come from brands that create collectible outer packaging purely because of the long term connection between the brand and this year of national pride.”

Regardless of the tact taken, the ultimate measure of effectiveness is whether or not consumers are prepared to pay a premium, according to Elliot Wilson, managing director of Elmwood London. What separates a good piece of limited edition packaging from a bad one is connecting with the consumer.

“I am sure the aisles are littered with bad limited edition packs but people don’t notice them because they never resonated in the first place,” says Wilson. “Good limited edition packaging will run out and not be repeated. Bad limited edition packs will just be classic runs of product that have not been limited in any way. The clue is in the name: limited.”

Five of the best

Shaken Udder

Milkshake brand Shaken Udder decided to revamp its bottle label to highlight the British ingredients it uses in its shakes. The redesigned label playfully features a Union Flag, bunting and a crown placed on its cow logo.


Not content with conjuring up a Jubilee themed pack, organic yoghurt company Rachel’s decided to launch a limited edition flavour to tie in with the royal celebrations.
The quintessentially British Strawberries and Cream flavoured yoghurt is bang on message for the brand, says marketing manager Andrew Curzon, as it reinforces the fact that Rachel’s is organically produced in the UK and is proud of its British heritage. “Producing a limited edition packaging brings excitement, interest and fun to a product category as well as encouraging new consumers to try the brand,” explains Curzon.

Beefeater Gin

For Pernod Ricard the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee provided a perfect fit for brands like Royal Salute whisky and Beefeater gin. For the latter the company produced an ‘Inside London’ bottle, adorned with the capital’s iconic pillar box red and featuring a transparent silhouette of the brand’s famous yeoman warder.

Flash and Ariel

The Olympics has formed a key part of P&G’s brands including Flash and Ariel, with the Games ribbon currently adorning packs. But the campaign goes beyond branding; the company has linked up with the Mayor of London for the Capital Clean Up campaign.


Crisp maker Tyrrells has also innovated its product to play in the Union Jack space by producing red, white and blue crisps, consisting of three coloured potato varieties. The £2.99 150g bags were stocked at supermarkets including Waitrose.



  1. It’s a Union flag. Union Jacks are flown only on ships.

  2. Penny
    If you research it, you will find that this was the case, but the official stance is now that either flag or jack is acceptable when referring to the Union’s flag