Limited edition packs – do’s and don’ts

* 3 min read

This year marks the Queen’s official 90th birthday celebrations. Our longest reigning monarch, her Diamond Jubilee in 2012 was extravagant to say the least, taking over the river Thames with a pageant of red, white and blue.

Brands jumped at the opportunity to join the celebrations. Established names from Cadbury’s to Twinings all joined in with a host of limited editions and special packaging. The whole event showed that monarchy and royalty still has huge popular appeal.

But for every great idea, there will be another where the link looks forced and unnatural, so what are the do’s and don’ts of the limited edition pack?

The first thing to consider is why your brand is doing this in the first place. Is it in keeping with your messaging and what do you hope to get from the activity?

Marmite’s Ma’amite demonstrated in 2012 that Queen-related campaigns don’t have to be completely po-faced. Humour should be used creatively. Plus, Marmite’s memorable design was a great way to play with on-pack space. As we have seen with countless brands inspired by Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign, altering an iconic logo can have real cut-through with consumers.

Brands must bear in mind there’s no exclusivity to this kind of activity too. Whether it’s to tie in with a national event or a limited run simply designed to shake things up, a brand has to do something noteworthy to truly stand out. As Pepsi’s recent Pepsimoji can shows, competitors are free to join in.

Many brands already proudly broadcast their Royal Warrant of Appointment, the official seal of approval for a product or service used by a royal household. But of course any brand is free to produce celebratory limited editions, whether they boast an official nod from on high or not.

Looking back, 2012 was in some ways a perfect storm of national pride. With both the Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics, celebrating Britishness was doubly worthwhile – and lucrative too. However, not every celebration is the same. This time around it’s probable that celebrations might be a bit more muted, and that could affect the tone of the activity, making it more reverential.

A sure-fire way to stir national fervour, adding a Union Jack to your label or wrap was all the rage in 2012. We saw a host of bold limited edition packs from the likes of Ryvita, Dairy Milk and Original Source shower gel. This year, introducing a different flavour, or a different pack format could be a powerful alternative. For example, Twinings’ produced a range of tin tea caddies that will be retained and serve the brand well.

Limited editions can be subtle too. Heinz used a can design from 60 years ago for a link with Fortnum & Mason, where its beans were first sold. It drove huge PR value and brand equity too, and there wasn’t a Union flag in sight.

Creating stand-out on shelf has to be a main concern for products, so why not zig while others zag. Weetabix produced a Fuel Britannia pack which brought its message about slow release energy to the fore. It was a clever and witty nod to our monarch’s remarkable staying power.

Marks & Spencer also took a road less well travelled by creating a great vintage collection harking back to its own designs from the Fifties. It was unique, evocative and retro, hitting the sweet spot with the emerging vintage trend, and they sold by the bucket.

It demonstrates that when it comes producing a limited edition, you don’t have to limit your creativity to the obvious. If there is valid reason to celebrate the Queen’s 90th year with your product, then do it, but do it with style, with class, and put a smile on people’s face. Just like her majesty in fact.