Monoprix own-brand packaging

Paris-based advertising agency Havas City has given French supermarket Monoprix’s own-label products a bold, bright, typographic makeover

Since January 2009 we have been deploying an integrated communication campaign for Monoprix,” explains Florence Bellison of Paris-based ad agency Havas City of its relationship with the French supermarket chain. “When we learnt that they wanted a makeover of their own-brand goods, we insisted on taking part in the consultation process.”

Havas City was thus briefed to redesign the French supermarket’s own-label range of over 2,000 grocery products – from foods and household goods through to personal care products – with the objective of making Monoprix own-label products the preferred choice for the chain’s shoppers. The range launched towards the end of last year and has already won recognition at the Epica Awards – the European advertising and design awards judged by editors and journalists who write for media and marketing titles (including CR).

THE PACK AS BILLBOARD
“The goods that a retailer has to offer are the heart of the brand, its very essence,” Bellison says. “We chose to consider the creation of packaging as the ultimate medium for expressing the DNA and the state of mind of this brand.”

The agency’s approach was to treat each pack almost as a billboard, employing blocks of solid colour typography. There are no product shots or windows in the packaging to see the product within and no serving suggestions. Instead, each pack simply displays the name of the product it houses, along with bold colour and a witty message for the consumer relating to the product, such as “still water is always on the move”.

“The brand’s values have always been expressed in words – plays on words, surprise, humour,” maintains Bellison. “So we made this the starting point of our creative process and decided to come up with an ‘all in words’ concept as a way for Monoprix to foster an effect of surprise and audacity. Our aim was to create facings which, although they are ‘all in words’, are actually perceived as images. Colour is a major tool used to lend an extra dimension to these text-based images. The idea was to propose a day-to-day experience that is decidedly not commonplace.”

The fact that each individual package contains a unique play on words, a joke to amuse the consumer, is an unusual approach – and quite a task considering that there are over 2,000 products in Monoprix’s own-label range. To add complexity, each of the messages on different sized packages of the same product are unique. The text on a 125 gram pack of butter, for example, is different to that found on a 250 gram pack of butter. Havas City has extended this idea into supporting print and outdoor advertising around the somewhat provocative slogan ‘Just say no to junk design’.

“The sole aim of this play on words is to make people smile, to show that this is a brand that can be daring,”  maintains Bellison. “consumers like to be surprised.” Can Havas maintain that element of surprise over 2,000 products? We shall see.

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY

Jonathan Ford, creative partner, Pearlfisher
Firstly, is it a worthy award winner? No. This says something more about the Epica judges than the probably incredulous creatives behind it. Secondly, do I think it is creative? Not really, it’s a lazy, quickly achieved Euro billboard aesthetic. Thirdly, does it work? Possibly it does. Gallic mass retail and consumerism is a law unto itself, far removed from the high design aesthetics in many other echelons of France. In my opinion, at the lower end, packaging and mass retail design is (through the eyes of a UK designer) un repas de chien. From what I know about Monoprix it’s probably all very fitting.

Bruce Duckworth, head of design, Turner Duckworth
Monoprix’s idea of having one design style for the whole 2,000 strong own label range seems very logical. It gives the store a unified look, it’s easy for a client to manage, cost effective, can help shoppers find the own label products, and adds to brand awareness.

But there is a flipside, this approach can potentially make shopping more difficult. The design can become too restrictive or inappropriate across the many product categories you find in a supermarket that need varied styles of communication. Worst of all, the same design on everything can become a bit boring after a while.

This range has a distinctive style and a fun personality. I haven’t been into a store to see it for real, I’ve just seen a few examples. It’s bright, colourful, single-minded and I like their playful, slightly jokey use of language on the tin of tomatoes – in small type it says ‘when we’re bored, we peel tomatoes’.

That’s sweet. I like the bold typography. There are plenty of design references for this range, most obviously, Lewis Moberly’s D&AD-winning Cook’s Ingredients range for Waitrose from 2005.

I love that Monoprix are really putting emphasis on great design – their advertising line reads ‘No, to junk design’. It is a great sentiment to have, and is in a similar spirit to a campaign for the Target chain of supermarkets in the USA a few years ago.

What’s the biggest challenge for a range of this size? I’ll take my hat off to the agency if the range still looks interesting and if the jokes haven’t  worn a bit thin by the 2,000th product.

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