How to develop on-brand, holiday-themed packaging.

Developing On-Brand, Holiday-Themed Packaging

Just a couple of months ago, we were in the midst of the holiday season. The bells were jingling and store aisles were filled with holiday-themed products. With spending increasing during the holiday season, it’s no wonder many manufacturers try to capture their share of sales with holiday-specific campaigns.

For us toy industry folks, the holiday season is our time to shine. Our products are on everyone’s shopping lists. And, hopefully, they find their way into everyone’s shopping carts as well. It’s the time of year we get to see if our packaging is doing what it’s meant to do – capture the attention of consumers and inspire purchase. For most toy items, packaging doesn’t change to accommodate the holiday season. But, what about brands with holiday-specific items that do require package design that reflects the holiday? How should these brands establish a seasonal packaging look without diluting their core brand messaging? How can holiday-themed packaging be developed without deviating completely from a brand’s established and equitable look?

When making changes to an established look, less is more

When developing a holiday look, the most ideal scenario would be to not have to completely rethink a brand’s package design to appeal to consumers during the various holiday seasons throughout the year. Why? Because any change made to a brand’s package design can potentially compromise the connection that the brand has established with its consumers at retail. There are a variety of visual assets within a brand’s package design system that resonate with consumers on a subconscious level – the brand identity design and placement, the design architecture, the brand color palette, the treatment and placement of benefits and features communication, the product imagery and the overarching visual aesthetic – all of which take time to establish an association with the brand in consumers’ minds. Therefore, modifications to any of these assets as a brand develops its holiday-themed packaging should be made with careful consideration.

With this in mind, consider changing only one or two aspects of the brand’s everyday look. Maybe a holiday-themed pattern is added to the overall background color. For Christmas-themed packaging, perhaps a ribbon and bow are strategically integrated into the current design. For Valentine’s Day packaging, maybe a red and pink snipe in one corner or a heart-shaped call-out will do the trick.

Design your everyday packaging with the holidays in mind

To achieve a perfectly seamless transition to a holiday-inspired design, a brand’s everyday package design should consider its holiday alter-egos at the time that it’s being developed. This is especially true for brands that create dedicated packaging for the four major holidays – Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween and Christmas. Owners of these brands need to establish which areas of their package design will change to holiday colors or be replaced by holiday-specific assets, while also determining which aspects of the package design system will remain consistent to ensure brand recognition and to continue to build visual equity throughout the year.

Refreshing an iconic brand’s global packaging program

When Peanuts Worldwide decided to refresh the global packaging program for core Peanuts licensed products, they wanted to establish a new look that would accommodate everyday products as well as seasonal, holiday-themed products. The objectives for the design refresh were to create a simple, contemporary visual aesthetic that would work consistently across any conceivable packaging format, while paying homage to the origins of the beloved Peanuts brand – the Charles Schulz comic strips.

Peanuts brand everyday package design

Although our primary focus during design development was to create the look for everyday Peanuts licensed products’ packaging, we never lost sight of the need for that very same look to transition to the packaging for holiday licensed products. Our design solution leverages iconic elements associated with the Peanuts brand. There may be nothing more iconic in the world of Peanuts to represent the brand than the device we employed as the primary package design architecture – the zig-zag graphic from Charlie Brown’s sweater – which bisects the design. Above the zig-zag graphic is a repeat pattern made from a collection of Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comic strips, from both the Vintage and Classic eras, in a tone of grey on white to serve as the backdrop for the Peanuts logo. Below the zig-zag is a distressed halftone pattern – a nod to the comic strip printing process – in tones of yellow. Snoopy serves as the primary character representing the Peanuts brand. However, the full cast of Peanuts characters is made available for licensees to utilize on packaging for character-specific products. Side panels depict scenes that portray the familiar relationships between the characters, and also leave room for product imagery as well as product benefits and features communication.

Transitioning from everyday to holiday-themed

Every aspect of the look established for everyday core Peanuts licensed product packaging plays a role in the seamless transition to holiday-themed variations. The placement and relationships between the key components of the overarching design remain exactly the same. However, the color of the Peanuts logo, halftone pattern, call-out violator and window box insert shift to red and pink for Valentine’s Day, a pastel palette for Easter, bold orange with green and purple accents for Halloween, and classic red and green for Christmas. The extensive Peanuts art asset archives allowed us to swap everyday character artwork for dedicated, holiday-specific character artwork and props. And, since Charles Schulz created countless comic strips for every holiday, we were able to create a unique holiday-themed comic strip pattern for the upper portion of each holiday’s package variation.

Peanuts brand valentine's day, easter, halloween and christmas packaging

When viewed alongside the everyday core Peanuts licensed product packaging, the visual continuity in the holiday-themed variations is glaringly obvious. And so are the benefits to this approach to package design. Everyday and holiday-themed products can coexist at retail without the brand statement being compromised. And, the overarching new look for the global packaging program for core Peanuts licensed products can continue to build recognition among brand enthusiasts throughout the year.

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