Skittles Pride pouches

Limited (and distinctive) Edition

What makes a standout limited edition pack? Our Business Director, Matt, explores…

The Limited Edition pack is a well used mechanic in the lifetime of a brand, popping its head up now and again to say “Look at me! Buy me!” Done well it can work to great effect, even if that’s just a little bit of joy during the autopilot of the weekly shop.

But unfortunately and perhaps somewhat ironically, the past is littered with lazy Limited Edition expressions that may well disrupt, but potentially at a cost to brand equity.

So what makes a good Limited Edition pack? Or perhaps re-framing this, what are the right conditions / considerations to enable one to have a positive impact?

It seems that great results can happen when there is a combination of 3 elements:

The brand personality:

  • Used as a filter for choosing the right occasion/platform and foundation for influencing the execution.

A distinctive brand identity:

  • Something that above all remains centre stage – even when it’s subverted.

A brand relevant occasion or platform:

  • A reason to celebrate, a point of view for the brand, a catalyst for visual expression.

Most Limited Editions subvert the usual brand expression to some degree, whether it’s the Nutella Unica, algorithm driven packs, replacing the familiar label backdrop with entirely random patterns, or Method and its partnership with Orla Kiely. Personally, despite how successful these exercises may have been in creating a bit of visual stimulation; perhaps they lack a bit of substance that could have been harnessed to say more about the brand?

True subversion has been used to great effect in the past where highly distinctive brands such as Marmite, Heinz and Levis used the No Noise platform to reduce their brands down to a handful of their highly distinctive brand assets. These worked well because they were site-specific in Selfridges and connected to a clear idea spanning multiple iconic brands: celebrating the ‘power of quiet’.

So it’s interesting to see another brand subversion on the shelves in the run up to the Pride in London parade, that draws nicely on all three of the aforementioned elements to create a simple but impactful Limited Edition expression – and in a mainstream supermarket.

It’s Skittles, but not as you know it.

The brand personality still remains in spades, as it embraces and celebrates an occasion in Pride that shares a distinctive visual asset – the rainbow, to deliver a nice simple idea: “only one rainbow deserves to be the centre of attention this weekend” and so, it’s removed from the pack, along with all colour in an uncompromising way and given over to Pride.

But throughout it all, it’s distinctively Skittles.

I can imagine a lot of brands would naturally be wary of ever removing this level of visual equity, whatever the occasion. True, it can only be pulled off by a handful of brands that have nurtured their visual assets over time to become truly distinctive both in personality and expression.

But even then, it’s the connection to a relevant platform and the quality of the idea that comes from it that creates truly interesting Limited Edition packaging design. Those are the ones we remember and which reflect positively back on the brand, long after they’ve flown off the shelves.