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Get packing: the changing voice of on-pack copy

By Andrew Boulton

February 5, 2013 | 4 min read

I am, it appears, an increasingly grumpy man. This dawned on me during a recent episode of ‘Call The Midwife’ when I scanned the room frantically looking for something I could knock myself unconscious with. In the end, it was the dog.

But there is one thing that appears to upset an awful lot of people that I actually find rather charming. And that is packaging with personality.

Increasingly, a product’s packaging has become an integral part of delivering a brand’s voice, values and personality.

On a recent Innocent Smoothie I purchased, the nutritional information, storage instructions and all the mandatory wording took up less space than a panel that informed me how I should ride my dinosaur.

This kind of thing upsets some people. A certain type of character is a little uncomfortable or unresponsive to engaging in a spot of friendly banter with the stuff that’s wrapped around their goods.

But I for one think it’s a good way to go. Admittedly, there are some brands I simply don’t want to talk to. If my can of Lynx Africa tried to talk to me i’d be fairly tempted to tell it to f*ck off.

Also, I think it’s a copywriting technique that can very easily teeter over the precipice of being charming and tumble into the endless void of triviality.

But when a brand gets it right and speaks in a voice that embodies everything appealing about the product, then I am quite happy to salute that.

Along with Innocent, who have largely set the blueprint for this kind of irreverent, playful on-pack messaging, another brand who I feel pull off this tricky concept with a great deal of aplomb is Soap and Glory.

Much like Innocent, cosmetic brand Soap and Glory have spawned innumerable imitators (most of whom, it has to be said, fail to do it justice).

Their striking packages and their seemingly endless supply of puns (their range of scrubs alone contains ‘Scrub Actually’ ‘Pulp Friction’ and ‘The Breakfast Scrub’ – i’m officially pitching ‘Big Scrubble in Little China’) sets them apart from the competition.

And this unique position in the market is down to their humour, their cheeky use of images and the fact that they’re not afraid to use larger than normal amounts of (very well written) copy on the front of their packs.

In a sector where most brands take themselves entirely too seriously, Soap and Glory’s approach is as refreshing as being lathered up with a fistful of ‘The Showering Inferno’ (mine again, sorry).

All too often, a certain rigidness is adopted in the approach to packaging design, and particularly the messaging it incorporates. Brands like Soap and Glory have smashed this dogma simply by being an incontrovertible case study into its effectiveness and popularity.

Of course, there is another reason to be thankful. Next time ‘Call The Midwife’ is on, I can simply temporarily blind myself with ‘Indiana Jones and The Temple of Shampoom’. That one didn’t work did it? Dammit.


Andrew Boulton is a copywriter at the Together Agency. No dogs were harmed in his attempts to not watch ‘Call The Midwife’.


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