As a strategic brand and retailer consultancy, we’re often asked to research the semiotics of a category when developing packaging design.

We usually combine desk-based research with Retail Inspired Innovation to ensure that we assess the colours, shapes, imagery and messaging of the competitor landscape, other global markets and comparable out-of-category products.

We use this approach to inform our creative development which leads to standout packaging design that is effective in delivering the desired cues to shoppers and ultimately increased sales. However, if you were to compare our final design to the research that preceded it, you would see that it is not copycat packaging in any way, but in fact a unique approach that fuses a series of best practice influences with a little design magic of our own.

Some brands choose to take a rather literal approach in learning from the market leaders and create packaging that is simply a copy of every single aspect of the design.

A good example of copycat packaging is Tower Gates Ginger Nuts biscuits compared to McVities Ginger Nuts which, according to a recent Which? report, 1 in 4 shoppers could not tell apart at first glance.

The Tower Gate product, sold by Lidl, is just one example of many where primarily discount retailers are redesigning their own-brand products to mimic a well know brand’s best selling product. Some say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but the reality is that the copycats are simply stealing brand equity.

The strategy is widespread, and one must assume successful, but to me it leaves a bad taste in the mouth simply because it treats the shopper with little respect as it tries to dupe them into thinking the contents are the same. It also commoditises a product where previously there was differentiation.

To me, there are many examples where successful budget brand or own-label products have developed distinctive and effective packaging design without stooping to such measures.

If you want to know more about our approach to packaging design, then please get in touch.

Adam Tregaskis

Head of Retail