Packaging. Wackaging. A little rant.

I don’t know about you, but these days, I struggle to open a bottle of milk.

Under the screwtop lid, today’s plastic milk bottles have a plastic/foil seal. You need immense strength in your fingertips to peel it, pinch it, and pull it away. Ideally, without spilling the milk (and crying).

I have no idea how old people manage it.

I’m not *that* old. Well, OK, I’m a *bit* old. After decades of typing, I admit my fingers probably don’t have the power they used to.

Also, I can’t open a yoghurt pot or soup carton without it splashing all over my hands and the kitchen worktop. Can you? If yes, please share the technique, because I simply don’t have it.

What’s more, I need scissors to cut open a bag of peanuts (I can’t tear the corner easily, even when it’s supposedly perforated). I also need scissors to get a new toothbrush or lip salve out of its packaging. And – as we all know – when you buy a new pair of scissors, you need a pair of scissors to cut open the plastic case they are encased in.

In this environmentally conscious age, single-use plastic has become a scourge. I look forward to the day when products are once again wrapped in, say, old newspaper. And when dairy products are served in refillable glass containers.

Oh dear, I sound like an old person.

Anyway, this leads into a topic I was asked to write about recently… what’s become known as ‘wackaging’. That is, wacky packaging.

It all started with Innocent Drinks, who are often held up as a paragon of virtue when it comes to marketing and copywriting. For example, on the bottom of their bottles, they embossed messages such as: ‘Stop looking at my bottom’ and ‘Open other end’.

People loved it. So much so, that they were keen to get involved themselves.

Ten years ago, the company invited their customers to think of words to include on the bottom of their bottles, and had over 1,000 entries. Here are the winners. Innocent ran the competition again more recently – here are the top three: ‘Have you tried looking behind the sofa?’, ‘G’day from Down Under’ and ‘For rescue: Insert note. Throw in sea.’

This kind of creativity is now being applied to many other products. Soap is a sector that is particularly affected. Here are some examples (the middle one is my favourite, for obvious reasons):

Filthy

Grammar

Usage

It’s all good fun for copywriters – and for customers who share the same sense of humour. But it only works when it is a good fit with the brand and target market.

One of the techniques for writing wacky packaging is to anthropomorphise the product. That is, to make it ‘talk’ as though it’s a human. For example, these Sainsbury’s bags:

Squirrel

Is this copywriting technique something that would make sense for you to use?

It’s one of my favourite writing styles. In fact, it reminds me of the first piece of writing I ever had professionally published.

At the time, I was working for AMP (Australian Mutual Provident Society). I had qualified as a journalist but I needed office experience. The only job I could get was calculating alterations to insurance policies. Working with numbers, not words. Sigh.

They had a high quality staff magazine that had won the gold award in Australia, and I wrote a three-part story for it, from the point of view of a policy document. I also drew illustrations of the document, with little hands and little feet.

It was the only way I could think of to make the topic interesting. And it worked. Perhaps anthropomorphism is a twist that might work for you?

P.S. I still have those AMP magazines in the loft somewhere. If you’re interested, maybe I’ll dig them out one day and scan them for you to enjoy…

P.P.S. For more on this subject, you might enjoy this article I wrote in 2012: “Oi!” “Hiya.” “Good morning.” Why and how to vary your tone of voice.

P.P.P.S. Here’s an example of some packaging copy that might need a bit more thought.

Useless

 

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