Kitsching Up Appearances


Getting to the bottom of the current vogue for vintage…

The vogue for vintage is back
The vogue for vintage is back

Here at The Big Picture we’ve noticed that there has been a spate of retro packaging in recent years.  The drinks category in particular seems to be making use of retrospective design to entice consumers into purchasing, with Coca Cola and Pepsi amongst the most recognisable names. This begs the question, why go retro, and why now?

Well, one probable answer is that vintage, far from looking old fashioned, is, and has been cutting edge for a while. Since the turn of the 21st Century, catwalks have been recycling trends to the point where we’ve seen 90’s neon brights and 80’s double denim twice in the last decade alone. Though the packaging market has not had quite such a flash-in-the-pan attitude to retro, it seems many brands are increasingly feeling the need to tap into cultural nostalgia.

Take 7Up for example, who have recently released two limited edition 80’s designs that simultaneously updated and backdated the classic can. That this design was available only during the summer months highlights the fact that turning your packaging retro is, for many companies, just a temporary way to spice things up. Yet the transient nature of these packs paves the way for a more tongue-in-cheek style (regardless of the era mimicked), in a way that has only otherwise been successful in ‘wackaging’. It seems that consumers find kitsch, vintage, and retro both endearing and amusing in a way that gives brands tacit permission to create bigger personalities – and temper the hard-sell with humour.

But could this be taken to mean that retro packaging is therefore purely for aesthetics? In short, no – because it can, and does, signify so much more to customers.

Hope and Greenwood channel the
Hope and Greenwood channel the 'kids in a candy store' vibe

Take Hope and Greenwood for example: pastels, bows, badges, and ribbons adorn their packaging, whilst bright colours run riot on both labels and sweets. The result is a brand that really captures the essence of being a kid in a candy store and, more importantly, connects on an emotional level. It’s hardly surprising then, that adults are as likely to be seen queueing up for their penny sweets as children…

In addition, connecting emotionally bolsters trust with consumers. During the recession, people are understandably more drawn to packaging that conjures up memories of better times. Indeed, reminding shoppers of their childhood can offer them such a feel-good rush that it renders ‘retro’ a powerful selling tool.

Hovis: As good as it
Hovis: As good as it's always been

Finally, retro packaging allows you to get a feel for the history of a product. And there is something to be said about harking back to a brand’s heritage (in a way epitomised by that Hovis ad), which can further reinforce consumer trust during a recession. After all, who better to trust than the company that has seen everything and survived?

So with more and more retro packaging on our shelves, it’s clear that retro still feels relevant for both the consumers and the brand. And despite the fact that the vintage trend is arguably in danger of feeling distinctly modern, injecting some ‘kitsch’ into the darkest corner of the supermarket can only brighten up the shopping experience. So, on that note, long may the vogue for vintage continue!