Jubilee branded products – do they need a big idea?

Just over a year on from William and Kate’s wedding celebrations, the UK is once again plastered with dusted off, slightly creased Union Jack flags, and countless limited edition or ‘British’ branded products in the lead up to next week’s Diamond Jubilee Celebrations. This time it’s different because there is the the added excitement about London’s 2012 Olympic Games, so the surge in ‘celebration’ products with a patriotic flavour is overwhelming. But which ones have a credible idea behind them, and which ones just feel like ‘flag wash’?

In the supermarkets, you can’t move for Union Jack-adorned packaging, particularly in Sainsbury’s, which is ‘presenting the Jubilee Family Festival on 2-3 June‘, and many brands have launched special packs specifically for those stores. We asked around the London office for everyone to keep an eye out for interesting designs with great ideas behind them, and were flooded with responses, but the good examples were few and far between.

Brands that really showed an idea behind their packaging or communications were the big hits here – the ones which chose either a play on words in the brand name, or used some clever detailing in the design to communicate a subtle message.

It’s hard to include them all here, but overall, we noticed that the designs seem to fall into four camps:

1. Union Jack washing – no obvious idea here, we’re assuming the brief was just to ‘put a Union Jack somewhere on the pack’.

Brands such as Hovis, Pimms and Gordon’s Gin have had Union Jacks on their packs since last year, but these now look generic, with other brands also jumping on the band wagon. I get the fact that they’re British brands and the association with summer picnics and cocktails, but the execution now feels a bit unimaginative. Especially when you get Tesco’s own label crumpets, Andrex loo roll, and M&S sandwiches, cakes and most other products sporting Union Jacks on the pack.
I guess it’s an easy option as the Union Jack has no restrictions on its usage, so it’s apparently a bit of a free for all in design terms. Just look at this Tumblr: Put a Jack on the Pack – which proves our point nicely.


2. Go retro! – examples of  uncovering something inspiring such as a design from the archives, or simply (and more boringly) pointing out that ‘this brand has been here x amount of time too’. Kelloggs, Heinz and Fairy are just a few examples:

Heinz have launched their core baked beans and spaghetti lines in packaging from 60 years ago:

The Kellogg’s special Jubilee edition packs were my favourite out of these, purely because I just love the style and simplicity of the original designs.  In the aisle they were sitting amongst the usual packs, which looked garish and brash in comparison.

Bringing out this Fairy special Jubilee edition in the retro bottle shape was not a hugely different move from their Royal Wedding Fairy Tale one last year, but the design still features some lovely ideas in the details, such as the pots and pans, the Corgi and ‘Have Fun Then Clean Up’ echoes the nostalgic (if overused) ‘Keep Calm and Carry On‘ theme.

On a similar subject these Poundland Scourers, believe it or not, were also one of the favourites, appealing to the old fashioned housewife in a few of us. ;-)

Tyrrell’s red, white and blue crisps ‘For Queen and Country’ has quite a subtle Jubilee celebration idea behind it, but the design is beautiful, and manages to feel both retro and stylishly modern at the same time.


3. Clever ideas  -  using a play on words in the brand name, descriptor, or positioning

Kingsmill Bread changing its name to Queensmill for the Jubilee is a genius idea, and was picked up by quite a few of us here as one of the ideas that made us smile. It’s part of a campaign led by the Eden Project, called The Big Lunch, which is encouraging people to hold street parties to get to know their neighbours on June 3rd.

Mr Kipling is perfectly placed as a brand to celebrate Britishness, and it lines itself up nicely for being front of mind for Jubilee parties with its mini Victoria Mini Classics. We loved the way the French Fancies were changed to ‘Great British Fancies’ for the occasion. JWT’s ads for Mr Kipling celebrating the Jubilee feature the cakes as part of mini scenarios, which include street parties and the royal procession, which really brought out the warmth of the Mr Kipling brand.

Ma’amite – how could we not include it? When it launched about 10 different people mentioned it to me in the space of a week, it’s definitely created a huge buzz and made a few people I know rush out to buy it as a collectors item. Although some have said it looks too much like Bovril by changing the colours to red, white and blue, I like the clever play on the brand name, and in true keeping with the ‘love it or hate it’ aspect of Marmite, you either cringe or smile when you read it.

Weetabix changing its packs temporarily to ‘Fuel Britannia‘ was another great idea – also very fitting with the brand, the Jubilee and and also the general idea of ‘celebrating Britishness’. It reminded us of our work on the special Happy and Glorious Jubilee edition of Lyle’s Golden Syrup, where we made a point of avoiding the flag-slap, and were also inspired by lyrics from a famous patriotic song.


4. Huh? I don’t get it – the examples where for some reason there appears to be little or no connection between the brand/product and the upcoming events. Many of the Union Jack branded things fall into this camp, but these are the ones which made us wonder why they were getting involved at all.

Luxury beauty products seem to be awash with this kind of bandwagon jumping. I really did wonder what on earth Clarins ‘Diamond Jubilee Limited Edition Hand and Nail Cream’ had to do with anything, and Ren’s Jubilee packs of Moroccan Rose body wash and cream also displayed shameless flag-washing.

These Finish Jubilee dishwasher tablets felt a bit tenuous – okay, the product is already red, white and blue and they have a promotion where you can win a champagne flute, but it wasn’t the first brand or product I would have associated with the Diamond Jubilee or Britishness (if that’s what we’re celebrating).

Many drinks brands have opted for a subtle design for their special edition Jubilee versions,  but some of these feel quite dull and I had to look twice to even see the reference to the event. Check out the Drinks Business’ selection of Diamond Jubilee Inspired Drinks to see more.

Slightly more interesting was Edrington Group’s decision to launch a special edition of The Famous Grouse, called The Famous Jubilee into Waitrose, although somehow it seemed to lack punch, and I found the London references (bowler hat, etc.) a bit odd on what I thought was a Scottish brand.

A great contender for the most bizarre idea, not to mention terrible dad pun is Peckingham Palace – the Cuprinol Bird House! Apparently it uses colours from their new Jubilee colour range, but I couldn’t see them very well in the launch images, and quite frankly, it was just a bit bonkers and confusing.


Limited edition line extension projects are often done in short timeframes and with little budget, but we were astounded at how many brands had gone down the simple and rather ‘me-too’ route. Sure, a massive Union Jack stands out when people are shopping with the weekend celebrations in mind, but there must be more to a Jubilee or Olympics special edition pack than just shoving a flag on to it somewhere?

Our favourites sat in the second and third categories. These examples just prove how different the results can be when there’s a great idea and some real meaning behind a design.


More brilliant examples of Jubilee branding confusion on James Ward’s blog. You can find other lists of favourite examples on Red’s blog, or the excellent piece on the Guardian on Jubilee memorabilia. Possibly one of the best pieces of Jubilee packaging I found is here – it has a real diamond on it.