Thursday, March 21, 2013

Basics Beer and the return to the butt ugly

Ok, so maybe naked pictures wasn't my best idea, but this blog is meant to be a reflection of the author... after all the name is My Turn Quips and that includes both the twisted sense of humor and the imperfections along the way.  For those offended or still wavering whether they should sneak a peek, I say, "go for it".  I can't imagine these naked pictures offending many folks at all.  With that said, on to my next quip...

Recently, I was making pancakes for the kids and happened to notice the milk jug - it was ugly, real ugly.  We routinely purchase the store brand for many staples such as milk, but this time it gave me a bit of a flashback to the times when "Basics Beer" was found in the beer section and even toilet paper came in a "Basics" version.  The packaging for the Basics line was minimalist; simply stating "Basics Beer" in bold black letters and a white background.  Although money was tight during my stint as an enlisted person in the Army, I only stooped as low as "Meister Brau" and "Red, White and Blue" beer.  Without a doubt, you had reached bottom, if you were drinking "Basics Beer" and I suspect the packaging alone did much to turn off the consumer which is why I was surprised to see such an ugly milk carton.

Following the "Basics" era, it seemed that marketing entered an era where there was a focus on improving the appearance of the packaging of the store brand so that it would appear more equivalent to the name brand.  Indeed, I recall many close calls where I almost purchased the Price Chopper chunky soup when I intended to purchase the Campbell's Chunky soup - they looked that much alike.  Times certainly change and "thrift" is in vogue.  In the past several years, I can tell you first hand that the competition has gotten fierce at lawn sales, Goodwill and the Salvation Army.  Where once you would silently smile when you scored a second hand bargain; today, it is okay to brag a little bit when you score a second hand deal.  So I wondered, perhaps some astute marketers are also alert to this shift and perhaps some are now being careful to make sure their "store" brand is clear that it is the "bargain" option - both through name and in packaging.  For example, the name on my milk jug is "Clear Value" a line offered through Shop Rite.  Similarly, Walmart has their "Great Value" and Hannaford has their "My Essentials" line.

Just for fun, I lined up some of the store brands and name brands from our pantry.

The first thing that is striking is the degree of difference between the "store" brand and the "name" brand.  Clearly, the "name" brand appears more vibrant while the "store" brands appear bland with a substantial white background giving a washed out appearance that seems to scream, "I'm the bargain brand."  At one time, this difference might be attributable to the level of sophistication between the lines; however, I believe that this is no longer the case and, in fact, I believe there may be a trend now to enunciate through ugliness that "I am the bargain brand."  For example, in the photo above, I included 2 apple juice jugs, the one on the far right is the old version of Hannaford's Apple Juice.  Second from the right is Hannaford's current store line which is now known as "My Essentials".  Notice the capital "A" and "J" on the old packaging while the newer packaging uses all lower case which is one way to create subtlety, pointing to the generic product.  The "My Essentials" label also moved toward the washed out white background with fake looking apples that aren't terrible, but not as appetizing as the apples, one cut and looking juicy, appearing on the old packaging.

Yes, thrift is in and just in case you're confused which is the "bargain brand," it looks as though maybe our marketing experts are helping us out - it's the butt ugly package.

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