Blooper of the Year! Or is it?

The last blooper I wrote about was the cigarette pack for Canada and that’s more than a year ago. There are a lot of bloopers in the market but most of them are labelling, which cause the infamous recalls. And no, I will not write about the Frito-Lay compostable chips packaging, although probably the most significant marketing blooper of the year. It is useless to do so, as during that period the internet was overloaded with comments and adding mine doesn’t change or improve anything. I presume, Pepsi Cola knows by now what to do after this disaster.

To ‘celebrate’ the blooper of the year, I want to take a look at a grand idea and at the same time an unbelievable blooper. Although of less national or international significance, still this failing development should stand for an important warning to marketing companies and not in the least to packaging suppliers introducing new packages without using logics.

Anybody acquainted with cooking likes to have a sprayer for the oil or liquid condiments, particularly when you are thinking in terms of a bar-be-que or an outdoor party. The problem is there are not. Maybe, like me, you can buy some sprayer in a cooking friendly shop, but manufacturers of (bar-be-que) sauces and special cooking oils (I use the olive oil sprayer also for my pizza before I put it in the oven) are apparently unaware of the way consumers are using their products. Or they are not interested to know. Ok, I know there are cooking sprays in an aerosol, but what we have here is a great idea turning into the ultimate blooper. Or is it the new trendsetter?

Somewhere in the beginning of this year, Southern Bar-B-Que Sauce Inc., Jennings, La, USA, a very regional enterprise, defied its industry’s convention when it introduced a new line of basting products in an in-stock, oblong sprayer bottle. Southern Bar-B-Que uses a standard, out-of-a-catalogue 16-oz bottle for its three basting blends. The bottles have a 28/400 neck finish, and the labels are printed on pressure-sensitive, laminated paper.

At first sight you think there is a new cleaner on offer as the bottle is the same format and colour as the ones we all see lining the shelves filled with industrial cleaners, household cleaning chemicals and fertilizers.

I am championing cross-influencing packaging design in different fields of consumer products. That makes sense and shows the creativity of the packaging engineer while renewing the face of a consumer products category. However, in the case of the spray bottle, the creative team forgot some basic elements that designers have used not only to educate but also to guide consumers so they don’t confuse gravy with motor oil?

Packaging format, shape and graphics are the major factors in distinguishing products, as they tend to classify the product group. That’s what is wrong with the spray bottle. But tell me, why do we as consumer accept a liquid soap in a stand-up pouch and also buy tomato sauce, tuna or salmon or whatever food product in the same packaging format, without even thinking about the risk to mix the two packages. And why can’t we accept a spray bottle for basting without fearing we will use a household cleaner to baste our ‘burning meat’. And tell me, why do we expect only dairy products and fruit juices in a Tetra Pak and not a liquid soap or a disinfectant. I know there are countries where the law stipulates that Tetra Paks and similar are prohibited to be used for hazardous non-food products, but there are many formats used for food as well as for non-food.

David Kendall, Creative Director of Kendall Ross, writes on his blog: “The manufacturer markets Southern Bar-B-Que’s basting spray packaging as “innovative.” I suppose this is true if we think of innovative as merely new and different. However, this is the kind of packaging innovation we should think twice about, as it’s an extremely misguided innovation. Innovation is about making or doing something in a new way. Southern’s basting spray may be innovative, but merely pouring it into another container is not. In fact, I would argue it is inappropriate.”

But I disagree. Designers, packaging suppliers and CGC’s  have done a pretty good job of educating consumers about packaging. In general we all know the ins-and-outs to open a packaging format and the way we should dispense the contents. And in contrary to what David Kendall is arguing, why shouldn’t we package mustard in a roll-on package like underarm deodorant, put shredded cheese in a can, and put tasty biscuits in pickle jars? Why not? Are we so intensely programmed and indoctrinated by the industry, that there can’t exist a mix of generally understood ideas about packaging, especially when mixing packaging formats associated with food with those associated with non-food items. Perhaps this is another indication of how far our imagination or even design thinking has fallen. Aren’t the designers able anymore to differentiate a packaging format in such a way, that it can be used for food as well as for non-food products. Why not a spray-bottle for basting, as we use glass and PET bottles for almost everything, use (stand-up) pouches for food and non-food. Why complain about this spray-bottle, when we use a paperboard box for cereals and also for detergents. Ever put a soap box in stead of a cereal box on the breakfast table? It is the differentiation in graphics, printing, size and whatever that should do the trick.
And that’s exactly where the Southern spray-bottle fails.

So in the end is this spray-bottle for basting a blooper? Yes of course it is. It is too obvious a cleaner bottle or with the words of David Kendall: “Southern’s basting spray may be innovative, but merely pouring it into another container is not.” But is Southern to blame for this blooper. Yes, in the first place, but no in my opinion, as the supplier, in this case being TricorBraun, claiming to be “one of the world’s leading suppliers of packaging”, should have advised their client better and not allowing for just a catalogue item to be chosen. In my opinion it is the designer, and if no designer is used, the supplier of the packaging who is, in principal, responsible for avoiding a blooper, and creating sufficient differentiation to avoid bringing shame, and negative publicity to his client. TricorBraun could have done that easily.
Why didn’t they come up with a metal container even with a standard sprayer. As it is now: a PET-bottle so close to the heat of the bar-b-que doesn’t seem a logical solution. And by the way, TricorBraun has this format in its catalogue (see photo).

Note: The full text of the opinion of David Kendall, Principal and Creative Director at Kendall Ross Brand Development + Design, you can read with the many comments he received regarding this blooper at: “Sauce in a spray bottle: an ‘aha’ or an ‘oh-no?’”.

5 responses to “Blooper of the Year! Or is it?

  1. Nice blooper!

    Some chip trucks in Canada have been dispensing malt and white vinegar like this for years…it works there, but I agree, that it does not here.

    Appetite appeal is canceled out by the stigma of typical chemical dispenser!

  2. It is always interesting to hear opinions from those with a different perspective on a product and project. Packaging is certainly getting its day in the sun this year for perceived failures in packaging. However, I would like give a different perspective on the Southern BBQ Sauce sprayer bottle for their basting product. Southern BBQ Sauce Inc. is a regional manufacturer and they had an idea for a new way to deliver their product. They wanted to move fast with their idea. Because it was a new idea, they did not have any concept how successful it would be in the marketplace. Those two factors meant that a stock spray package was the fastest, most economical way to go. Drew Guinn, Jr. of Southern BBQ tells us that, “This bottle was the perfect fit. It has worked great for us in the application we needed it in. I believe our customers want a product that works and works well, as opposed to being PC.” He finds it interesting that there has been much less attention given to their packaging, which TricorBraun designed and supplies, for their Grill-N-Que bottle, as it is the first bottle in the grilling sector to use the inverted container concept that is common in many other condiment/sauce products. That said, Drew is fine with the attention – as he says, “We are a small company trying to launch into the national arena. So this is good!!!” To see the Grill-N-Que package, go to http://tinyurl.com/grillque

  3. a “blooper” by definition is a mis-step or poor decision making. I don’t see that as the case here. The packaging is innovative for the category and thus to the consumers. The product is selling (per comment) While for those of us who run in packaging and design circles it may not seem to be quite so earth shattering and revolutionary but then we would only be talking to ourselves and not focusing on the brands real challenges to reaching their audience. The opinions in this article seem to be the only real blooper…

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