Speak UpA Former Division of UnderConsideration
The Archives, August 2002 – April 2009
advertise @ underconsideration
---Click here for full archive list or browse below
  
Sales Copy Gone Wild

by Yael Miller

For as long as I can remember, I’ve used only Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise — a household staple if you will. To state the obvious, but for the sake of this post, it is available in glass jars or upside-down plastic squeeze bottles in vibrant full-color printed shrink labels. The problem with the latter (and the crux of this post), as all of us who have bought it know, is getting out that last sixth of mayonnaise left in the bottle, which is usually enough to complete one more sandwich. No amount of shaking, banging or determination will clear out the bottle completely (or nearly so.) Ever. Enter the new Hellmann’s Easy Out!™ bottle. (Sort of.)

Regular (front only) and light Easy Out!™ bottles Regular (front only) and light Easy Out!™ bottles

In bold letters, the package states that “shaking, banging and scraping” mayonnaise out of the bottle is a thing of the past. An innovative “coating” in the bottle would now allow the product to flow out almost completely! Progress at last, I thought. I bought a bottle, made enough sandwiches, and waited for a miracle. After all, Hellmann’s was pretty confident that the results would be great… why would they assign 50% of the front of the bottle to a huge arrow and an “EASY OUT!” graphic bigger than the Hellmann’s logo if they weren’t? “NO More Waste”, it said. I felt assured. On a recent sandwich-making session I came to the dreaded last sixth of the bottle. This was it. SHAKE. BANG. SHAKE. SHAKE. SHAKE. BANG. SQUEEZE. SQUEEEEEEZE. CURSE. Maybe a slight improvement? I honestly couldn’t tell. No mayonnaise for my sandwich — and the bottle, as if taunting me, looked deceivingly full with all the mayo stuck to the inside walls of the bottle. And this took one year to develop?

“In an effort to continually delight consumers, we listened to their comments, both in focus groups and also from our consumer hotline, and we began working on a package to make it easier for consumers to get all the mayonnaise out of the bottle,” relates Melanie Huet, associate brand manager for Hellmann’s.

The 24-oz package, used for Real and Light mayonnaise varieties, was in development for one year and owes its nonstick properties to a specially formulated inner bottle surface that provides the required slip properties. While the bottle supplier is confidential, Unilever says the package is a multilayer construction of polypropylene/ethyl vinyl alcohol/PP.

Press release [scroll down]

Maybe another year of testing would have been in order. Sheesh. I would have been feeling more kindly to the hardworking team at Unilever if they had been more realistic in their marketing copy. Unfortunately, all the development time will most likely go down as a big waste because the marketing copy overstated the claim of improved product flow by using black-or-white, everything-or-nothing language. The result? Elevated consumer expectations deflated by the actual performance of the product. How about a more realistic bit of copy: “LESS Waste”? Of course not, that does not fly off the shelves. But at least, knowing what I’m getting, I could buy the old-fashioned glass jar and scrape the heck out of it with a trusty knife.

Heinz's Heinz’s “Trap Cap”

A similar episode happened with Heinz Ketchup several years ago. In 2000, the company introduced a new bottle cap designed to prevent the “watery stuff” — more scientifically known as “syneresis” (the separation of liquid from a gel caused by contraction) — from coming out and ruining your burger buns — one of the most depressing turn of events in the American culinary experience. The Heinz “Keep your buns dry and happy” $20 million ad campaign by Leo Burnett created publicity, but along with it came negative scrutiny when customers quickly realized the cap (also known as the “Trap Cap”) was only slightly effective. Although Heinz claims they did extensive testing before introducing it, the claim was overstated. The massive marketing push made this semi-effective improvement very annoying. Specially when my hamburger bun went wet with that gross watery stuff — fancy caps, $20 million campaign and all. Again, couldn’t we have just had a less inflated pitch? “Not as much watery stuff as before” would have been good enough for me, letting me know that the cure had not yet been found, but that the suffering would be less.

When redesigning a product’s packaging to improve it or address market research findings, the “spin” is maybe as important or more so than the actual design change itself, as this is what faces — or is it “lures”? — consumers on the shelves. Careful choice of words is important, if the innovation is indeed proven in focus groups and lab tests. Why not let consumers discover a pleasant surprise when they use the newly improved product? If they want it, they’ll buy it anyway. Subtlety is an art that mass-market consumer product goods need to learn. You don’t need a megaphone (or a big ad campaign) to convince consumers you were up to something good when you redesigned your product. Can the product speak for itself for a change? Or is the super sales pitch really necessary?

Yael Miller specializes in branding and package design for food and beverage.

Maintained through our ADV @ UnderConsideration Program
ENTRY DETAILS
ARCHIVE ID 3628 FILED UNDER Critique
PUBLISHED ON Jul.12.2007 BY Speak Up
WITH COMMENTS
Comments
Frank’s comment is:

You know mayonnaise is super bad for you, right?

On Jul.12.2007 at 04:21 PM
Doug B’s comment is:

You could argue that scraping the bottom and sides of an 'olde skoole' Hellmann's jar in order to get the last oz. of mayo for a turkey sandwich is somewhat of a right of passage.

Kids today have it too easy.

{Insert Dana Carvey 'Grumpy Old Man' quote here}

On Jul.12.2007 at 04:47 PM
Michael Holdren’s comment is:

Getting back on topic... excellent article Yael. It's too easy for those involved in the development process of marketing the "new feature" to get carried away with it and over-state it's properties and promises. Or maybe that's just what's on the creative brief. It'll go through the internal approval process and everyone else will like it and get carried away too. Sometimes it's just not an intentional, malicious thing as we like to think Big Corporate does to take advantage of Little Consumer.

And sometimes the word from on-high is to do exactly that, and then you've knowingly just sold another peice of your soul and you're that much closer to walking down Glaser's Road to Hell.

On Jul.12.2007 at 05:23 PM
ed mckim’s comment is:

it's also super delicious, however bad for you.

:-)

On Jul.12.2007 at 06:52 PM
Faust Haus’s comment is:

I love mayo so I had the same disappointment at the easy-out bottle. I wonder if someone will sue them for false advertising? It wouldn't surprise me.

On Jul.12.2007 at 07:08 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

The bottle doesn’t cause less waste, just another kind. Laminating plastics makes the package impossible to recycle.

On Jul.13.2007 at 08:43 AM
Armin’s comment is:

I feel Yael's pain. About two months ago I had to buy an emergency bottle of mayo – my sandwich was all done except for the mayo – on our corner store and they only had the squeeze bottle. I asked if they had a regular jar and they didn't. As we went through the bottle and neared the end we just couldn't get out the mayo. There are things I don't want to worry about or put too much thought into, and one of them is not having to be concerned about getting the mayo I paid for from the bottom of a stupid squeeze bottle where you can't fit a knife for scraping. I have used Hellmann's for as long as I can remember as well and the only thing I'm aware of about it is that it's awesome and makes a sandwich the best it can be. If it ain't broken don't fix it. And by no means, plaster a huge graphic over your bottle saying it works.

I have found that I have become numb to any extraneous information on the products I buy at the grocery store. Once I have found a brand I like, I just look for it and get it without reading any of the improvements or special qualities or magic potions that have been added. If it's blue, yellow and white I know I'm getting Hellmann's mayo. If it's purple and has a sun on it I know I'm getting Raisin Bran. That's all I'm looking for. The rest is a waste of time.

On Jul.13.2007 at 09:52 AM
ed mckim’s comment is:

I have found that I have become numb to any extraneous information on the products I buy at the grocery store. Once I have found a brand I like, I just look for it and get it without reading any of the improvements or special qualities or magic potions that have been added.

I think you hit the nail on the head in terms inadvertently as to why they do it. The giant graphics and overstated hype might a reaction to just what you described. It just seems like desperation, and they should leave that to Duke's.

On Jul.13.2007 at 10:20 AM
Jon Dascola’s comment is:

Having never been a big mayo fan myself, im trying to relate this topic to peanut butter. A squeeze bottle seems to take the charm out of spreading the stuff around with a knife. Thats what makes a sandwhich good. That little extra bit of love.

On Jul.13.2007 at 10:42 AM
Leila Singleton’s comment is:

I've often wondered if products that are perfectly fine are infused with useless "technologies" simply because the companies manufacturing them are bored — maybe I'm wrong, but how interesting can making mayo be (maybe it is intriguing, in a really nerdy way, if you make it yourself)? Gotta shake things up with bizarre new packaging or some other gimmick…

…fortunately for those bored condiment manufacturers, our national tradition of whining about every trifle proves there is a market for silly "innovations." You know there has to be someone out there writing Heinz every day to complain about syneresis, simply because they refuse to squirt .035¢ worth of catsup into the sink before applying to their buns (I'm not rephrasing that).

On Jul.13.2007 at 01:25 PM
Derek Munn’s comment is:

I agree with Dascola. I've never been one for mayo, but pass me the peanut butter. I don't think I would ever use peanut butter from a squeeze bottle. Heck, I hate the PB&J combo jars. Something about making the sandwich with all the steps just makes it taste better.

Besides, I've gotten pretty skilled getting the last bit from the jar.

I do think Armin hit the nail on the head as well.

On Jul.13.2007 at 01:42 PM
JonSel’s comment is:

Gotta shake things up with bizarre new packaging or some other gimmick…

This is actually truth. In the past I've worked with Kraft foods on a couple of their brands. Their brand managers are responsible for coming up with a new packaging sales tactic – a structural improvement, a violator, a new promotion, etc. – every six months. They feel it keeps the product looking fresh on the shelf. I think it's a little overkill.

On Jul.13.2007 at 06:12 PM
Tom’s comment is:

They feel it keeps the product looking fresh on the shelf. I think it's a little overkill.

Fairly recently, Windsor Salt changed their box design away from the blue/mustard colored dots to an image of a table covered with food. Sometimes a redesign can 'freshen' up a brand and make it look new, but if you throw away everything that makes it recognizable and replace it with something completely generic it's generally a mistake. I'm not saying I liked the old packaging all that much, either, but it was certainly different.

On Jul.13.2007 at 07:17 PM
marian bantjes’s comment is:

from coming out and ruining your burger buns — one of the most depressing turn of events in the American culinary experience.

v. funny sentence, that.

But there seems to be an increasing trend that products have to do everything for you. Self-cleaning, self-scraping, self-squeezing ... I see these things as miniature versions of the leaf blower: extravagant inefficiency and some form of environmental unpleasantness in favour of saving us all from burning a couple of kilojoules, or, god forbid, using our brains.

People, there is this thing called a spatula, they come in different sizes and are incredibly good at scraping all sorts of things out of jars. You have to use your arms, but hey. Another good use for arms is shaking. If you shake the ketchup or mustard bottle first, you not only completely eliminate the watery stuff, you get a little workout before scorfing down that fatty burger. Yoghurt also separates unpleasantly, and this is where that handy spoon comes in. Spoon stirring can give you forearms like Popeye; fuck the spinach.

The very thought of this "innovative coating" gives me the heebie jeebies. When are we going to see graphics that exclaim "Three chemicals eliminated!" "Stirring stick included!" "Now in recycleable glass jar!"

On Jul.13.2007 at 10:25 PM
m. kingsley’s comment is:

People, there is this idea called making your own mayonnaise. Takes just a few minutes and impresses friends and loved ones.

Imagine all the energy expended in the manufacture, packaging, distribution and promotion of Hellmann's Mayonnaise, redirected.

On Jul.13.2007 at 11:45 PM
m. kingsley’s comment is:

People, there is this idea called making your own mayonnaise. Takes just a few minutes and impresses friends and loved ones.

Imagine all the energy expended in the manufacture, packaging, distribution and promotion of Hellmann's Mayonnaise, redirected.

On Jul.13.2007 at 11:45 PM
m. kingsley’s comment is:

People, there is this idea called making your own mayonnaise. Takes just a few minutes and impresses friends and loved ones.

Imagine all the energy expended in the manufacture, packaging, distribution and promotion of Hellmann's Mayonnaise, redirected.

On Jul.13.2007 at 11:45 PM
Yael’s comment is:

This is so cool. I'm really enjoying the dialog this is generating. I like to read a good number of comments before jumping in, so there's this conversation going. I also want to thank all who are reading my article, as it's a 'first' for me.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that food packaging is getting flashier each day.

I think that it's like the allegory of the wind and the sun, where the sun with it's warmth is more effective than the strongest wind to get the traveler to remove his cloak.

Brand managers need to rethink the 'visual wind storm' on store shelves. Maybe the opposite approach might work even better.

After checking out the Fancy Food Show last week, I came away noting how gourmet food has really got it right. This category is growing for a variety of reasons, but fresh, beautiful packaging only helps.

I think packaged foods (national brands in particular) need to reduce the product/packaging to its bare essentials and rebuild from there. I realize there is the issue of brand recognition, but it's still achievable, I think.

On Jul.15.2007 at 12:16 AM
JonSel’s comment is:

…the allegory of the wind and the sun, where the sun with it's warmth is more effective than the strongest wind to get the traveler to remove his cloak.

I explain it to my clients thus: if everyone yells, no one gets heard. But I like the poetry of yours better.

On Jul.15.2007 at 01:57 AM
Tselentis’s comment is:

A question—mostly in response to Kingsley's homemade idea.

If I make my own mayo as a designer, am I required to make my own packaging? Because I'd be okay sticking it in some existing packaging. Or even a plain old dispenser or jar. Honestly, should I go the extra mile of impressing my friends by making my own label, etc.?!

On Jul.15.2007 at 11:59 AM
Christina W’s comment is:

I was going to leave a comment about the scraping/shaking, but I'll just say ThankYOU, Marian...

On Jul.16.2007 at 12:59 AM
jbmelcher’s comment is:

The beauty of the the last sixth of mayonnaise in the jar is that it is the perfect opportunity to make cole slaw dressing. Just eyeball the remaining ingredients and shake. Next time, I encourage you to try adding a generous splash of buttermilk, a drizzle of olive oil and a heaping wooden spoonfull of goat cheese...and maybe some fresh dill if available...oh yeah-and black pepper. This should only be served w/garden vegtables harvested by self or loved ones. F-the plastic squeeze bottle.

On Jul.16.2007 at 02:43 AM
jbmelcher’s comment is:

One more thing...
Did any of you ever put a caterpillar in a glass jar w/some sticks and grass, and then watch it become a cocoon and eventually a butterfly, at which point it would be "set free"? I encourage everyone of you w/children to share this experience w/them, but this time we'll use the new and improved non-stick squeeze bottle instead of the glass jar. I wonder if the kids will think this is as funny as the butterfly does.

On Jul.16.2007 at 03:02 AM
Leila Singleton’s comment is:

Did any of you ever put a caterpillar in a glass jar w/some sticks and grass, and then watch it become a cocoon and eventually a butterfly, at which point it would be "set free"?

PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS unless you have at least a one-gallon jar! We did this in our second grade science class with too-small jars and ended up with numerous crippled butterflies. Butterflies need to emerge in a space that allows them to immediately spread their wings sans hindrance; most jars are far too small, which can prevent the wings from forming correctly.

If you absolutely insist upon raising butterflies, please visit Butterfly School's website, which has some great tips on how to do it without endangering these fragile creatures.

On Jul.16.2007 at 01:40 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

making your own mayonnaise. Takes just a few minutes and impresses friends and loved ones.

Impressive indeed. They make a big deal out of getting the mayo du jour on the Tour de France but Mark gets it whenever he wants.

On Jul.16.2007 at 02:18 PM
ed mckim’s comment is:

more like mustard du journ, if ya know what i'm sayin!

On Jul.16.2007 at 02:52 PM
ed mckim’s comment is:

jour*

On Jul.16.2007 at 02:53 PM
mister worms’s comment is:

I find sales copy on food utterly annoying and sometimes it has the opposite effect on me: I wonder why they have to try so hard to sell a certain item and it prompts me to give the ingredient list extra scrutiny. In the case of this mayo product, I would go out of my way to buy mayo in a glass jar since it's the most inert packaging material and I don't really care to eat any "polypropylene/ethyl vinyl alcohol/PP" that may have leeched into my mayo.

Speaking of glass jars, I haven't seen Hellman's in one for quite a while! Now that would be an improvement: quit screwing around with plastics toxic to us and the planet and bring back good ol' glass.

Some of this sales copy gone wild is downright dangerous. How on earth are products like mayo (pretty much all fat) and diet colas (full of chemicals and zero nutrional value) end up with faux health labels like "smart choices"?

On Jul.16.2007 at 10:38 PM
jbmelcher’s comment is:

You know you've achieved perfection in design, Not when you have nothing more to add, But when you have nothing more to take away.

Antoine De Staint-exupery

On Jul.18.2007 at 12:20 PM
Jason G’s comment is:

Not exactly the point I realize, but what about packaging the mayo in a tube, ala toothpaste? I always feel quite satisfied that I've expelled every usable ounce of out of a tube of toothpaste before I discard the package.

On Jul.26.2007 at 09:09 AM
Yael’s comment is:

You know, mayo is sold in tubes in the UK and South Africa. I'm sure elsewhere as well. My husband is South African and he introduced me to it. It also tastes different.

On Jul.30.2007 at 06:04 PM
Pam’s comment is:

At our house, dad cuts the butt off the mustard jar to get the last bit of it. This would not work with a glass jar.

On Aug.02.2007 at 01:35 PM
David’s comment is:

Can anyone tell me why Hellmann's is called Best Foods west of the Rocky Mountains?

On Aug.05.2007 at 11:23 PM
Yael’s comment is:

I once saw an invention by a kid who made a double-headed peanut butter jar. Both ends unscrew to access the peanut butter on the bottom (or top, depending on how you're holding it.) I wonder why this cool idea never made it mainstream. That's what I call packaging innovation.

On Aug.06.2007 at 09:55 PM
Mark IQ’s comment is:

A double-ended peanut butter jar (Mayo) makes innovative sense. But it comes down to more than packaging to get this to market. Unilever would have to make dramatic changes to its production and manufacturing plant ops to handle this. But a good idea nonetheless. How about a tray package?

On Aug.23.2007 at 09:39 AM
Melanie Wiesenthal’s comment is:

Why not spend the time/dollars investing in recycled packaging instead? I find it humorous that the packaging claims "no waste", yet it's a package that will live for hundreds of years in a landfill long after you've had that last bit of mayo.

On Dec.08.2007 at 07:47 PM
rtilney’s comment is:

I kinda' like the sound that a knife makes when it's scraping around the bottom of a mayonnaise jar. It's like an audio cue that food is on it's way...mmmmmmmm

On Dec.17.2007 at 07:19 PM
tretyu’s comment is:

Speaking of glass jars, I haven't seen Hellman's in one for quite a while! Now that would be an improvement: quit screwing around with plastics toxic to us and the planet and bring back good ol' glass.

On Sep.30.2008 at 04:51 PM