Stories of design across all media


Seneca Snacks Get a Cross-media Makeover

Twenty years ago, healthy snacks were an oddity. While many Americans were munching on potato chips, Seneca Snacks was unveiling its chips made from whole fresh apples, giving the afternoon snack a whole new look. Today there is no shortage of options for consumers dedicated to a healthier lifestyle, and Seneca needed to raise its profile on the shelf so new customers would give its products a try.

Wanting to modernize the brand, they turned to Nishihara/Wilkinson Design (NWD), a design firm in the heart of California’s Central Valley, to create concepts, and to design and execute the new direction. The resulting campaign was a bold-yet-simple look that has separated Seneca from its competitors and stimulated the taste buds of healthy eaters everywhere.


The Second Time Around
This wasn’t the first collaboration between the two companies. NWD has worked with Seneca for about 15 years and even redesigned the original chip bags in 2000. “We don’t always get to do two designs for a client,” says Ron Wilkinson who co-owns NWD with his wife, chief creative officer Darice Nishihara. “It was a nice opportunity for us.”

This time, NWD worked on a number of different elements including the packaging, website design, point-of-sale displays, sell sheets and coupons.

The earlier iteration of the packaging had focused on the natural aspects of the chips. The apple chips packaging, for example, featured a light-colored background, a large image of two apples and the name of the product, and the brand featured prominently on the bag.

That design was perfectly suited for the produce department, which is where the chips were mostly found, but Seneca now wanted to reach out to a larger segment of the population.

The new design featured a black background that made the brand name pop more. The color black “has a good, rich appeal to it,” Wilkinson says. It contrasts well with other colors, such as the red found in the logo, making it more likely to attract the eyeballs of consumers.

While existing customers knew about the chips, the POS displays needed to introduce new customers to the product. Since snack foods are largely an impulse buy they wanted the POS displays to stand out. By once again using black in the packaging and on the display, the chips made an impression amidst the sea of greens and yellows found throughout the produce department – people couldn’t help but stop and take notice.


Maintaining a Bridge to the Old
NWD wanted to create a fresh look but they didn’t want the packaging to be unrecognizable to those who already loved the product. “We picked up on cues to make sure there was some carry over,” Wilkinson says.

For example, the positioning of the brand, the name and the product stayed the same on both versions of the packaging. Also, the colors used to identify the different chip flavors also remained the same.

Consistency was also an important element of the campaign because it creates brand recognition. Ideally, consumers would see the black background, the red logo and the word “chips” in large letters and be able to immediately recognize the fact that they were looking at a Seneca product. “If you’ve got one particularly great product in your brand lineup, you end up causing a halo effect,” Wilkinson says. “The consumer can look at it and say, ‘Hey, there’s another XYZ product, maybe I’ll try that because I really like this.’”

It’s easy for a brand to rest on its laurels, but there is a great benefit to using design to go after a larger audience. In this case, it paid off to be more daring, as the company was awarded the American Graphic Design Award in 2016 for the Seneca Snacks chip bag design. “When implementing a new direction for an established product, don’t be afraid to go bold,” Nishihara says.




Author: Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a freelance writer and editor who has written extensively about business, careers and success for such publications as Working Mother, Real Simple, and AARP Bulletin.

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