It’s been said that your name is your favorite word. Likewise, a brand’s name is its favorite word. Pair their name with their logo, and it’s a self-love fest.
You can see this play out when you order a physical product from an online store. The shipping box is often branded. Sometimes the tape is even branded. Then once you tear into it, the internal packaging is branded. Then the item, too — often in multiple places. Name, logo, name, logo, name, logo.
There’s nothing inherently wrong about this. Many brands use shipment packaging as advertising. And it’s nice to know when you ordered something from Brand A, and a box from Brand A is waiting for you on your doorstep when you get home.
Except when it’s not for you.
Let’s say the holidays are approaching. And my wife knows I’m into cars. I’ve mentioned in passing that I’ve been considering buying this detailing kit from Griot’s Garage. So she thinks… “Ok, this could be a good gift! Lemme go online and order it.” So she does.
A few days later, a box lands on the doorstep. It’s stamped Griot’s Garage. It’s taped with Griot’s Garage tape. And the return address is marked Griot’s Garage. It’s from Griot’s Garage, can’t you tell?
So far so good. Until I get home before my wife. And I’m the one who checks the front door. Yes, the package is addressed to her, but she’s not ordering stuff from Griot’s for her, she’s order stuff from Griot’s for me. Christmas is a few days away.
It’s a dead giveaway. The surprise is ruined.
I didn’t have to open the box. I didn’t have to unwrap the products. And while I may not know exactly what’s inside, I know what’s inside.
What happened here? The brand put itself first. It lacked situational awareness… The holidays are here… People are shopping for gifts… Gifts are supposed to be surprises… Yes, you can’t see through a box, and yes, I wouldn’t open a box that isn’t addressed to me, but I don’t have to open the box when the box is broadcasting what’s inside. Something for me. I can reach back and remember the conversation I had with my wife about detailing kits. Dots are connected a bit too early.
Of course I’m thrilled with the gift, even if I knew what was coming. And of course I appreciate that my wife remembered our conversation and was thoughtful enough to surprise me with this particular gift. But the brand got in the way and ruined the surprise. Brands often can’t help themselves.
It would be nice if brands would pull back on external package branding during the holidays. It would be nice if brands could mask their return address during the holidays. It would be nice if plain packaging was more the norm around this time of year. And other times of the year when gifts are flowing. Certainly people have birthdays every day, and surprised could be ruined daily, but if the brands would be more situationally aware during peak gift giving season, it would go a long way to saving millions of surprises. That would be the right kind of brand awareness.
A few days ago I tweeted this idea out…
…and I got a bunch of responses. There was one in particular which I enjoyed:
I absolutely love this. And the fact that it’s LEGO makes it all the better. That’s wonderful situational brand awareness.
Other people have mentioned that Apple and Microsoft do this as well when they ship their hardware. Hard to tell if it’s to hide the surprise, or just to reduce theft, but either way, kudos to them for situational brand awareness as well. Their products are highly branded on the inside of the box — no need to slather their brand on the outside too.
Know of other brands that practice this kind of brand awareness? Plain packaging options (or defaults) around the holidays (or any time)? Masked return addresses that don’t give away the surprise? I know credit card line items can be a give away when households share the bill. I know that one’s a bit tricker since an obfuscated credit card line item you don’t recognize could lead to higher chargeback rates. But still curious if there are any brands that intentionally practice that as well. I’m sure the porn industry does.