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Wackaging – how 'cute' became annoying…

‘Wackaging’ or wacky packaging, refers to the increasingly overly familiar, infantilised copy that’s become ubiquitous ever since ‘Innocent’ adopted a wacky and distinctive tone of voice on their packaging in 2000. Theirs was highly original, completely brand aligned and authentic, and still works. But more than 10 years on and with every other brand leaping on the bandwagon, does familiarity breed contempt?

“ Innocent’s tone of voice seemed to be the epitome of what every copywriter learns.”

Why did wackaging become so popular?

When Innocent first adopted their revolutionary tone, it made everyone else sound relatively stiff and formal, even stilted. Innocent’s tone of voice also seemed to be the epitome of what every copywriter learns i.e. to address customers as friends, invoking a one-to-one conversation. This is something that that the informal language of social media only emphasised further, as brands struggled to get to grips with engaging their target audiences through the new medium. And so informality and an almost childish tone became the order of the day. e.g.“My Dad made a promise to me and my brother that he would only use stuff in our products that is natural, is pure and helps make us healthy. I told him everything also has to taste great and he agreed! Ella x” (Ella’s Kitchen).

What’s wrong with wackaging?

Too many brands adopted a tone of voice which made them sound like Innocent’s ‘not so cool younger brother’, or someone who’s trying far too hard to be your friend. Inevitably there was a backlash. Innocent’s tone of voice came straight from their philosophy and name. They needed to sound young and fresh and of course…. innocent! The big problem was that these other brands simply wanted to sound trendy rather than to speak from the authentic character of their own brand identities. It just sounded contrived, shallow and gratingly false, or worse, creepy.

Is wackaging right for my brand?

Wackaging is perhaps the inevitable consequence of what Simon Hogarth called the ‘infantillisation of modern culture’ and a general loss of respect for business. As individuals we all know how it feels to be spoken to by someone who’s desperate to prove that they’re ‘down with the kids’ or just a ‘wacky, fun guy’. That awful uncomfortable feeling is what your target market experiences if you pick a tone of voice for your brand which is inauthentic.

If you don’t know who you are, wackaging seems a convenient and distinctive tone of voice to adopt – except that it’s become so ubiquitous that it now no longer is. Better to do the hard work of clarifiying your brand identity and values so that you can come up with a tone of voice that truly feels good to your target audience. It may be wacky, and it may not. But it will have a depth and authority that can’t be faked.

 

If you’re finding it hard to decide on the right tone for your brand, why not consult our branding and copywriting specialists? Give Oxygen a call today on 0845 2606 255. We’ll help you find your voice.

 

 

Steve Lodge: Steve trained as a NCTJ journalist and is an experienced copywriter. He has over 15 years in agency, and started Oxygen in 2002.