Katie Ewer
Jul 10, 2014

Fresh yet familiar: The art of limited editions

How to get your brand noticed and chosen through limited edition design.

Fresh yet familiar: The art of limited editions

Coca Cola, Johnnie Walker, Evian: what do these three brands have in common? Each has a strong brand point. Each tells its story persuasively; through passion and nuance. And all are masters in the craft of limited edition design.

Special edition design is the art of balancing the fresh with the familiar. It’s about building your brand by breaking it a little. It’s about finding new audiences, getting noticed, getting talked and changing perceptions. It’s about building the brand story through new, inventive visual twists. Special editions are the art of creating constant disruption whilst simultaneously building brand equity.

So how do you bend the rules without breaking the mould? Here are five ways that limited editions could help build your brand.

1. Start with yourself and be yourself

In order to do something new, you need to know what’s fixed and what’s flexible in your brand visual identity. Both Coke and Diet Coke do limited editions with real confidence: they know their visual equities, and they celebrate them endlessly. In this way, they are flexible and constant in the same breath.

2. Give old stories new looks

For brands seeking to establish heritage credentials, a well crafted special edition pack that tells a story of provenance, or celebrates a chapter in its history, can lend depth and interest to the parent brand. This Campbell’s Soup limited edition, launched in 2012 to commemorate the brand’s celebrated association with Andy Warhol (who famously painted the iconic Campbell’s soup tins in 1962), feels retro and funky and like something I’d want in my kitchen as well as on my wall. They feel more authentic and more confident, in fact, than the real thing.

3. Embrace collaboration culture

Tie-ins are a way to add nuance to your brand. But it’s worth being mindful that collaborations are a two-way street: both contributors need to gain from the partnership. San Pellegrino’s Italian style found the perfect partner in Missoni (left), while Evian’s youthful spirit sits comfortably with creativity, allowing it to lend its canvas to designers including Paul Smith and Issey Miyake (right).

4. Global brands, local twists

How do behemoth brands stay nimble? Johnnie Walker (the ‘world’s most powerful spirits brand’ according to Drinks Power Brands 2014) knows that the biggest brands need to work hardest at small gestures. Part of the brand maintaining its fresh appeal is its willingness to localise its brand expression. Limited edition mid-autumn-festival packs illustrated by Chinese artist Maleonn (right) helped give the brand a local relevance to add to its established international allure.

5. Know your medium

Packaging isn’t advertising. We respond to a bottle or a box intuitively, without deconstructing its messages as we might with a TVC or print campaign. Which is why simply ‘putting the ads on the packs’ rarely works. Drambuie’s ‘extraordinary’ ad campaign worked brilliantly in TV and print, forcing us to confront our prejudices about this being a dusty old brand. But on packaging, the complexities of that message were lost. 

In summary, brand packaging isn’t just about brand consistency. It’s also about creativity, imagination and engagement. As consumers, we are drawn to brands with a clear purpose, but we also expect them to give us fresh content. So why should packaging be the exception?


Katie Ewer is strategy director at JKR Global in Singapore.
Check out the rest of the Asian Champions of Design series.


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