Picture courtesy of AfterJam Collective

Behind the Scenes - The Can
“Packaging can be theater, it can create a story" – Steve Jobs Packaging for the canned drinks market requires extreme precision and an in-depth knowledge of the aluminium can manufacturing and print process. Get it wrong and your colours will be muddy and your images washed out, but get it right and you have a beautiful container for your drink. A bright, colourful story that speaks to the consumer and draws them to you amidst the clamouring voices. The story of Dragon Soop began back in 2011 when we were approached by Corinthian Brands Limited to create the Brand Identity and packaging for a new range of Caffeinated Alcoholic flavoured drinks. The brief was simple. Make the identity bold and striking and imbue the can with irresistible shelf appeal. So basically, achieve what everyone else is looking to achieve, only do it better than anyone else. No problem. The name was the isp. Dragon Soop. A unique name for a very unique drink. There was no requirement to build extra 'curiosity' in to the brand, the name already delivered that. It was our job to present it in such a way that would ensure it became instantly recognisable. The name and the identity would have to become one. Simple bold white lettering outlined in black achieved this. The large 'A' pulling the word 'DRAGON' and the word 'SOOP' together to form a single recognisable 'logo'. The use of black and white with a complete absence of colour defines the Brand Identity. It is chosen specifically to stand out amongst the cacophony of colour seen on a store shelf, and also to stand out above the pack's own background because with plenty of flavours to differentiate, the packaging was going to demand plenty of colour. Set a weak Brand Identity against bright, contrasting colours and it would become lost. ﷯ Now we have our Brand Identity we can begin designing the packaging. Here we started by rotating the Brand Identity 90 degrees anti-clockwise to run up the length of the can, filling the field of vision with the name of the drink for the maximum shelf presence and brand recognition. We introduced an illustration of a dragon wrapped behind the logo, utilising the natural raw silver of the can to lift the dragon from the can and bring it to life. The natural can colour is a great way of replicating a spot varnish as any areas left without ink will be far more reflective than those areas where ink is applied. (As we will see later, the use of transparent and opaque inks can further enhance the design and play with the natural can material in an extremely effective way.) The message 'Caffeinated Alcoholic Beverage' was brought to the very front of the design to emphasise that this was a drink for adults only, a message that is very important to communicate when dealing with alcohol. We also added the flavour name in to this main field of vision as this was a new drink with unfamiliar flavours and we wanted to impress upon the consumer the varied range. ﷯ In addition to these main elements we created a 'stamp' in which to emphasise the chief ingredients as this was a big selling point for the brand. ﷯ As discussed earlier, the main brand identity was black and white and whilst this bold image gave great emphasis to the name, the pack needed colour to help emphasise not only the 'fruity' flavours but also to differentiate the many and varied flavours from each other. We decided on a 'camouflage' style design with multiple blocks of colour reflecting the fruits that went in to each flavour. The aluminium printing process only allowed for 5 colours back in 2011 and when you consider that Black and White are included in the 5, it effectively gives you just 3 colours in which to create a unique pack. We had to get creative and the use of the natural can colour effectively gave us the extra colour we required to achieve a stand-out range. The pack utilised opaque inks which made the areas of silver leap from the can, but in order to avoid the finished design appearing flat, we used an overall gloss varnish. ﷯ We joined the founders of Corinthian Brands at Crown Bevcan in Leicester to oversee the production of printed can samples and after a couple of days spent down there adjusting colours on press and re-running proofs we were satisfied with the results of our initial range of flavours. So now we had our completed pack, but with the consumer having no prior knowledge of the drink, the real test of the pack's effectiveness would come from the sales figures. Dragon Soop became an instant hit with consumers across the UK with the drink achieving cult status in Scotland. The client, suppliers and consumers alike confirmed that the packaging played a huge part in this success, achieving everything we set out to achieve, and more. The Brand grew year on year as new flavours were added and in 2018 Corinthian Brands approached us to add a special new flavour to the range. Venom. This would be a departure from the usual flavours and they felt that Venom required its own unique pack. An evolution from the regular design. We thought that this was a great idea but that we shouldn't limit this 'evolution' to just Venom, but instead take the opportunity to update the entire range of pack designs. The client strongly agreed, commissioning us to shape the new look for the future of Dragon Soop with the brief once again simple. Take what you created before and make it even better. We retained the original Brand Identity which had proven so successful and concentrated on improving the pack design. After all, we had achieved our main aim, to make the 'logo' instantly recognisable so why alter it? Firstly we moved the flavour from the middle of the can to the top. The flavours were well established and this amendment to the design allowed for the Brand name to gain even more traction with the word SOOP increasing in size on pack. Next we increased the dimension of the dragon illustration for greater impact and made the 8% vol an integral part of the main field of view to further increase the message that this is an adult drink. Next we rotated the Logo slightly which gives the pack a more 'quirky' feel that again reflects the Dragon Soop brand. ﷯ The real change would come with the background and the printing techniques that we utilised. Which is a good time to discuss colour theory, or at least how it relates to this project. Colour theory is the science and art of using colour, based on the way in which humans perceive colour, and the visual effects of how colours mix, match or contrast with each other in order to communicate their message. To date the brand has a range of 10 flavours, all which needed to stand out not only against the competition brands but also against each other, communicating the flavour, taste and 'concept' contained within each can. The specific colours chosen would send a message to the consumer, so the choice of those colours was vital if the message was going to be received correctly. At this stage in aluminium can manufacturing, the process had evolved to allow for 7 colours (including black and white) which gave us a little more flexibility in colour design. Instead of the camo effect with colours mixed about haphazardly across the pack we opted to split the design in to two distinct colours that refected the main flavours. These halves were enhanced by dragon scales in a complimentary colour that stopped the overall background from appearing flat and uninteresting. The background scales bring the pack to life, but this close colour matching required a trip to the Crown Bevcan studios in Leicester for colour selection prior to proofing. You can't simply choose pantone colours because these colours when printed on aluminium material will look very different and if the scales were too close in shade to the background they would disappear. Too far from a match and they would dominate. The only way to truly get the colours right is to see swatches printed directly on to aluminium material and match these. The background finish is 'soft touch', a big departure from the overall gloss finish of the previous design, which gives a lovely subtle and tactile finish, and when combined with the transparent inks we selected for all of the background colours, makes the design really 'pop'. The use of opaque blacks and whites gives the impression of a spot matt varnish making the brand identity appear even stronger and more imposing on the pack. The dragon and other details still remain in the natural can colour but these are a little subtler and softer due to the overall 'soft touch' varnish finish. Behind the logo, stamp and dragon we places a 'grunge' effect background that gives the design a slightly rough, dirty appeal. This increases the whole 'crazy wild' reputation that the drink has achieved over the years. We further enhanced the design with 'claw marks' as though the dragon had come to life and torn in to the packaging. Finally we gave 'Venom' its own unique snake illustration to set it apart from the 'regular' flavours and this has since been followed with other 'unique' flavours that get their own illustration like 'Stingray'. ﷯ ﷯ So now we have our final pack design, one that we at SDDP believe has enormous shelf presence. The packaging has received glowing reviews from the client who is more than delighted by the results. Consumers too have expressed their love of the new-look can and retailers throughout Britain have placed the drink front and centre on shelves and in displays. The brand continues to go from strength to strength as new flavours are introduced, and will continue to be introduced, on a regular basis. ﷯ The Brand Identity we created all those years ago now adorns football shirts, rugby shirts, a Scottish rock band and even a specially created range of birthday cakes. For the 2018-2019 Scottish Premiership season the Dragon Soop brand even ran large and 'explosively' on LED perimeter boards around Ibrox Stadium when we promoted the new Venom flavour during the 'Old Firm' Glasgow derby between Rangers and Celtic, arguably the biggest game in world football. Add to this the 2019 sponsorship of AfterJam Collective events in the French Alps and you have an extremely diverse marketing strategy that, like the drink itself, is a little weird and a little wonderful. ﷯ ﷯ ﷯ ﷯ ﷯ None of this growth and expansion would be possible without an exceptional tasting drink and a growing fan-base chomping at the bit for new flavours, but before the consumer ever gets to sample it they must first notice it on the shelf and be drawn to place it in their basket. Simply put, that does not happen if the brand identity and packaging design are not exactly right. “In the absence of any other Marketing messages, our packaging – comprised of the trademark, our design, color and information – is the sole communicator of our brand essence." – Philip Morris