I’ll remember summer 2016 as the season I repeatedly found myself as both Screen Shot 2016-09-22 at 10.20.21apologetic host, and rather glum receiver, of gin & soda water. Yes, soda water. With gin.

No, not for health benefits, nor for the flavour (although I became rather accustomed to it). It’s entirely due to Schweppes updating the livery across their mixers range, resulting in me and my pals selecting the wrong bottle.

As a piece of design communication, the refreshed Schweppes brand identity is a big improvement, tapping into the premium space they wish to occupy using black and tikki-style bubble graphic devices. Furthermore, adopting a masterbrand approach has potential to deliver category leadership, through uniformity and brand blocking.

However, this execution makes the range much harder to shop for two reasons.

 

1. Slave to the master

The heavy-handedness to which the masterbrand has been applied forces decision-making into the dreaded System 2 mode (at least in the short term). Thirsty shoppers must now negotiate subtle cues to decode product type: a coloured strip at the base of the pack or the lid. Neither of which were overt enough discriminators for me under the fluorescence of supermarket lighting. For those working in the low-lit trade, discerning between mixers must be even more of a challenge.

Conversely, the previous design approach was variant-led; products stood proudly differentiated, each with its own bold colourway. An ideal system for the all-important ‘grab ‘n’ go’ shopper mission.

Fever-Tree use this design strategy, and it works splendidly for easy search and select, and showcases their full range.

Screen Shot 2016-09-22 at 10.20.33

 

Screen Shot 2016-09-22 at 10.20.492. Heavy mental

The use of both yellow and black as the new livery palette requires a degree of mental unlearning. Black + yellow brand marque = Schweppes soda in my mind. Its application across the whole range thereby increases cognitive load. And I believe it’s highly likely soda buyers will have accidentally bought tonic instead.

My advice: lay off the gin before you hit the shops.