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Were Sanpellegrino’s redesign plans foiled?

January 2023

This is a self-funded case study using our Packaging Testing solution.

That brands can’t afford to rest on their laurels is to state the obvious; however, a balance must always be struck between keeping existing memory structures intact while remaining contemporary and modern. As the old adage goes, why mess with a winning formula?

Sanpellegrino addressed this conundrum head-on with a recent overhaul of its Tastefully Light sparkling range. The new design set out to strengthen the brand’s authentically Italian credentials, while at the same time hero-ing its fresh, natural ingredients — aiming to create a more premium drinking experience.

The new design (spoiler alert!) was well-liked; but, as raised by the vociferous marketing community, was the change even necessary in the first place? And what was the impact of removing the can's iconic foil cap? Using our 3Cs methodology, we tested the new packaging against the existing design to reveal all.

  • Captivate: Be emotive; stand out and grab attention.
  • Connect: Be recognizable; synergize with expectations.
  • Compel: Be motivating; drive behavioral change.
Sanpellegrino sparkling water - Packaging A/B Test

Captivate

You couldn't accuse Sanpellegrino of ‘playing it safe’ with the redesign; the brand left no stone unturned in an effort to optimize every last element possible. In addition to the switch to a slimmer can format, Sanpellegrino’s new aesthetic represented a shift in priorities for the brand. The predominantly white background was replaced with a navy-blue palette, working in conjunction with more vibrant flavor imagery to elevate premium credentials.

Wholesale changes, yes — but both the old and new designs remained equally distinctive and likeable. Although the new design departed from some of the established cues featured on the original pack, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Instead, the simplified presentation of product information helped hero the fresh, appetizing fruit imagery — which became a greater focal point of the packaging.

Sanpellegrino sparkling water - Packaging Testing - Cubery - Captivate

Connect

The can shape, foil lid, and design features were all important brand assets for the existing pack, with the new design deliberately setting out to disrupt these. However, this wasn’t to say the revamped pack threw out the baby with the bathwater. Despite forgoing some of its more unique elements, the hierarchy of information remained largely unchanged. In addition, the shift in color tones helped more effectively spotlight Sanpellegrino’s iconic red star lockup — together with the unique product variants. While making Sanpellegrino seem more modern, this didn’t come to the detriment of how well-aligned it was with the brand.

Sanpellegrino Pack Test - Cubery - Connect

Compel

Incorporating minor details such as a map of Italy into the new design helped reinforce provenance, but on the whole the changes didn’t significantly alter brand perceptions; taste, refreshment, and premium connotations all remained largely unchanged.

Simply meeting the benchmark of an existing design in these aspects is more than sufficient to be comfortable that changes are having the desired effect. However, what is concerning is that these structural and visual tweaks came at the expense of how different the brand ultimately seemed versus competitors.

The hygiene foil’s removal (something which provided both functional and emotional benefits — not to mention being a distinctive branding property) together with the shift to a slim can format, resulted in the new pack losing its core point of difference.

Sanpellegrino sparkling water packaging refresh - Cubery - Compel

What are the learnings for marketers?

Going back to the original question we sought to answer with the research — is this a change Sanpellegrino needed to make?

Reading between the lines of the redesign’s objectives, Sanpellegrino successfully delivered across many key opportunity areas. But what often gets lost in the pursuit of modernization and staying atop of design trends is the role tradition, authenticity, and provenance plays in a brand’s success.

And it’s in this respect where Sanpellegrino has seemingly missed the mark. Yes, the brand stands to win more design rewards, and yes, the Sanpellegrino team can now feel more at ease seeing their product on-shelf alongside trendier newcomers. But how this carries-over to the consumer experience is where a gap exists, with the design overhaul not delivering quite as strongly on a number of key purchase drivers.

Putting aside the added manufacturing costs of the foil lid and retailer pressure around the can format, what is likely even costlier is departing from a powerful brand asset. Do the financial savings from its removal justify the loss of one of the category’s most distinctive assets? We’d argue they don’t.

Sanpellegrino sparkling water - Packaging Testing - Cubery Rating
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