A new, unified look for Kraft’s 50-odd macaroni and cheese products features a smiley-face logo meant to evoke a blue ribbon from a county fair. It replaces a design created in 1999. Source: Landor Associates.

Graphic redesign can be a bear trap for an iconic brand. Doubters need only consider the experience of PepsiCo’s Tropicana, which briefly dropped the orange-and-straw graphic two years ago. The shopper backlash now is regarded as the New Coke of package design in brand-equity circles.

Landor Associates’ Mary Zalla was determined to avoid the same trap while directing an overhaul of Kraft Foods’ macaroni and cheese line. The managing director of Landor’s Cincinnati and Chicago offices conducted a battery of predesign research, including focus groups, eye-tracking studies and purchase-intent interviews, to enhance understanding of what attributes customers associated with the line. Smiles, happiness and joy were the equity emotions, the first of which is evident in the package’s smiley noodle logo.

“A county fair engages the young, adults and families,” explains Zalla. “We were inspired by the metaphor of a county fair and created a brand identity with a circular shape that evokes a blue ribbon.”

Since the last overhaul of Kraft mac and cheese’s box in 1999, the Northfield, IL-based company has made multiple line and brand extensions. Inconsistent graphics led to fragmentation of the core brand. At the same time, private-label versions appropriated the blue and yellow color scheme, robbing Kraft macaroni and cheese of some of its distinction. The new logo, which more closely associates Kraft with the product, is being registered as a trademark..

The smiley noodle also is appearing in an integrated marketing campaign for the brand. “The yellow and blue colors and the Kraft name are the keys,” says Zalla, “and we’re using the noodle to engage people” on billboards and in ads.

For more information: Mary Zalla, Landor Associates, 513-419-2300