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Can your brand pass the silhouette test?

Absolut vodka is experimenting with a special-edition bottle sans its familiar label. How many brands can you identify based solely by a package silhouette, and can yours join the list?

Few brands are identifiable merely by their package silhouette. If your package sat on the store shelf with no graphical communication whatsoever on pack, would shoppers recognize your brand?

Absolut, which has an iconic vodka-bottle shape, is about to find out—for the most part. In a posting on Popsop.com Lianne van den Berg-Weitzel, Strategy Consultant at Claessens|Cartils Amsterdam, says Absolut is launching a special-edition “naked” bottle. The bottle relies almost exclusively on shape for its identification, and it is devoid of Absolut’s familiar labeling, except for the country-of-Sweden guarantee seal, which remains on the bottle’s chest.

Van den Berg-Weitzel goes on to make the point that although the bottle shape is distinctive, the absence of the well-known typeface on the Absolut label somewhat diminishes brand recognition. The author makes the point that structural and graphical design cues need each other to adequately communicate a brand.

This is a fair statement in a lot of cases, but it’s not—pardon the pun—an absolute. Attendees of Shelf Impact!’s Package Design Workshops have completed a fun exercise in each of the past two years in which they were presented a sheet of paper bearing the silhouettes of 12 packages, and asked to identify each brand solely by its silhouette. Every workshop attendee has correctly identified the majority of the 24 packages included in this exercise so far, and about 90% of the silhouettes were familiar to most of the attendees.

In the best cases, a truly iconic package shape can indeed stand on its own for brand recognition, but the brands that can truly claim success with it are few and far between.

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