In 1917 Earl Mitchell, Sr., founder of Chattanooga Bakery (Tennessee), saw a need for a between-meal snack for local coal miners and, inspired by bakery employees who made their own open-face marshmallow sandwiches, added another graham-cracker and the MoonPie was born. Over the years it became part of country lore, and in 1951 Bill Lister sang its praises in his song “RC Cola and MoonPie.”
Recently, during Tory Johnston’s twelve years as Chattanooga Bakery's vice president of marketing, MoonPie continued to enjoy strong sales growth — even during the recession. Johnson says that MoonPie is a comfort food and a trusted brand that people grew up with and look to fondly.
However, even with MoonPie selling strongly, Johnston saw an opportunity for additional growth by revitalizing the packaging. To do so, he commissioned our agency, which specializes in the rebranding of iconic American heritage brands, to update the look of their best-selling products — MoonPie Minis and regular-size MoonPie — by emphasizing the brand’s authentic Americana image.
For much of the brand’s nearly 100-year history, MoonPies were wrapped in white packages printed with a blue-and-yellow logo. But MoonPie’s color combination wasn’t proprietary and, in fact, had become generic having been pre-empted by similar blue and white variations rampant throughout the snack packaging category, including Entenmann’s, Little Debbie, Hostess, Mallomar, Tastykake, and Famous Amos.
Color is Key: New MoonPie Blue
To differentiate the brand, the MoonPie packaging color was changed to use a darker shade of blue than the competition and incorporate light-blue swirls to enhance the depth of the graphics and represent the fluffy texture of marshmallow. The addition of a field of white stars completes the new night-sky ambiance. Product imagery was rendered more realistically, which represents a strong departure from previous depictions of MoonPie sandwiches on the packages. The new beauty shot was probably the single element the company was most concerned with. They always focused on making the product photo-literal, true to life, but merely showing the consumer what’s inside the package wasn’t enough.
Our designers insisted that the image had to convey the texture of the MoonPie graham cookies and light marshmallow filling, suggesting the use of high-end digital illustration in place of photography for the hero shot, as a digital rendering can capture the highlights and appetite appeal better than photography. The final illustration has enhanced taste appeal and, along with other elements of the brand’s new trade-dress, can be copyrighted.
A Lunar Update
The new brand mark plays up MoonPie’s heritage while maintaining a sense of whimsical indulgence. The descriptor — “since 1917” — was given a fun, wavy type treatment to enhance its badge-star status and moonlight stars, which reinforce the "ping" star added to the “M” in the upper-left corner of the brand mark and a star above the “i” in Pie.
Each size has a distinctive call-out in high-contrast red type. The “Original” callout has a nostalgic feel with elegant script and a playful star. The Minis lettering is tracked tightly to reinforce the idea of small and compact, while the brawny shape of DoubleDecker’s bulging type and red outline conveys the idea of two layers of gooey goodness in each snack.
The rich new color palette distinguishes itself from MoonPie’s competitors while reinforcing the MoonPie brand with its night sky imagery. The digital renderings of MoonPie’s sandwiches better convey the taste appeal and texture of the snack’s rich chocolate coating, delicate graham cookies, and creamy marshmallow filling.
The new MoonPie design is printed by Southern Champion Company on 80-gauge metalized polypropylene film for the twin-pack wrappers. Both package converters are U.S.-based companies. As an iconic American brand, the company only uses American packaging vendors.
The original design was set up to print in both other two MoonPie sizes. The new packaging will reach stores early in the second quarter of 2012.
Marketing strategist Terri Goldstein creates iconic package designs for America’s most beloved heritage brands, including: Heinz, PAM, Bayer Aspirin, Foster Grant, Luden’s, One-A-Day, IcyHot, ACT, and Allegra. Visit Terri online here.