Pringles: when the packaging is the brand

PringlesHow bad must a product be when the marketing focuses instead on its package?

Of course, Pringles was never about the chips.

P&G developed Pringles in the late 1950s with good intentions — to address consumer complaints about broken, greasy, stale potato chips. To solve the problem, a chemist, Fredric Baur, invented both Pringles’ distinctive stackable saddle shape and the resealable cannister.

From the beginning, Pringles’ marketing focused on the benefits of the shape of the chips vs. conventional brands. Of uniform size, the chips stack neatly, thus preventing breakage. In fact, the shape of the chips should be considered packaging itself, a container of sorts for the ingredients.

Pringles are made with potato flour, making up about 42% of its ingredients. The other 58% is wheat starch, flours, oils and seasonings. Accordingly, it is debatable whether Pringles, though invented to compete with potato chips, meets the category criteria. For a while, they were called crisps, the British word for chips.

Receiving equal marketing attention is the can, a tube-shaped cardboard container, foil-lined with a resealable plastic lid.  It prevents breakage and keeps the chips fresh. (Famously, the cremated remains of the inventor, Fredric Baur, were placed in a Pringles container in his grave per his request.)

In 2012, Pringles was acquired by Kellogg. The marketing strategy remains the same, however. A new TV spot demonstrates how the cannister can be used to design costumes, build rockets and engage in swordplay. In other words, it’s a toy. The chips? They don’t fare any better. They can be used as duck lips.

The tagline admits the problem: “No matter what you do with ‘em, you don’t just eat ‘em.”

This entry was posted in advertising, packaging.

One Response to Pringles: when the packaging is the brand

  1. You make an interesting point, but looking at the same principle the other way, Pringles is more than just a crisp (or chip if you prefer – I’m British!). Why have a average crisp, when you can have a crisp that’s also an experience? Everything about Pringles is fun and different, from the ingredients, through to the shape and the packaging.