Few brands had been loved so much by so many for so long but it was time for a change

Maggio 1, 20214 Minuti

My agency wasn’t even a year old when I received a call asking if we were able to manage the worldwide relaunch of Kinder. At the time I only had three designers and a production artist with me, already working nights and often weekends. It was an impossible undertaking for us.

But it’s not everyday that a five-billion dollar brand comes along and, as anyone who knew him can attest, it was always very hard to say no to Michele Ferrero. I answered “no problem”. Kinder is one of the biggest consumer brands in the world. The “Surprise” brand alone has an annual production of over a billion eggs and it’s just one of over twenty product lines. It was the first time since its launch that the brand would undergo a change. The project also required guidelines and standards to ensure its consistency across 125 countries. A mammoth task considering the hundreds of suppliers and the variety of materials and printing processes involved. The world is a very different place than it was in 1968 and Kinder was showing its age. We had to make it more appealing to today’s consumers and modernise it enough to allow the launch of more innovative products. Our restyling touched all the visual elements of their brands and packaging. We decided that our exploration should include the iconic “chocolate kid”. A search for the new face began and more than a hundred boys showed up at the casting. One of them, a boy from Bologna faced the camera and smiled. We all knew without a doubt that he was the one. His image was applied on a few of the mockups we were producing for consumer tests. We were under no illusions. The same boy had been on the pack for forty years and the myths surrounding him were part of the brand story. Over the following months focus groups were conducted in Germany, France and Italy. At least half a year had gone by when we received final approval for the new identity, including, to our surprise, the new face. We called the boy to make the final production-quality photo we needed. On the day of the shoot a familiar looking young man arrived at the studio. At first I thought it was his older brother but then realised to my horror, it was him. Puberty had taken our boy away, forever.

Thankfully, a very skilled artist managed to pull it out of the casting photo. Kinder exemplifies a “love brand”. It has built deep emotional connections with generations of consumers. We discovered just how strong those connections were when it launched in October 2005. The new face provoked outrage in its biggest market, Germany. Consumers demanded the return of their beloved boy, protesting in supermarkets and even handing out wrappers of the old packaging to cover the new ones. Marketing there was ready to backtrack, until the sales figures came in. It was a huge success. In an ironic twist, just one month earlier Günter Euringer, published a book where he finally revealed that he was the kid. To this day he is convinced that he was substituted for having revealed the secret. The takeaway is that while we may not like to see the things we’ve always loved change, a facelift at forty can be good for a relationship.

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Drew Smith

An award winning designer and an expert in consumer brand management, NPD and packaging design with over twenty years of experience. Canadian by birth, he has been the Creative Director of several leading international consultancies and is a graduate of Art Center College of Design and Sheridan College, School of Visual Arts.