For more than 100 years, snack consumers have been seeing images of caged animals on store shelves, thanks to the Nabisco’s iconic Animal Crackers packaging. But now, thanks to pressure from animal rights activists at PETA—and a general acceptance by the brand’s marketing leaders that the time had come—these wild beasts have been set free.
The 115-year-old brand has famously presented its zebra, elephant, lion, giraffe and gorilla in circus cages via a Barnum & Bailey’s-themed design, which seems overly cruel and confining in this gentler 21st century. And now that the Ringling Bros Circus itself was shuttered last year, it only seems right that these depictions follow suit.
PETA and other animal rights groups are celebrating the new design imagery, which now shows the animals roaming free in a wild grassland. PETA, which fought long and hard to end animal presence in circuses, spearheaded the idea of the redesign in a letter to Nabisco parent company Mondelez in 2016. The new snack boxes, which declare “new look, same great taste,“ are in stores now.
“When PETA reached out about Barnum‘s, we saw this as another great opportunity to continue to keep this brand modern and contemporary,“ said the snack giant’s Chief Marketing Officer Jason Levine in a statement.
The move is a perfect example of how age-old iconic brands can shift their design mentality for a new, more contemporary audience without sacrificing its history or quality—in fact, a modern and sensitive brand refresh can even catalyze one that has grown stale. We hope that the Nabisco and Barnum’s Animals brands enjoy revitalized visibility and sales thanks to this commendable rebrand.
Here’s what brands can learn from this rebrand:
Make sure your brand rolls with the changes
Times and trends are constantly evolving—perhaps these days faster than ever—and you need to make sure you stay abreast of cultural taboos. Whether it’s messaging, slogans or visuals, what worked a few decades ago (or even just a few years ago) might be offensive or alienating to today’s socially conscious consumers.
Keep an eye on your imagery to make sure it doesn’t grow stale
While marketing messages get facelifts all the time, imagery is considered more synonymous with a brand’s overall identity, and once that imagery becomes iconic as in this case, it’s riskier to change things up. But it’s almost always worth the risk to keep your brand contemporary and accepted. Once activists start protesting your look, the risk is probably even more worth it.
Take advantage of opportunities to boost your visibility with a brand refresh when the time is right
That risk might actually be an opportunity, because age-old brands might stay popular among your core (but shrinking) audience, but a brand refresh gives you a chance to reintroduce yourself to consumers, rack up some media coverage, and get a fresh start —even if you weren’t doing anything controversial in the first place.