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Change for change’s sake – foodie post for the day

I don’t know about you, but I have to wonder when a company makes a marketing decision like the one that Heinz has made with its iconic Heinz Ketchup label. The label is a brilliantly simple and instantly recognizable representation of its product. It’s so much so that  I bet you never gave the label a second thought – it just is .

Here’s the old label, in all of its glory:


And now, the new label:


The label on the right is the one that most consumers will be seeing, and I’d argue that the one one the left is also a “new” label, with the rather superfluous bright blue slash notifying you that you can fit the bottle in the door of a refrigerator.

Now, the fact that Heinz was written in a little pickle, an ingredient that you don’t find in the product, is almost beside the point. That little pickle is part of the gestalt of the label, a gestalt that we’ve all grown up with. As much as I’m glad to be informed that tomato ketchup is made from tomatoes, and I’ve always wondered what a tomato looks like before it is turned into the ubiquitous paste that we all have come to know, I think it’s a mistake to tweak the marketing gods. Why mess up a good thing? The label’s been the same for about a zillion years. Is this a case of change for change’s sake? Is this some marketing department struggling to validate its very existence?

Today at lunch, we had the president of the Nashville division of the second largest record group in the world dining with us, as he often does. As he was leaving, I accosted him and showed him the label and said, “You’re a bit of a marketing guy, right? (with my marvelous sense of understatement)” “He grinned and said, “Yes, I dabble in it a bit”. I said, “Would you have bothered to change this classic label”? He looked at the label, almost with surprise and shook his head. “No, why mess with such a classic image. At least they didn’t change the type or the shape”.


This might work out just fine for Heinz. Most people might not even notice. So, if that’s the case, I guess my point is, what is gained by messing with it in the first place?

I’ll bet this was a half a million dollar process. But I guess it’s worth it to the marketing people who depend on “doing stuff to stuff” for their living.

I’d call it a cautionary tale.

4 responses to “Change for change’s sake – foodie post for the day

  1. foodserviceninja May 19, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    some corp marketing weinie changing things to justify his job-incidently the pickle was on there so long because Heinz started out making pickles if mem serves the Heinz 57 refers to the numbers of diff kinds.

  2. Rachel December 6, 2009 at 7:32 am

    Hi Teleburst!

    Thanks for your comment on the redesign.

    I was lucky enough to be part of the design team on this project. It never ceases to amaze me how passionate other people are about heritage branding. You’re not alone! you may find this link of interest…

    • teleburst December 6, 2009 at 8:46 am

      Rachel, can you comment on the internal debate regarding the redesign? I guess that the debate itself occured before the project was started, but was there much debate with the design team itself regarding how much to change and how far to take it? Or were your parameters pretty much set (IOW, “We’re not going to substantially change the shape, the typeface, etc.”) or did you have carte blanche?

      I guess that if there was a directive to change it, you kept as much of the integrity as you could. I’m interested in the hows and the whys of changing it.

      Thanks for any insights you could give. In fact, this would make an interesting article. someone should follow the entire process and outline it from the beginning (as much as confidentiality would allow, of course).

      Finally, I’m with you on the interest. It’s weird. Even months after I published this post, every single day, the keyword ketchup or Heinz (and usually both) drives people to my blog. It’s weird. I guess a lot of people are as struck by the change as I was the day I picked up the bottle and noticed that it had changed. After all, I think that it’s been exactly the same my entire life.

      At least you didn’t put a address on the label :g:.

  3. Diana February 25, 2010 at 11:02 am

    Looking for somewhere to voice my opinion I found this about the change on the label. I totally agree this was a dumb decision to change but I think the worst change was the upside-down bottle. Need I say more? Change is good but Old is sometime better than New..

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