A cute sense of irritation: What's 'wackaging'? It's when food packaging treats consumers like idiots or children

The vogue for cutesy widdle phwases on the back of products, as pioneered by Innocent Smoothies, isn’t going away. It’s known as ‘wackaging’ – and it’s driving Will Coldwell mad

Hello, I’m an article. Hopefully you’ll read me and I’ll make you smile, if not let me know (nicely – I might cry) and I’m sure we can work something out, because nothing is cuter than lovely words. Let’s hang out together.

Annoyed yet? Imagine a world where everything you read was trying to make friends with you. This is the world of wackaging. Wackaging, which first reared its fluffy head in 2000, when the saccharine soft drinks of Innocent Smoothies hit the shops, is when “wacky” and “quirky” phrases adorn the packaging of a product. More than a  decade later and the fun-loving phenomena continues to pervade advertising.

The latest brand to “do an Innocent” – as it is now known in the industry – is luxury Swiss chocolate company Lindt. Its new “Hello My Name Is” range asks for you to “take me, taste me, love me”. Even the chocolate bars, which have been blessed with their own personality thanks to a voice bubble on the wrapper, is pleased “to sweet you”, although sometimes it’s not quite clear exactly what the chocolate bars are saying; one  wants to make your “tummy yummy”, while another says “every bit makes crum, crum, crum”. It makes you want to eat it just so it’ll shut up.

Lindt joins an ever-growing wackaging hall of shame. Sandwich chain Pret a Manger recently began adding kooky tips to its bottled drinks, which now read: “Best when chilled (as indeed we all are)”; Higgidy Pies warn consumers of the “Eat up” (use by)” date; and Metcalfe’s Skinny Topcorn casually states that it’s “suitable for veggies”. Perhaps one of the least successful attempts at wackaging is by Itsu soups, the blurb of which assures us that it’s “definitely not rabbit food”.  Of course it’s not. Rabbits loathe soup.

On the other end of the wackaging spectrum is the new tea brand “Make Mine a Builders”, a dude-food variation of the nation’s favourite drink. “Yippee ki-yay mother cuppa” screams the packet. There’s definitely nothing cute about this.

But what drives brands to whack crap on their packets? “A lot of them are trying to imitate what Innocent has done,” says Emily Hobbs, account director for an advertising agency who has more than 10 years’ experience looking at the importance of language and tone in branding. “You’re not going to get a message to be heard if it’s using words that are cold and confusing. If you’re a brand like Innocent that’s healthy, fun and quirky, you need to use language and even behave in the way a brand like that would. It’s about getting your personality across. But it doesn’t work unless it’s authentic. Companies need to look at their own brand and think about what they stand for. Consumers aren’t stupid – they can spot a fake a mile off.”

As for the argument that if it’s annoying, at least it will be remembered, Hobbs is unconvinced. “You want to create a positive emotional connection,” she says. “You don’t want to be the brand that grates, and you don’t want to bore, annoy or patronise your consumers.” Delicious or not, gobby food can be particularly hard to swallow.

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