Star Wars: The Brand Awakens



Star Wars is back. Last night, after a long, excruciating wait I finally saw The Force Awakens. Without spoilers: it was incredible. And today I woke up (we’ll pretend I actually slept) and I thought How can I tie this into packaging so I can blog about it? I’ve only ever done it here. And here. Also here.

Fortunately, I thought of something.

In all seriousness, this one’s a doozy. Branding. It’s at the heart of everything we do. Every logo we put on a flash drive, every custom box we foil stamp, we are helping businesses build a stronger brand image. Something so memorable that a customer associates the product with a solution. It’s the backbone of marketing, retail presence, and the aesthetics of packaging. And nobody does branding better than Star Wars.

Although some might say that lately there has been an…abundance of Star Wars branded merch. At a cocktail party, I would say to that too much Star Wars is better than no Star Wars! But, professionally, I would say this:

Star Wars licensing is an interesting story, historically-speaking. Starting back in the 70s when George Lucas managed to retain licensing rights. This was rather unheard of, but technically the Star Wars films are indie flicks. Especially the Prequel trilogy, almost exclusively funded by Lucas himself. But what a payoff, right? Think of every product you’ve seen with the Star Wars logo slapped on it.

Of course, Lucas sold the property to Disney. To the tune of $4 billion. Insert R2-D2 wail here. As big a company as Disney is, you can’t blame them for trying to turn a profit on their investment. Think about this: The Force Awakens has earned $100 million in advance ticket sales, but that’s still only 1/40th of what they paid for the franchise. Add to that the actual cost of making a special effects blockbuster and you realize they have a long way to go. Brand away!


Image: Duracell

But how come other movies don’t do that? Well other movies are usually set in modern, Earth-based times, and fill their shots with branded items and product placement. Unfortunately for Star Wars, a character can’t whip out an iPad or use a Samsung lightsaber to offset the cost. Thus, you can’t fault the franchise for allowing Star Wars batteries to exist.

Whether you think there’s too much Star Wars in the world or not, you can’t deny the power of branding. It’s more than just your logo on your product, it’s building a legacy. An empire, if you will. Familiarity is key to building market trust, and what’s more familiar than a brand that is everywhere?

So, as in all things, take a page from Star Wars. When it comes to custom branded packaging, do or do not–there is no try. At Sunrise Packaging, we sincerely hope you do. And when it comes time to design that perfect packaging solution, remember that ours are the best in the galaxy.

The Most Famous Piece of Corrugated Cardboard Ever

A portion of the star wars early bird certificate, maybe the most famous piece of corrugated cardboard in the history of retail

The year is 1977. Fleetwood Mac is blasting through the speakers of Trans Ams everywhere, Star Wars takes the box office by storm, and the Kenner toy company is sitting on the golden egg of a lifetime–and they almost crushed it. Here’s the true story of how a piece of corrugated cardboard changed the face of marketing history.


May the Corrugated Cardboard Be With You


Months earlier in 1976, The Kenner toy company caught a seemingly lucky break. A small subsidiary of General Mills, Kenner’s usual fare was squirt guns and bubbles. But a major toy company, Mego, had passed on the Star Wars license to produce toys. Kenner, the Little Toy Company That Could, managed to acquire it.


Huge mistake for Mego. Potential mistake for Kenner.


Why? Just because Kenner picked up the license didn’t mean they believed in Star Wars. It seems impossible now, but the original Star Wars movie could barely get off the runway back in the day.


But once it did, it exploded.


The late May blockbuster left Kenner scrambling to produce Star Wars toys in time for the holiday season. Even by today’s standards, that’s a tough deadline. At some point, the small company realized they couldn’t meet the demand by Christmas. But did they give up? Not a chance. Instead they turned to a piece of customized corrugated cardboard into a legend.


The Star Wars Early Bird Certificate Was Born.

custom corrugated cardboard packaging used in the marketing of popular star wars toys

A member of the Kenner team had an idea. Instead of letting the ball drop, they created a corrugated cardboard box. Most likely an E-Flute wall structure–the standard in luxury display packaging–Kenner’s Early Bird Certificate doubled as a display stand. The idea was that kids could mail in the certificate and, when the toys were ready, Kenner would send out the first wave of toys, packaged in a thermoformed plastic tray. Then, when the package came, kids would have a spot ready to display them.


And they sold it.


Hero Complex’s Jay West calls it the “the most coveted empty box in the history of retail.” To think that anything could replace an action figure under the tree in a child’s eyes seems unlikely, let alone a hunk of corrugated cardboard. But it did. In fact, the anticipation of staring at the placeholder while waiting for the figurines to arrive made the prize even sweeter. Exclusive mail-away action figures would be the cornerstone of the Star Wars toys for the next 30 years.


Maybe Kenner’s whole plan wouldn’t fly today. But there’s a lot of takeaways from this story. Not giving up? Of course. Taking chances? Sure. But, above all, it shows the creativity stored in that “coveted empty box.” That’s the power of corrugated cardboard. It’s durable, environmental, economical, and endlessly engineerable. Just a simple piece of cardboard changed the face of product licensing forever. Think what it could change next.


You might be wondering what parents paid for that precious corrugated cardboard back in the day. $7.99. But what are folks willing to spend on it today?

the infamous customized corrugated cardboard on ebay, glossy laminate



PepsiCo and Star Wars want you to Join Forces with their Products

Packaging presents great opportunities for companies to engage customers with your brand.  Whether it is mazes on the back of the cereal box or QR codes on the packaging of the product, the packaging is encouraging further engagement with the brand rather than just seeing the package and disregarding the brand shortly thereafter. A great example of packaging interaction opportunities is presented in the partnership with the Star Wars enterprise and  PepsiCo.

Star Wars fans not only have the releasing of “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace 3D” to look forward to in this coming month, they also have a chance to add to their collectors items with the addition of a new bottle with its packaging featuring Star Wars. PepsiCo is seeking to take advantage of a great national marketing campaign  by joining forces with the 3D theatrical release by featuring the release on their Brisk iced tea and its other juice drinks.

The new product packaging features Darth Maul, who is a Sith warrior best known for wielding a double-ended lightsaber, taking over the Brisk Raspberry Iced Tea 24-oz can and one liter bottles. The Darth Maul packaging will feature a web link that hopes to drive consumers to, where they can download and play the exclusive mobile game, Brisksaber.

All other Brisk Tea products will have under-the-cap codes that give fans access codes to unlock new lightsabers, characters, and objects when they play Brisksaber. The marketing campaign and limited-time packaging featuring Darth Maul will be available for purchase until April 30, 2012.

“The Brisk team has done a great job developing new, innovative ways for people to interact with Star Wars—staying true to classic, fan-favorite characters while giving them a fun twist,” says Kayleen Walters, senior director, marketing, Lucasfilm. “We are excited that Brisk is partnering with us to spread the excitement about.”

By creating a new form of packaging for their Brisk iced tea, PepsiCo is not only pushing for more sales of the drink, but they are also engaging Brisk ice tea drinkers via social networking and mobile gaming through the packaging of the product. The partnership between the two enhances and encourages consumers to interact with both the PepsiCo. brand as well as the Star Wars enterprise, all the while promoting the hyped up release of “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace 3D.”

Star Wars by Evian?

Attention all Star Wars fans:

Mandy Brencys has presented her new series of custom designed Star Wars themed bottles for French mineral water company, Evian. Each bottle features a different character from the film series with a shape like the end of a light saber.

“Star Wars by Evian, is an innovative intergalactic take on design packaging. Shaped to be wielded like a lightsaber, and striking enough to distinguish which side you have chosen — Jedi or Sith, these glass water bottles will take you to a galaxy far far away.”

There is no news to if this bottle design will be making a run for retail stores soon, but we’re willing to bet some collectors out there would love to get their hands on this. Unfortunately, it does sound like this is an unofficial collaboration that will not be available any time soon.

Vintage Packaging

Package designers so often strive to be innovative and modern with their package design. Interestingly, some marketers and designers have been taking a different approach to their packaging by retracing their steps and going back to their old form. What are the benefits of vintage or throwback packaging? To remind consumers of rich tradition and lasting power I suppose. Striking up a little nostalgia to devoted customers reminding them of how long they’ve been committing to the same brand. Whatever the case, vintage packaging sure looks cool and looking at these old Star Wars figurines, I’m getting a little nostalgic myself.