“Millions of Italians can now say they own a one-of-a-kind Nutella Jar”

7 million jars appeared on shelves in Italy, all of them boasting a unique label design. And here’s a weird twist: Every single one of those millions of labels was designed by……an algorithm?

Yes, algorithm. The reason for “hiring” an algorithm was to design all the jars exactly different yet unique. The algorithm pulled from a database of dozens of patterns and colors to create seven million different versions of Nutella’s graphic identity, which have been splashed across the front of jars in Italy.

Nutella wanted “to make each jar unique and expressive as the Italian people.” That seemed to jibe with Italy’s grocery shoppers. All 7 million jars sold out within a month. But instead of compressing files for a made-up startup, this algorithm’s output was millions upon millions of labels for real-life Nutella jars. An algorithm has usurped the traditional role of a designer. There are jars with polka dots. Jars with zigzags. Jars with splotchy shapes. All sorts of other patterns, too. Every one of them is eye-catching and colorful. They’d certainly stand out on the shelf at your grocery store.

The campaign was called Nutella Unica and was brought to life by advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather Italia. So the real reason is clear: to create irresistible demand and sell lots and lots of Nutella. This comes as Ferrero, the company that owns Nutella, finds itself defending the use of palm oil as an ingredient. A report from the European Food Safety Authority flagged palm oil as a “potential health concern,” if not processed properly.

This campaign kept Nutella logo but stripped away everything else on the front label. Dots, stripes, squares and various shapes were all fair game when the algorithm went to work. It pulled from dozens of patterns and thousands of color combinations. It’s pretty cool to see the wide variety of labels being slapped on jars in the packaging facility. The agency describes each Nutella Unica jar as being “like a piece of art”, stamped with its own unique code so it can be authenticated by collectors.

The hazelnut spread maker is already known for its personalized packaging, allowing consumers to create Nutella labels printed with words or names of their choice. Both that campaign and Nutella Unica rely on the brand’s highly recognizable lettering, which has meant other elements of the packaging design can be altered or stripped away.

It’s always good to create marketing buzz. It’s even better to develop a successful marketing campaign. And that’s just what Ferrero accomplished with its “Unique” campaign of algorithm-designed Nutella jars. It seems like Ferrero hit the proverbial jackpot with this initiative since retailers reportedly had a hard time keeping the whimsical jars in stock.

This isn’t the first time a packaged goods company has released uniquely labeled products or used an algorithm to create “fun” packaging art. Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke Name” campaign, which re-launched in the US earlier this year, has been a wildly popular campaign to get customized bottles



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