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Exploring Smarties' steps towards sustainability with new toy designs | #BehindTheIdea

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Recently Smarties has set out to achieve a much ambitious goal: to have all its packaging be sustainable or reusable by 2021. That may have come with a few compromises – but Smarties was absolutely set on not losing its much colourful identity, which is really a delight for the eyes of any child (and a few adults too).

As part of that overall commitment to fun and playfulness, Smarties turned to Echo to design a new range of Topper Toys fully in line with its sustainability goals. The challenge was to offer travel-sized games for families to play with whilst on holiday, with designs which were environmentally responsible in the process. Back a second time after aiding Smarties' sustainability aims in the past, Echo delivered a beautiful sereis of colourful toys, building them in harmony for the brand and conceiving them to be 100% sustainable from the ideation phase.

Today we are getting Behind the Idea with Peter Cowie, Account Director at Echo, to learn more about the much playful project below.

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What was the brief?

The brief was part of Smarties’ wider goal of upgrading their packaging to be 100% recyclable or reusable by 2021, but without losing the colourful and fun nature that the brand is recognised for. 

Last year, we redesigned Smarties’ Music Creator, a toy recorder created to encourage children to engage with and learn music in a fun and playful way. We adapted the packaging to be 100% paper and card, adding a QR code that, once scanned, redirects users to an online portal where they can access several learning resources to teach children valuable music skills. 

Smarties felt we were successful in uniting inspiring, engaging and sustainable design tactics, as they approached us once again to redesign the ‘Topper toys’ to be more environmentally friendly. The challenge was to offer travel-sized games for families to play with whilst on holiday, that were environmentally responsible in the process.

How did the initial pitch/brainstorming phase go?

To tap into Smarties' ambitions for a more sustainable brand, we approached the ideation phase of the brief with non-plastic materials at the fore. Sustainability is a core value which Echo and Smarties share, and our expert team of 3D Designers and Innovators allowed us to make this vision a reality for them. 

The ideation phase also involved workshopping with Nestle to originate new game ideas, with three concepts eventually going into development. To ensure that all paper packaging systems were not only beautifully-designed, but also feasible, close collaboration with the Smarties Supply Chain and Packaging teams was key during our initial planning phase.

Tell us more about the concept. How did it come to life, and why was it the right choice?

The plastic-free toppers work in harmony with the iconic hexatube shape that Smarties are renowned for. These new games offer opportunities for solo play as well as group play, and can also be played in the airport, on holiday, or even from home. The longevity of these fun and engaging games was an important factor in ensuring that their sustainable initiatives were not just met through packaging alone. We also looked to use the digital world as a way of enhancing the game, as exemplified by an online game board, as well as an opportunity to direct users to instructions in multiple languages.

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What is one funny or notable thing that happened during the production of the campaign?

We loved testing the toys with each other and our colleagues and clients who have children – it was like stepping into a time machine and getting to experience being young once again! It’s also a lot of fun to see both adults and children’s positive reactions to the toys!

What’s the main message of the campaign and why does it matter?

The campaign was designed to speak to Smarties’ overarching “I’m Paper, Be Smart, Recycle Me” message. The brand is ever conscious of its impact on the environment, and wants their toys to be as good for the planet as they are for inspiring children’s learning. We therefore opted for an 100% plastic-free approach, cutting down waste by removing printed instructions and game boards that could be accessed online. The brand’s sustainability messaging was therefore driven by the packaging itself. 

What do you hope it achieves for the brand?

It’s a huge achievement to be the first global confectionery brand with 100% recyclable packaging. We wanted the packaging to help raise awareness around Smarties’ genuine commitment to the environment, as highlighted by their win of the TR Sustainability Hero award. In the long-term, we hope it inspires other confectionery brands to make their own commitments to re-designing their packaging to be better for people and planet.

Credit list for the campaign?

Andy Capper – 3D Creative Director
Anna Sutherland – 3D Designer
Susie Whittaker – Designer
Pete Cowie – Account Director
Scott Hunter – Head of Realisation & Production
Eva Fernandez – Designer
Tashi Van Der Waerden – Innovation Director

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