Last week, I was sent on a mission with a fistful of coupons to score some deals at the neighborhood grocery. Not being the kind of guy who usually remembers to use coupons before they expire, I was given explicit instructions by The Other Half to get this stuff before the 3-day sale was over. On the list was any of a selection of "Helper" products by Betty Crocker. Now, we're usually from scratch cookers, but it is nice to have some packaged stuff on the shelf for when you're feeling kind of lazy.
When I got to the store, I noticed that the Helper products have gotten new packaging recently. As a graphic artist, I often pay attention to new packaging, observing the gradual or even drastic changes that are made to familiar products. Sometimes they do it to update a stodgy image, sometimes they revert to a "retro" look. The Helper line just got kinda weird.
Hamburger Helper was introduced way back in 1971, kind of the heyday of packaged, instant dinners. Usually, the package includes a starch (dehydrated potatoes or pasta), along with a dehydrated sauce packet, and sometimes a topping packet. "Hamburger Helper helped her hamburger help her make a great meal!" was the slogan, and the cute little four-fingered hand character helped sell it. Eventually, Tuna Helper and Chicken Helper joined the lineup, along with other spinoffs. But in the name, you had the basic thing the product did: help hamburger, help chicken, help tuna become something interesting for dinner.
Hamburger Helper Stroganoff. "Hamburger" looks like an afterthought on the package, making it read "Wholesome Helper." WTF? It helps wholesomeness? It gets worse. The other package I picked up was called Asian Chicken Helper Chicken Fried Rice. Which of course reads "Asian Helper." On first glance, it sounds like Mrs. Livingston from The Courtship of Eddie's Father in a box! Or, if your mind goes to the weird places mine does, if Hamburger Helper makes hamburger taste good, Asian helper makes ASIANS taste good! Mmmmm, braiiiins!
I went to the website, and found out that they have all sorts of cumbersome product divisions these days, from Wholegrain Helper to Mexican Helper which probably makes John McCain and Lou Dobbs very, very nervous. On the whole, I think I'd dub this redesign an epic fail.