Seven million jars of Nutella in February 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 word you hardly knew until HBO’s Silicon Valley focused an entire show about the immense power and responsibility that comes with creating one.
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,” writes design magazine Dezeen. 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.
And what was the reason for “hiring” an algorithm to design all the jars exactly? A video about the campaign says 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.
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.
Changing everything but the logo
Nutella’s label has been through many iterations since the ’60s. The most classic one features a white label illustrated with piece of bread slathered with the spread alongside a glass of milk. The Nutella brand name is always in bold, red letters.
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.
Due to the sell-out success of these jars, Nutella is reportedly launching the same campaign soon in other European countries, starting with France. So if you’ve got a European vacation planned this summer, keep an eye out if you’re picking up a few grocery items. These one-of-a-kind Nutella jars will be hard to miss.