"We’re all familiar with household names like the Pillsbury Doughboy, Tony the Tiger and Elsie the Cow. What would mascots for a more, ahem, underground product like hydroponic growth enhancers, popular with basement horticulturalists of a particularly pungent crop, look like? For the packaging of various product lines from Advanced Nutrients, Pentagram’s DJ Stout collaborated with illustrator Marc Burckhardt to create iconic brand mascots reminiscent of the greats. Meet Big Bud, Kushie, Jane, Dr. X, Sweet Tooth, Tilla Gorilla and Thirstin’ Howl III"
You might say that the original line of Advanced Nutrients products grew organically, one product after another, over time and without an overarching visual brand strategy. Many of the labels on the products, which come in multiple container sizes, were quaint and naïve at best, and just generic and forgettable in most instances. Many of the labels featured clip art or uninspired, often lifeless, depictions of flowers or animals and the typography was all over the place.
“They have a very loyal audience already, who probably don’t give a hoot what the products look like as long as they do the trick,” says Stout. “And of course, there’s a whole underground, anti-establishment, dare I say—’hippie’ mentality—with a large segment of the consumer base who don’t trust a line of products that looks too slick or commercial. At the end of the day, however, we felt like the inconsistent packaging, although at times charming in its naïvety, was a huge missed branding opportunity for the international company.”
Advanced Nutrients is the leader in their market and their top seller by far is Big Bud, a bloom enhancer that“Puts the Big in Your Buds.” Big Bud was the first product Stout and Savasky tackled. The unique names of the products lead them to the idea of developing a personality for each package and developing a visual language that harkens back to vintage product marketing with a modern, almost campy, attitude. “I’ve always admired old-school grocery store packaging featuring fictitious characters on their labels, like Tony the Tiger, The Pillsbury Doughboy, Mr. Clean, Planter’s Mr. Peanut and Elsie the Cow.” Says Stout, “Those imaginary personalities have become household names, almost more memorable than the actual products they represent.”
Stout and Savasky commissioned Austin illustrator Marc Burckhardt to develop a set of characters for the line of Advanced Nutrients products. For Big Bud, Burckhardt created a sassy green bud, sporting purple aviator sunglasses and a mohawk. “I imagined the character to be a cross between the Jolly Green Giant and Big Mike,” says Stout. “We named him Buddy.” The company’s bigger-than-life co-founder loved it, of course, so from that point on Stout and his team worked with Burckhardt to develop a unique personality for each product.
DJ Stout, partner-in-charge and designer; Julie Savasky, designer. Illustrations by Marc Burckhardt.