‘Our new limited edition.’ Does this statement still excite us they way it used to, with anticipation of a new and truly special product? Or, as is more likely, do we give a cynical roll of the eyes?

The problem is that limited doesn’t necessarily mean limited anymore. We now have a huge market full to the brim with different takes on the limited edition: a safe product trial, a gimmick to try and boost sales or another boring commemoration. It seems crazy that in such a creative and innovative brand world we are often still seeing mediocre or copycat limited edition offers.

Especially because true “limited edition” is still as relevant and insightful as ever; it is the opportunity for a brand to free itself from its everyday expression in a totally new and fresh way to make something special and covetable.

Limited edition needs to be redefined and restored to its former glory – not limited but liberated. We often think about the past and heritage with the limited edition concept, and while it should mark an important or turning point in the life of a brand, it should also be about reconnecting with, dramatising and amplifying the brand identity and values in a new way. Although the specific brand approach will always depend on the brand DNA, and the best way to work with this, there are 5 golden rules all brands should keep top of mind. I wanted to share and illustrate these with some great new examples of what I see as liberated editions, and unashamedly including two sneaker brands as this is a category that seems to really understand and be embracing this liberated evolution.

1) Love yourself

Heighten your unique characteristics to remind us, and re-tempt us with, what we fell for in the first place.

The iconic Nike Air Max cleverly marries its brand design heritage and innovation with an ever-evolving limited edition portfolio. And the now annual Nike Air Max Day (celebrated every March 26) with its highly anticipated limited edition shoe launch is creating that all-important difference, fostering a more unique and meaningful connection that balances a new sense of commemoration and celebration far removed from the previous and stereotypical anniversary markers.

Similarly, when we designed Bud Light’s Super Bowl XLIX bottle this year, we were looking to express passion for the event in an unconventional way. We discovered that Bud Light fans love the brand’s spontaneity and spirit in a way that is very similar to a sports fan’s passion for their team. With that in mind, we combined these two passions into one graphic language, drawing on Bud Light’s ‘Up for Whatever’ campaign to create a ‘Game Plan for Whatever’ – a Bud Light version of a game day playbook that truly resonated with both audiences of fans and increased anticipation for the event.

2) Show us your dreams

Find ways to excite us with your future aspirations.

Audi released an ultra limited-edition carbon fibre bike at this year’s Geneva Motor Show with each model bearing a limited edition badge number from 1 through to 50. The design shares similarities and qualities with the master car brand, like a saddle covered in fine Nappa leather and an athletic colour scheme that fits with the German manufacturer’s appearance and performance. The release was a huge hit and drove consumer appreciation of the brand.

3) Embrace those you love

Make us feel truly special for the unique and valuable relationship we have with you.

The packaging for Rob Dyrdek’s new limited edition shoe with DC is a beautiful example of the package complementing the product. The additional limited edition t-shirt, with the individual issue stamp number, is a collectible in its own right.

4) Push your boundaries

Tell us stories that challenge us and show us the things we thought we knew through your unique perspective.

Footlocker came up with a fitting way to promote its new Triple Black Collection by creating a maze to immerse fans in complete darkness as they hunt for a pair of sneakers using only their sense of touch and sound. This is an amazing example of how a brand can be creative in using its product equities – in this case colour – to build a unique experience for fans.

5) Release your heart

Take us to your core and offer us the most precious expression of yourself.

With the new limited edition Leica camera, the iconic brand joins forces with Italian producer of fine paper, Fedrigoni. Leica is as renowned for its packaging and sense of reveal – with its ‘puzzle of boxes’ – as much as for the camera itself. Here, for the first time the camera is intimately wrapped in a Fedrigoni ‘paper’ skin to replace the traditional leather banderole, and becoming an integral part of the camera system and not just its packaging. This also beautifully reinforces Leica’s brand ethos where everything is essential and nothing is extraneous.

Today, brand experience is the order of the day and we will inevitably see more pop-up and limited edition events tied to a product launch as with Footlocker’s maze. And while it is undoubtedly harder to execute a truly innovative and awe-inspiring limited edition experience through pure packaging or brand design, Leica proves it can be done beautifully. The new limited edition has to be about investing in an intense experience that visualises a new brand future to sum up what it wants to be and what it wants to do in the next phase of life. It’s about looking for new ways to be intense, inspired, open, experimental – and above all – true.

Don’t limit your brand – liberate it.

Originally published by The Dieline