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Warren G Turns Up the Heat for BBQ Debut

Music icon’s latest collaboration results in smokin’ beautiful packaging.





WHEN WARREN GRIFFIN III, aka rapper/producer Warren G, crafts a song, he often collaborates with other artists to tell stories with a unique mix of classic song sampling, funky beats and smooth vocals to create chart-topping, feel-good music.

This method led to the launch of a new genre of music in the ‘80s and millions in album sales.

Similarly, when Griffin created Sniffin Griffin’s barbeque sauces and rubs, he invited family such as stepbrother Dr. Dre and friends such as Snoop Dogg to join him as he experimented with family recipes. Griffin fired them up on the grill, and everyone savored his newest creations.

So, when the self-described hip-hop pit master decided to scale up his brand to reach a larger audience, Griffin followed a similar formula and entered into a collaborative, iterative design process with MBN Creative of Anaheim, CA.

The result? A vibrant rebrand that promotes family, fun and music, as it prepares the company for growth.

“I wanted to redo [the bottle] to give it a new look,” says Griffin. “I had to make sure that it’s professional before I went to the stores. I want to be ready.”

Griffin’s barbeque flavors

Sniffin Griffin’s barbeque flavors are Keepin’ it Original, We Brings Heat and Smoking Me Out. The last two are names of hit songs by Warren G.


Griffin’s music and love of barbeque is rooted in the Long Beach, CA, community in which he was raised by his father, his “Pops” — Warren Griffin Jr.. Pops was a U.S. Navy chef and a neighborhood pit master, and Pops continues to influence his son “Warren G” to this day.

“As a kid, all my Pops used to do was cook, create recipes and play good music,” he says. “Me, being a kid, and around that my whole life, I picked up on it. It just reflected good times with family and friends.”

Griffin grew up in North Long Beach in the ‘80s and ‘90s, which was a notoriously unstable neighborhood at the time. Writing music was the perfect way for Griffin to stay out of trouble while being creative with his legendary crew, Dr. Dre, the late Nate Dogg (Nathaniel Hale) and Snoop Dogg (Calvin Broadus). Eventually, Griffin became an acclaimed producer and rapper who pioneered the smooth G Funk, also known as gansta funk or gangsta funk, sound. Griffin released seven Top 40 hits, e.g., “Regulate” in collaboration with Nate Dogg that went triple platinum.

Today, the father of six still makes music, including the well-regarded 2020 summer song “And You Know That.” Speaking to BXP magazine from his home studio, Griffin says that as he’s gotten older, all he wanted to do was “be like my dad on the smoker and grill, because it reminded me of his morals and good family fun.”


Sniffin Griffins palm trees


To drive the rebranding process, MBN’s founder Hector Garcia insisted the team got to know who is Warren Griffin, not just the Warren G musical persona, but the man.

“We get to know our clients really well and find out what is special about them,” says Garcia. “I can relate to Warren [Griffin] because I grew up in a neighborhood very near his old neighborhood in Long Beach, and I’ve walked in his shoes. I really wanted to put something into this label that was meaningful to him, meaningful to his current customers, and welcomed by new customers.”

Daniella Varela, a designer and illustrator at MBN, says Griffin had a vision of using Long Beach themes. “That got me thinking about Long Beach culture and going to Long Beach in my college days,” Varela explains. “The whole project was about family, food, fun and community.”

Garcia said that as part of the conceptual process, ideas were attempted and discarded because it didn’t project the right message. For instance, imagery was explored such as graffiti typography, a lowrider car much like one used in the “Regulate” video, and corner street signs where Griffin grew up. While the images reflected Griffin’s youth, it did not reflect how he wants the brand to be perceived. “Griffin didn’t like some of those ideas because he didn’t want people claiming territory,” says Garcia. “He didn’t want to incite anyone; he just wants to create delicious barbeque sauces.”


MBN’s decision making was now regulated and coordinated as the team incorporated elements of community, family, music and a little bit of history. The final design
incorporated elements of community, family and music. Long Beach is represented by the palm trees, the silver skyline and an image of Griffin grilling, which is featured on the side of the bottle. The photo is accompanied by a note about how his Pops taught him to cook. Griffin’s musical background is highlighted by the inclusion of a Spotify link to his favorite playlists.

The bottles also have a tactile feel created by a mix of materials. In the backdrop imagery, foil is used to highlight the sky and matte lamination is used elsewhere. “Foil,” says designer/photographer Alex Navarro, “gives the bottle an elevated look and feel.”

The label’s barcode is meant to look like an equalizer display. “We also put a Spotify link on his label,” says Garcia. “We asked Warren to create three playlists, and those playlists are individual to the three different sauces. The customer waves their phone over the barcode, and they can listen to Warren’s music while barbequing with Warren’s sauce.”

The products were also renamed. The flavors were Original, Smokey and Spicy, and now are “Keepin’ it Original,” “We Brings Heat” and “Smoking Me Out.”

Griffin remarks, “This attention to detail is just one of the reasons the label is set to help the company grow. With this new bottle, I think we can move on with more sauces and rubs. We’re just going to keep it going.”

Warren G.

Warren G. learned how to grill from his father, who was a chef in the U.S. Navy.

Larry Adams is a Chicago-based freelance writer and editor who writes about how things get done. A former wire service and community newspaper reporter, Larry is an award-winning writer with more than three decades of experience. In addition to writing about packaging trends and design, he covers science, industrial design, quality control, imaging, metalworking, and all-things manufacturing for industries that range from aerospace to the microscopic. He was previously a Tabbie Award winner for his coverage of nano-based coatings technology for the automotive industry. Larry volunteers for the historic preservation group, the Kalo Foundation/Ianelli Studios, and the science-based group, Chicago Council on Science and Technology (C2ST).

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