Maximize Package Design at Shelf!

This guest post comes from Scott Lucas, Executive Director at Interbrand in Cincinnati. Scott’s experience spans a number of industries and continents, as he has created and implemented global packaging strategies in the U.S., Europe and Asia. The article was originally targeted to national brands for popsop.com but the truths remain relevant for Private Brand.

As marketers seek to leverage a virtually limitless number of physical and digital touchpoints to gain a larger share of consumers’ wallets, it is important to remember the critical and final touchpoint at shelf: the brand’s package.

When executed with creativity and precision, packaging can help a brand connect emotionally with consumers and establish deep, loyal relationships. Here are five tips to maximize package design at retail:

  1. Understand the difference between consumers and shoppers.
    Consumers are not shoppers, and shoppers are not consumers… even when they are the same person. In their home, or even at work, consumers are making decisions around purchasing and using a brand. However these decisions are based on behaviors and needs that are radically different from shoppers, who are making decisions in the store. While consumers and shoppers may be the same people, since they’re in different environments, they’re often having two separate brand experiences. A clear understanding of the decision-making process of each—an approach Interbrand calls “shopper sciences”—is imperative to designing more impactful packaging and orchestrating the shelf around those behaviors. For example, even though Duracell AA batteries might make it onto a consumer’s list at home, when in the store, the same consumer places Energizer AAs into the basket. Is this switch due to pricing, promotion, lack of availability or a sub-par shopping experience?
  2. Avoid a one-size-fits-all approach to package design research.
    Too many clients and agencies have a one-size-fits-all approach to package design research. They use the same benchmarks over and over, whether the project is for a revolutionary design or an evolutionary line extension. Similarly, they focus on the wrong questions in qualitative and quantitative research, thereby biasing results. The results are often missed opportunities to holistically link qualitative and quantitative results and tell an accurate story that leads to smarter package design decisions.
    When conducting and leveraging design research, it is important to establish appropriate benchmarks for the specific project type; to focus on the things qualitative research is meant to tell you and the things quantitative research is meant to tell you — without confusing the two. We all know not to use qualitative results to count votes and select a winner, just as we are trained not to interpret a quantitative study’s statistical data as deep emotional drivers. However, these rules of thumb can be sidelined by a project’s budget and timing limitations. When sequenced correctly, a brand can draw inspiration from a qualitative discussion and validation from quantitative analysis, allowing for an effective strategy that drives innovation.
  3. Incorporate the consumer voice into package design.
    Some companies think it is too risky to ask consumers to weigh in on package design prior to the creation of actual design options. However, companies can and should use shopper and consumer insights to inform—not just confirm—package design decisions. Specifically, it is important and necessary to use shopper and consumer insights in the exploratory phase of package design, not just the confirmatory phase. That’s because consumers can help to inspire and inform the package design process (without actually “designing” the packaging).
    In the much-dissed, short-lived Gap logo redesign, the brand underestimated the value of its familiar and iconic logo and how this could outweigh the desire for and the performance of a refresh. In a redesign it is essential to know what is valued, what performs and what triggers recall and action. Only shoppers and consumers can verify these things; brands must not be afraid to hear what they have to say.
  4. Realize that brand purchase decisions are far more instinctive than rational.
    Brands create consumer pull at shelf. However, the psychology behind brand purchase decisions is far more instinctive than rational. Considering that people only spend a few seconds in front of a store shelf and are faced with countless packages, images and claims, it is impossible to process everything logically. In fact, 95 percent of purchases are based on an unconscious decision: on emotions rather than logic. By leveraging brand, design, consumer and shopper insights, companies can develop powerful, intuitive packaging designs that connect with shoppers’ key emotions and produce as much as an 80 percent conversion rate. For example, we have learned that shape, color and pattern connect with customers on a subconscious level and allow for easy repeat purchase; in fact, these qualities can do just as much to drive trial as a verbal claim.
  5. Leverage the in-home experience.
    To some marketers, getting their brand across the register is the Holy Grail. However, powerful packaging lives beyond the store. Once a package enters the home, is there an opportunity for display? Is there a way to drive consumption or to provide value beyond just the product? Is there something unique about the package that makes opening it for the first time a ceremony and something to look forward to over and over again?
    An effective package design has staying power; it provides an opportunity to build consumer loyalty and make the register ring again and again. Consider the facial tissue category. It has evolved from consumers choosing the least offensive pattern regardless of brand to consumers seeking out specific designs and colors to match their décor. The product is establishing brand loyalty directly through package design.


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Christopher Durham
Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.