Product packaging once served narrow objectives — containing and protecting the product on its journey from manufacturing facility to retailer’s shelf to the consumer’s home. Early packaging was monochromatic and package construction was utilitarian. But that all changed with the rise of agency creative teams and colorful new printing techniques. CPG innovators fired a barrage of primary-colored and star-bursting packages at newly prosperous post-war suburbia.

And it worked. In fact, in 1962 pop artist Andy Warhol would paint a wall of Campbell’s Soup cans (on 32 separate canvases), recreating the experience of “being in a well-stocked supermarket” and “glorifying consumption.” Packaging was no longer about shipping. Packaging was now a beacon for consumption.

Telling and Selling

Packaging is a critical communications lever and an important billboard for your brand. Effective packaging should communicate your brand’s benefits and, most importantly, generate sales. The most successful packaging accomplishes a host of other goals, including:

  • Standing out at the shelf
  • Providing brand and product recognition
  • Presenting the product in an appealing manner
  • Identifying key product attributes and benefits
  • Communicating variety, flavor and size

Most packaging research ignores the fact that environment and competitive set have a major impact on consumer purchases. From a shopper’s perspective, a product is never seen in isolation. To effectively measure shelf presence a package must be viewed in the context of the competitive set. Other factors as influential as the packaging itself are the size of the product category, your brand’s equity (awareness over time) in its packaging, and the equity of your competitors’ packaging.

Shelf Impact

The distinctiveness and appeal of a product package when placed on an actual shelf can make a significant difference in product sales. This can be tested by placement of your package design on a virtual shelf and surrounding it with competitive products. The more distinct your package, the better it sells. This virtual shopping exercise provides the most important learnings: How does the packaging impact what shoppers buy?

Improving Product Visibility

Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to improve shelf presence. With hot spot analysis and eye tracking, we can identify package elements consumers notice — and if they are positive, negative or confusing to shoppers. From eye tracking studies, we know that shoppers are instinctively drawn to color, shape and familiarity. The best packaging often wins by appealing to shoppers at a subconscious level — in packaging, attention is everything.

Online Challenges for Packaging

The challenge online is even greater — a product has only a few seconds to be noticed. Without the benefits of multiple shelf facings and endcap displays in the store, one single image must catch the shopper’s attention and communicate the product attributes. Read more on optimizing product presence for eCommerce in our recent newsletter, posted here.

Decision Insight’s Virtual Package Testing was specifically developed to include context within the store environment. Combined with DI’s proprietary diagnostic tools, our clients are provided a complete perspective of new packaging implications. This includes strategic guidance on potential risks and recommendations to improve sales performance through research-informed packaging decisions.