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Packaging ­– What Your Agency Won’t Tell You

By March 14, 2014 No Comments

One thing your agency or design firm won’t tell you is that when changing packaging there is a greater potential to do harm than good

The first thing a new brand manager does is change the packaging. This is usually based on tracking studies suggesting that the current product is perceived as weak on key elements such as “taste” or “health.” Then, after a lengthy review process, two or three new designs are chosen internally. But, playing with packaging can be a dangerous game…

Your Package is a Hard Worker
Unfortunately, many new designs do not take into account the list of responsibilities that the package must have to be effective at the shelf:

  • Break through the clutter – Does the package stand out on the shelf and/or easily distinguish the brand? Will shoppers find their regular brand or be drawn to a new brand?
  • Communicate benefits – Does the package communicate the product’s key point of distinction or positioning? Do shoppers get the “big idea?” (This is where “taste” and “health” attributes weigh in.)
  • Enhance product image and appeal – Does the package reinforce the desired image of the brand such as gourmet, natural, etc.?
  • Easy to use and store – Does the package meet the needs of the consumer when the product is used?

Your Package has Hard Working Conditions
It can be tough to stand out on the shelf. Just as important as evaluating the package design itself, you must evaluate the package in the context of the store. Most research ignores the fact that environment and competitive set impact what consumers buy. The following should be considered:

  • How are the products in the category laid out? How big is the competitive set?
  • Are there important sub-lines, flavors, or varieties to communicate?
  • How do consumers shop the category?

Packaging fails when it’s inconsistent with the brand or results in reduced visibility on the shelf. If you are not careful, new packaging may accomplish your goal of increasing the perception of “taste” or “health,” but at the same time fail on brand image or product visibility, which leads to a net loss.

Decision Insight’s ShopperIQ-Packaging solution was expressly developed to take into account the context of store environment when evaluating new package designs. The first measure is Sales… this is #1 in our packaging research hierarchy:

  1. Sales – Does it persuade the shopper to buy your product?
  2. Shelf Presence – Is it easily found on the shelf?
  3. Messaging & Brand Equity – Does it effectively communicate key messages?
  4. Aesthetic Appeal – Do shoppers like it?

Good packaging cannot guarantee success, but it can greatly increase the chance of success for a repositioned brand or new product launch. Tell your agency you’ve adopted a steadfast golden rule for packaging design changes, an axiom inspired by the Hippocratic Oath: First, do no harm. Consult our experts when considering a change and help your package’s hard work pay off and win at retail.


Alex Sodek is Chief Research Officer at Decision Insight.

To learn more, contact Alex at alexs@decisioninsight.com.