A recent Nielsen study, "Breakthrough Innovation Report," in the UK reveals just how good packaging design remains a successful way to impact consumers’ decision making. This is key to remember when our marketing investment is pulled in different directions and new technologies and social media are vying hard for important time and dollars.
"Nearly 60% of product decisions are made at the shelf, and 56% of European consumers say in-store discovery is one of their top information sources for new products, compared to 45% for TV ads,” says Ben Schubert, SVP at Nielsen Innovation Practice.
That’s exciting and daunting news all at the same time. From what I have seen, the job of packaging is often given to the least-experienced brand managers and is treated as an afterthought. It’s definitely a great opportunity for them, and while it provides a fresh set of eyes on the challenge, it’s also a lot of responsibility.
So, with myriad products in the stores, how do we go about creating packaging that will make the cut, for both the consumer and the retailer?
Be Visible: Use bold, striking, differentiating colors that can stand out in the given environment, or a specific channel, or even a season. At this time of year, everyone rushes to plaster their brands with holiday cheer … meaning everyone is red and green. No matter how brilliant your idea is how is that ever going to have impact?
In addition to color, consider typography as an important design element. Think about the fonts you use. Designers love to make words as small as possible, but making them larger, clearer, with simple on-brand messaging, can go a long way to breaking through the clutter. The Nielsen study also cites structure as one of the levers for differentiation.
Consider any design solutions within the context of its shelf set. That means looking at the design within its appropriate retail environment both from a competitive standpoint and from an environmental perspective in terms of position on shelf, lighting, etc. Finally, examine how the package would feel in the hands of the consumer.
Be Visceral: Creating a meaningful human connection through the packaging is key. The role of packaging is to make us feel something, make us laugh, smile or make us crave the product inside. In a world where we spend more time with our eyes glued to a screen of some sort, we continue to crave “analog” human interactions and packaging is still one of the ways that we can physically communicate with our consumers. This is not only done through the brand imagery but with words, too. We often work so hard to visually communicate something that we could just say with words ... why not just put the positioning on the package? Don’t imply it … just say it! Go ahead and be subjective. It really is okay if there are people who don’t like your brand or package — if this is the case, you are probably doing something right.
Be Memorable: Most packaging today is starting to look like everything else. If following trends of the moment results in brands trying to stand out by looking like everyone else, then something needs to change. How can this strategy possibly work? The results are boring and bland. So, don’t fall into the trap. Think about how you would describe your packaging design to someone else. Can you actually do it? And, does your recall somehow tie back to your positioning or strategy? It should. When Pom Wonderful came out with its unique bottle, it made a statement that their product was not the same as any others in the category.
All that said, we must also pay attention to how the packaging looks when in the digital environment as it frequently lives in both places. Ironically, the rules still apply, perhaps more than ever. Striking, bold, differentiated packaging still wins.