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Designing a Package

By Craig Sawicki

Good Packaging Combines Provocative and Pragmatic

Designing a Package
Football is a game of inches, and packaging is a business of seconds. The average package has 8/10ths of a second to gain a customer’s attention in a retail setting. If the product makes it over that first hurdle, it is blessed with another 1.7 seconds while the shopper makes a purchasing decision. And, that’s if the package is on the shopping list. Impulse items receive even less time. (1)

Good packaging requires a dual-design strategy approach. Successful retail packages are a thoughtfully balanced combination of the provocative and the pragmatic.

A great package is provocative. It stimulates the purchaser with color and shape. Eighty percent of the time a purchase results if a marketer can get the consumer to touch the package.

The package also has to be pragmatic for the marketer, the filler, the retailer and, most importantly, for the purchaser. If the package doesn’t work for everyone in the marketing hierarchy, the product is going to be left on the shelf.

New Package Cleans Up
For years, the dish soap category was one of the most ignored and sleepiest areas in grocery stores. Method Inc. proposed to make the product provocative so it could live on the kitchen counter instead of hidden under the sink. Method concluded these packages could be sold at an increased price, and the consumption rate would be higher than normal because the product was accessible and always in front of the customer. Method gave Target an exclusive arrangement for a period of time on a number of cleaning products. Target did a test in 50 stores with end-caps and did a full launch a few months later.

Despite the fact that Method’s dish soaps and hard surface cleaners were 30% to 50% more costly than their competitors, they became the number one selling brand in those categories within the first 2 months with little or no advertising.

The Practical Side of Packaging
The pragmatic side of packaging is no less important than the provocative side. It may be less glamorous and more analytical, but a savvy marketer will never ignore this critical strategic element.

A product must be packaged in a way that speaks to the brand. It’s acceptable to watch fashion trends and launch new products that follow a trend, but three months down the road a package should not be old news or a passing fancy. Generally, consumer product manufacturers cannot afford to have their packaging become obsolete in a three-month fashion season.

Great Consumer Products Go The Distance
Typically, advertising and a package’s appearance on the shelf are responsible for the initial sale. After the first purchase, product loyalty commonly depends upon the product quality.

Effective packaging is frequently a determinant of product quality.

A customer’s decision to re-buy a product is usually made when the product has been consumed, and the package has been abused for some time. For example, the decision to repurchase shampoo is made when the container is almost empty. At that point, the bottle may have been squeezed a hundred times. The cap has been opened and closed the same number of times, and it has been stored in a wet, steamy shower for months. Will the product go the distance? Is the package as solid and reliable as it is good looking?

Does It Work Better?
A package that works better than another will encourage a repurchasing decision. A product stored in an easy-to-use package is typically consumed more quickly than a competing brand.

Better Packaging Pumps Up Sales. This has been demonstrated with both butter and soap. Both originally were wrapped in paper, the simplest packaging – and many advocated – the best packaging available. Then came soft soap in pump bottles and butter in tubs. Both are extraordinarily popular, and both sell at two-to-three times more per ounce than their predecessors. The extra cost associated with improved package design can be absorbed very quickly.

A large regional mustard company redesigned their packaging and the payoff was that it opened doors to new retail outlets.

Dutch Boy Paints the Town Red. Paint cans are the ugly ducklings of the beautification business…and they are hard to use. A customer needs a screwdriver to open the cans and a hammer to close them. They typically weigh 16 pounds, and you have to carry them with a 10-gauge wire that creases your hands. They are almost impossible to pour from without dripping down the sides and permanently covering the label.

It’s hard to believe women make 60% of retail paint purchases.

Dutch Boy Paint tripled its sales the first year after launching the plastic, easy pour container, with an increase in a product that was considered a dying brand.

Building The Better Package
Building a better package is achieved by knowing what questions to ask, then getting the most accurate answers to those questions.

Our Product…

  1. What are you selling?
  2. What are the product’s strengths?
  3. What are the product’s weaknesses?
  4. Where is the product used? Is it in the bathroom, kitchen or garage?
  5. How is the product used? Is it dispensed, squeezed, poured or thrown?
  6. How much product is used?
  7. What is the product’s retail selling price?

Your Consumer

  1. Who are you selling to?
  2. Who makes the purchasing decision?
  3. How are you selling the product? Is it sold at retail, in a salon, multi-level marketing?
  4. Where is the product sold? Is it local, regional or national?
  5. When is the product sold? Is it seasonal, for example?

Your Brand…

  1. How much recognition/equity does the brand have?
  2. How is the product advertised?
  3. Are marketing events scheduled for the brand?

Your Competition…

  1. Against whom are you selling?
  2. With what competitor do you compare your product?
  3. With what competitor do you want your product compared?

Your Package…

  1. How large should the package be? What are the fill and dimension requirements?
  2. How much influence does the package have on a repurchasing decision?
  3. Are there budgetary restrictions?
  4. Who fills the product, and how is it filled?
  5. What are the decorating requirements?
  6. How are other requirements, such as quantity, material, clarity and color, to be resolved?

A product’s package is frequently a critical element in a customer’s decision to make an initial purchase or to repurchase, and the key factor in the product’s success is a careful combination of beauty and function. Without both, a package may find itself home alone on the retailer’s shelf.
(1) PBS “Buy-ology—Why We Shop, Why They Buy.

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