Making packaging work

Separating myths from reality with shopper research

 Summary of a Tangible presentation at Packaging Innovations London, October 2012

Summary

93% of brand owners think packaging is a very important selling tool. Packaging is typically a bigger business spend than advertising – so it is a big deal and many brand owners have good reason to work out what works.

If we are honest, people talk a lot of rubbish about packaging. Which is fitting, because a lot of people think packaging is just rubbish (in fact, 91% of shoppers think products have too much packaging on them).

Our task is to make the packaging brand owners use work harder. We do this by working out what matters most to brand buyers (in this report we focus specifically at the point of sale) and in doing so challenge received wisdom or mythology around successful packaging design.

 

Research and mythology

Brand owners are of course in the business of promoting their brands. Shoppers however are generally focused on the product they are buying rather than thinking about brands, and they are not consciously interested in packaging. In fact, our observation and analysis of thousands of shoppers reveals that people edit out options rather than expand their choices and also edit out elements that disrupt expectations if not immediately understood within the context of the point of sale. This is because of an overriding tendency for people to avoid change and therefore validate their current behaviour rather than seek new alternatives.

People in general, and shoppers in particular, feel comfortable with the familiar, and most grocery shopping is therefore a routine exercise rather than an exciting journey of discovery.

We have come across a great many myths, often based on a truth that has become exaggerated and distorted over time. Whilst we recognise there are always exceptions and examples of categories, such as fashion, where different rules apply, we have learned that success means separating these myths from reality. A few key examples are:

Shoppers notice newness  In our experience they try hard not to, so newness needs to be communicated beyond packaging

Breaking category rules gets you noticed  But equally can be screened out. Unless the innovative approach is readily understood and appreciated, familiarity works better than novelty

Pack can change consumer perception of a brand  It is a rare thing that a packaging change alone is sufficient to change perceptions. Packaging can support brand repositioning but in most cases needs to be backed up by other elements of the mix

Long lived devices are equities of the brand  We have seen many examples of pack designs with shields, crests, “house colours” and illustrations  that are assumed to be distinctive and memorable.  The reality is often that they are not noticed or recalled and so cannot be regarded as true brand equities.

Consumers read the copy They don’t.

Conclusions and success factors

Packaging is a key selling tool, but design changes are not a guaranteed solution to brand growth. Different objectives require different design solutions and support activities to help break through the engrained habitual behaviour of shoppers acting on auto pilot. What remains common is that successful packaging builds on brand familiarity, focuses on a clear idea, where possible uses form to create distinctiveness and communicates the function and experience of the product.

To find out more about the Tangible model for packaging change and how to separate myth from reality please get in touch.

 

 

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