April 25, 2018

The right way to (re)design product packaging

We live in a complex and fast evolving world where technology and disruptive business models are the new normal, making the future more uncertain than ever. Brands have to stay relevant and are constantly looking how they can do this in their products and services. A key element in the mix is the pack design: it has to grab the attention instantly and convey the message intuitively. Next to that, one of the biggest challenges are private labels copying A-brands in pack design, which distracts shoppers and has an impact on purchases.

But designing a new pack is not an easy thing. There are plenty of examples where a redesign was not successful at all. That all has to do with the limited time people take when deciding in store and the fact that most of the decision making happens unconsciously on the base of brand assets and brand associations in the brain. Wim Hamaekers, our product packaging expert, is happy to answer all the questions rising when redesigning a product package.  

So how to avoid mistakes in pack design?  

Well, there is only one answer: being shopper & consumer centric in everything you do; listen to consumers. But how to do that? Which method or tool should be put into place to help you take the right choices? The last decade, available tools and methods to help companies with pack testing boomed: accompanied shopping trips, individual in-depth interviews, (virtual) focus groups, online pack testing,  shelf tests, central location test, in store testing, eye-tracking, neuroscience tests, virtual reality stores with EEG and GSR… But also more low-end stuff like webcam tracking or algorithms automatically analysing your pack design and giving you a heatmap.

Which test will give you the right version of the truth?

Well, I believe there are two important elements when deciding how to test a pack.

  1. Context
    By context I mean the number of players in the category, the role of PL’s… The more complex the context is, the more we will have to inject reality into the research design. So moving from online to real shelf testing of context, will be in favor of the research. 
  2. Risk assessment
    Think of the risk that you take when changing or developing a pack for a new innovation. The higher the risk on losing a consumer (and obviously harming your business), the more robust your research design has to be.

If you consider both elements for each of the pack issues you have, it will help you decide what to measure with which method and tool. It’s not that you’ll need a Rolls-Royce research design every single time. A lot of pack research we do, is very agile and helping you out quite fast, although it doesn’t go for everything. The more strategic it gets, the more tools and profound research will be needed in the process. Adding a shelf with real eye-tracking devices will be needed most of the times.


At which moment in the process it’s time to test the pack design?

The sooner in the process, the better I must say. Although we see a big shift happening. Where years ago our clients mainly asked us to validate a bunch of designs created in the boardroom at the very end of the pack development process, we’re more and more involved on more strategic level from the very beginning of the process. Even before brands are thinking about changing a pack.

The first step is always to understand in depth how your pack performs, which pack assets are installed in the memory structures of the brain and how they guide consumers to their choice. These audits, both qualitatively and quantitatively, are done with our Symphony of Senses toolkit, tapping into all senses and showing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. A real roadmap which designers can use in order to create a design, without harming the unique elements installed in the memory structures of the brand, that shouldn’t be touched anyway.

The research industry is more than ever in the pole position to help companies with that challenge. Though, choosing the right method, approach and technology gets more and more complicated with the explosion of available technologies, agile methods, data science algorithms…. It’s our role as research consultants to guide our clients to the right method and technology in order to get the right insights out of it. Which means, most of the times, we rather go for cost efficient methods in the beginning of the process and put the real money in for the more strategic pack decision to be made. Truly, it’s all about choosing the right battle.


Want to know more? Contact product packaging expert Wim Hamaekers, who will love to answer your question.