Tuesday, November 16, 2010

How important is packaging?

Photo credit: scrapthispack@Flikr

Whenever I see fruit displayed in Styrofoam trays and wrapped over with cellophane my first thought is ‘what are you trying to hide?”. This is a dangerous thought to leave customers with. The package is the first opportunity to make an impression on the consumer. It should evoke thoughts like ‘That is so cool!’ or ‘Ah, how comfortingly familiar’ or ‘That is so nice I deserve it after all the hard work I did today and I don’t give a cr@p what it costs.’. The last statement is obviously from my own repertoire and I have the credit card bills to prove it.

So what constitutes a good package design? I think you have to first ask yourself what impression you are trying to achieve and who you are trying to attract. This will give you things like foundation color and general graphic style. Another BIG consideration is environmental friendliness, reusability or recyclability and over packaging. There are plenty of blogs on this subject so I will leave it at that.

I also believe that you should stick to the idea that the package needs to show what you are selling. For example, look at the picture below. Diapers are selling clean, neat and tidy. I think this package designer was trying to be cheeky. Pardon the pun.

The blogger who featured this photo said that he bought the diapers with pictures of babies frolicking in green meadows instead.

Consumer perception is not that hard to decipher. We are all consumers. We are all very used to seeing frozen veggies in a certain format as an example. Having said that, package innovation can draw consumers to a product in the blink of an eye. Case in point, Europe’s Best frozen fruits and veg. Consumers believe they are buying better quality because the plastic is thicker, the graphics more colorful and saturated and the package stands up to show these glorious graphics to all the world. This evokes the notion of quality.

I think it is disturbing that many North American consumers are hung up on the look of a package rather than being truly concerned about what is inside but it is the market that we play in. If you have a product that will blow peoples socks off don’t skimp on package design. The combination of great product and strong packaging is a winner and will often offset other hurdles like price.

I can draw a great example from our own stable of products at Planet Foods. Rice and couscous are commodity products. There are a lot of rice brands out there and some very strong organic rice brands too. There are also some very tried a true couscous brands on grocery shelves. Rice Select decided to try a package innovation by putting their premium product into reusable tubs. That’s right reusable was the first consideration. After all, the mantra is Reduce Reuse Recycle in order of effectiveness. The package is also recyclable for when reusing it is no longer an option. Rice Select sacrificed the idea that the consumer has a very clear price boundary when buying rice for the reusability option of the package. Today Rice Select has very strong sales in North America and some imitators of the package concept.

My advice to those of you with the best soup ever made or the cookie mix that could stop wars is to find a good package design that showcases what is inside and inspires consumers to pick it up off the shelf. Once it is in the consumers hand it is really hard to resist carrying it to the till and buying it.

by Leanne Ward.