Packaging design is not merely an essential part of branding in the world of retail products – it is the most important part of branding. Not only is it the first impression and provides the sales proposition but it must also close the deal… ultimately making the sale at the store level. Much like brand logos – in this fast paced world – it’s easy to change for the sake of change. With technology and design software making everything accessible, it has become effortless to “try this”, “change this” or “modify this”. Designs are not given the time they need to “cure” and become part of consumers’ landscape. Technology is great and it’s a fantastic tool. It has provided designers with the creative freedom to deliver on design flexibility and offer the marketing and creative industry astounding possibilities… in record time. But like everything else in life, there’s an upside and then there’s a downside to it. In this case, technology and software has given us speed and flexibility at the expense of timely conscious strategic thinking.
How does one know when the time has come to change a brand’s packaging design?
Are there particular signs to watch for? Or better yet, are there specific questions that need to be asked and answered? Here’s my list:
How long has it been since the last packaging redesign? If it has been 15 years or more, chances are the packaging should be redesigned. Consumers change within decades, and with this change come new trends and new styles. All packaging designs have a style, and eventually even the most contemporary packaging design starts to be viewed as stale or passé – more importantly, it no longer resonates with consumers. When all is said and done, the packaging needs to speak to the consumers in the way they want to be spoken to. A good way to assess packaging design fatigue is to commission packaging research.
Is the current packaging poorly designed? Does it reflect the product promise? Does it communicate what it is effectively? Or does it ask consumers to read and decipher what it’s all about? Was the current design professionally done by packaging designers? Does it stand up to the brand’s image? At the risk of sounding repetitive, the best way to determine this is through packaging research.
What’s the product sales turns? Is the product purchased weekly? Monthly? Once every 8 months? Annually? This is key for determining how many times products should engage in redesigning their packaging. For products that are purchased semi-annually or annually, redesigning packaging every year or even 2 years may lead to consumer confusion and frustration when they can’t easily find it on the shelf.
How competitive is the category? Are competitive brands constantly updating themselves with new ways of presenting their claims or providing appetite appeal? Are new brands showing up on shelf with nothing more to offer but a sexy or new package? This is often found in the soup category, where consumption patterns are high. A good source of information and insight of many retail categories and their competitive information is Nielsen.
Does the consumer base need to change? In this context, I am referring to the demographics and psychographics of the product’s consumers. Is a wider net required to captivate new consumers? Is the existing consumer franchise leaving the market … negatively impacting sales, and thus profitability.
Has the product been innovated? Is there something new to say? Has a new and improved version of the existing product been developed that will set it apart from the competition? Can it deliver “better” or “more”? If so, it is imperative to communicate that on the package, visually and boldly.
It has often been my experience that marketers, brand managers, product managers, marketing directors, marketing managers, to name a few, often tire of their package … way before the consumer does! So before you call on your advertising agency to come up with the next best design since the invention of sliced bread, take a deep breath and… well breathe… and think strategically.