Friday, April 24, 2009

Excellent Packaging Article

You can read it below, or go here for the link.

“Consumers are less brand loyal than ever”. . .marketers lament. News flash: Maybe the fault doesn’t lie with a “fickle” consumer, but with companies themselves.

There’s nothing like a slowing economy to force companies to address customer issues. Pushing more innovative consumer products into the pipeline, lowering prices to increase value perception and to counter competitive pricing and making customer service improvements are all typical responses. Yet, working on a couple of customer touch points is an inadequate approach.

Companies’ focus ought to be on designing the total customer experience, aligning every customer touch point and cementing greater loyalty to their brands, in the process. Isn’t it time to develop a comprehensive, top to bottom customer experience strategy?

Think of all the touch points customers interact with. Designing and aligning the web site, customer service call center, IVR system, product literature, advertising and packaging to deliver consistent, positive customer experiences is crucial to a company’s success. Of these, packaging is arguably the most important customer touch point, since it delivers brand and product into the customer’s hands. It’s the tangible representation of both.

Designing Packaging that Delivers.

While capital expenditures are being cut these days, investing in experiential packaging ought to be considered. By taking a short-term loss in marketing ROI vis-à-vis packaging now, companies can position themselves to retain customers and market share for the long-term. It’s important to keep loyal customers for the present, while positioning to gain new customers when the economy improves, yielding higher ROI in the future.

Strategy and design are the tools that enable companies to design packaging that delivers a great experience; one that is emotionally connecting to the targeted customer. To do that successfully, research must answer key questions.

  • Who is the customer and how has that customer evolved?
  • How can the company match the customer’s goals?
  • What are the customer’s expectations?
  • What does the customer value?

Too often packaging is as commoditized as the products they contain. Without unique brand characteristics, structure and a communications hierarchy that make product and brand relevant to the target consumer; that meets their goals and expectations, packaging is not the effective sales closer it should be. If packaging was designed from an experiential perspective it would be far more compelling to consumers.

McCormick, manufacturer of spices and seasonings, elevates commodity products through experiential packaging. Even though consumers’ busy lifestyles have made it difficult to cook as much as they used to, McCormick has remained relevant to consumers since its founding in 1889.

Over time, the company has quietly updated its line with proprietary seasoning blends, sauces, marinades—and new packaging. Economic down-turns have consumers turning to McCormick in increasing numbers, as they eat out less and cook at home more. McCormick’s business is booming as a result.

Hot new additions have been getting a lot of buzz. McCormick still offers its basic line of herbs and spices packaged with its famous red label and cap, updated, yet retaining its heritage brand identity. Responding to trends well, McCormick offers additional lines of new products. A gourmet line of more exotic selections, including some organic selections, is packaged with distinctive sage green cap and black and gold labels, depicting natural herb plants and spices. The line is marketed to people who “cook with love and passion”.

The striking “Grinders” line, gives consumers a touch of “gourmet” for their home-cooked meals. By designing bottles with inset grinders, consumers are offered the ultimate freshness. They can grind just the right amount of black peppercorns, sea salt or blended seasonings. No need to spend more money on expensive spices and mills from a specialty store or catalog.

Ethnic seasoning blends, Grill Mates, Slow Cooker Soups and Crusting Blends are all designed to help the time-strapped home cook make flavorful, home-cooked meals in a short period of time. All are packaged to effectively deliver a short, targeted message at a glance.

The company offers great recipes, tips and ideas for the home cook in a highly navigable web site and invites customers to join the site to share their own favorite recipes and tips with other readers, forming a community for cooking enthusiasts in the process.

Result? McCormick maintains its position as the largest spice company in the world with $2.9 billion in sales in 2007; 10% of that volume coming from the introduction of its new products. The company has elevated customer perception with gourmet style products and met the critical threshold of cooks’ expectations while offering greater value. Why buy competitors’ products or cheaper generics?

How about Method’s packaging? Method’s environmentally-safe home and personal use cleaning products feature beautifully-designed, clear packaging on many of its products. Packaging for the entire Method line has the look and feel of upscale cosmetic packaging. Talk about experiential!

An examination of environmental cleaning products shows that there’s a great deal of similar bill-board-type packaging in the category. Only Method’s packaging is strikingly different. Contemporary, clean, refreshing. As Method’s web site states: “(co-founder) Eric (Ryan) knew people wanted cleaning products they didn't have to hide under their sinks”. Not only does this product claim cleaning effectiveness and safety, it’s meant to be seen. What a concept for commodity products!

While a number of eco-conscious cleaning products are on the market now, why is it that Method has garnered nearly a whopping $100 million in sales in a slow-growth category? Why is it that the brand has also created a community of avid brand loyalists? Products that are made to be seen, are obviously grabbed and used more. More product used, faster repeat sales. Since there are myriad cleaning products on the market, including eco-friendly options, it’s apparent that Method’s experiential packaging accounts for part of the brand’s stunning success.

Let’s face it: packaging that delivers a great experience is enjoyable and memorable to consumers. Removing customer frustration, and potential sources of disappointment, while unlocking the relevant drivers around branded products that fulfill customer expectations and help them reach their goals, can best be delivered by packaging. It can—and should--seal the deal, leading to that elusive brand loyalty.

Ted Mininni is president of Design Force Inc., the leading brand design consultancy to consumer product companies with Enjoyment Brands™. Design Force helps clients market brands that deliver positive, gratifying experiences by connecting consumers to brands emotionally with compelling visual brand experiences. Design Force, Inc. can be reached at 856-810-2277, or online at