Toning down the noise


(image © Post)

I always find grocery shopping an enlightening experience. As a packaging designer, I can't help but wander the aisles looking for new and interesting products, trends, techniques, etc. Lately, I've been noticing that several brands have been "toning-it-down" in aisle. There's less "shouting" and more emphasis on clean, attractive design focusing on 1 main message. Some aisles, which tend to cause sensory overload, are slowly becoming a bit more refined. In the cereal aisle, for example, I recently noticed the new Grape Nuts packaging, with a smaller logo and macro photography, surrounded by lots of white space.


(image © Tide)

In the laundry aisle (another bastion of color and over-sized logos) Tide has introduced several line extensions with simplified graphics and (gasp!) smaller logos.

Perhaps these companies have realized that when there's too much clutter, no message gets across. Or maybe it's the influence of more premium brands which tend to have a cleaner look. I don't know the answer, but I like it!

After a little online research, I found 2 articles on Shelf Impact that indicate we may be witnessing the beginning of a new trend.

(Articles after the jump)

Rethinking package design beyond the billboard

By Ted Mininni, President, Design Force Inc.

Why is consumer product packaging still viewed by many as a billboard? For its primary purpose, to stand out on the retail shelf with bold graphics and brand color? For its reason for being, to contain product? Or, to entice the consumer to pick it up and purchase it rather than competitors' products in crowded retail environments?

It's time to change this prevalent thinking. Packaging as a billboard is yesterday's idea. Today, we need to think beyond packaging as advertising space. Yes, it is essential to get, and keep, consumers' attention in retail environments. It's also true that packaging has to refer back to the brand and communicate that brand's unique attributes. But does it really have to shout to do that? Or, is it better to whisper? In the midst of the chaotic din at retail, what are consumers more likely to notice?


Here's my point: Consumers are far more sophisticated now, and they are looking for something they can relate to. That something is packaging that is so well-designed that consumers want to interact with the brand it represents over and over again. Rather than containing mundane products consumers need to use, consumer packaging can deliver something so extraordinary that it adds enjoyment and pleasure. In this scenario, the package becomes a value-added perception for everyday items—so much so that it never gets tucked away.

Rethinking package design can lead to an all-important Second Moment of Truth (SMOT) with consumers—when they interact with the product. Adding a new aesthetic to functionality can bring success at the SMOT.

Look what is occurring at Procter & Gamble. Being customer-experience oriented, P&G marketers realized that consumers were using Febreze in experimental ways in their homes. As a result, Febreze air fresheners, plug-ins, candles, and ingenious pairings with other P&G detergents and household cleaners came about. Febreze is now poised to become a billion-dollar brand for P&G.

Now, P&G has leveraged its design-forward mentality to launch the Febreze Décor Collection to rave reviews. Stylish, clear packaging, with beautiful botanical or raindrop graphics, makes the latest Febreze line extensions stand out on shelves. Fresh aromatherapy scents are captured beautifully in soft graphics that whisper to consumers.


There are no billboards here. In laundry-care aisles packed with splashy, bold, and primary-colored billboard packaging, the Febreze Décor Collection is, literally, a breath of fresh air. It's easy to spot on shelves, and it connects quickly with consumers. The threshold for the First Moment of Truth—when the consumer chooses the product—is easily met here.


Savvy brands quietly toning down the aisle 'noise'

By Jim George, Editor

At one of our recent Shelf Impact! Package Design Workshops, I had a conversation with a design manager for a well-known marketer of consumer products. Her company has engaged in lively internal discussions about toning down the "noise" in today's crowded retail stores and wondered whether other companies were tackling this very topic.

She has plenty of company in this thinking.

Recently, a few marketers have begun to realize that they will lose the consumer's attention if they continue attempts to "shout" over competing brands. Today's consumers are savvier than ever. They can see right through yesterday's marketing keywords such as "new" and "improved," and they are searching for meaningful brand connections.

These observations bring me to a presentation at the FUSE conference that I recently attended. Eric Reynolds, Director of Marketing for Household Cleaning Products at Clorox Co., made the point that "the home-cleaning aisle in the grocery store is an unbelievable zoo, a complete and utter train wreck." It's a $7 billion category—with marketers at 480 consumer product companies pushing 7,200 home-cleaning products in all.

"Home-cleaning is one of the most anti-consumer places you'll find in the store," Reynolds continued. "We have all this hyperbolic language in our category. We're power and more power."

Clorox worked past this single-minded thinking by revisiting the notion that a brand is an idea and not just a functional product. As Reynolds said, "We have volumes of consumer data, but no wisdom." So the company watched its consumers clean, noting both what they said and did during the process, to understand their motivation for cleaning. Then Clorox interpreted that motivation.

The results, reflected in both packaging and at, celebrate the Clorox consumer's "cleaner home, healthier lives." "She's germ-minded and thinks more broadly about family health," Reynolds says. "She is all about life's possibilities."

Packaging helps transform the Clorox consumer's cleaning mind-set from drudgery to happiness. The result? Clorox has added two points of market share with this new approach, Reynolds noted.

The takeaway here for brand owners is that all too often they find themselves in a shouting match with competitors simply because that's what they've always done. Be alert to such marketing traps and circumvent them by talking respectfully, rather than shouting, to your brand's consumers.