Rethinking Package Design


Why is consumer product packaging still

viewed by many as a billboard? Its primary purpose to stand out on the

retail shelf with bold graphics and brand color? Its reason for being

to contain product? To entice the consumer to pick it up and purchase

it vs competitors’ products in crowded retail environments? 

It’s time to change this prevalent

thinking. Packaging as 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. Yes,

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? 

The 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, consumers want to interact with

the brand it represents over and over again. Rather than containing

mundane products they need to use, consumer packaging can deliver something

so extraordinary, it adds enjoyment and pleasure—thus a value-added

perception--to everyday items. So much so, that it never gets tucked


Rethinking package design can lead to

an all-important second moment of truth (SMOT) with consumers. Adding

a new aesthetic to functionality can accomplish that.

Designing a Total Customer Experience.

For many consumer product companies,

the emphasis is on product innovation, sales and marketing. As it should

be. Yet, a key element is missing. That element is design.  

Design should really be the overall driving

force in consumer product companies. A few companies have taken this

idea and made it reality, enjoying great success. Think: Apple. It’s

readily apparent that Apple has a top-down design philosophy. It works

well since the company also has a bottom-up consumer-centric focus.

The two work in tandem. Apple puts the consumer first and then works

to design great user experiences.  

With design-oriented thinking, stunning

new products and brand new categories have been made possible. Products,

product packaging, marketing and customer service are so well designed,

seamless, congruous and unique—they elicit the “wow factor” from

jaded consumers. iPod. iPhone. We can only anticipate what’s coming


Embracing design and integrating it into

marketing, IT, R&D, manufacturing, sales and customer care departments

is a challenge, requiring courage. Yet, every corporate employee can

and should be integrated into the design process. Not all of them are

involved in the actual design of products, services or packaging. But

they are all involved in designing the customer’s overall experience

in one way or another. Think of every department within the corporate

structure as being in the design business!  

Some of the most successful consumer

product companies in the world have a design-centric philosophy. IKEA.

Williams-Sonoma. Nintendo. Disney. Other organizations have come to

the party more recently. Like Procter & Gamble. Since taking over

as CEO at P&G, Alan Lafley has steadily worked to incorporate design

into the entire company. In an interview, Lafley once stated: “We

want to design the purchasing experience. . .we want to design every

component of the product; and we want to design the communication experience

and the user experience. I mean, it’s all design. . .” 

Lafley then named P&G marketing veteran

Claudia Kotchka, his first VP for Design Innovation and Strategy. Ms.

Kotchka promptly began changing P& G into what she called “a design-centric

culture”. It’s no small feat to integrate right-brained design thinking

into left-brained management personnel; especially in an organization

with a long-ingrained mindset and practices, but that’s exactly what

Kotchka did.  

She also fearlessly integrated inside

design staff with outside design consultants, to produce the best results

possible. As she prepares to retire, expect her successor to pick up

where Kotchka leaves off. 

The payoff of design-centricity? The

emergence of new product innovations, new categories—and even new

brands. Swiffer. Febreze. Crest White Strips. The upshot? As these broke

new ground, they weren’t sent out into the world without paying attention

to the experiential and design aspects of their brands, and they’ve

been tweaked as they’ve gone along.  


“Always within reach”.  . .

When Febreze first hit store shelves,

it had great distribution thanks to P&G’s enormous retail and

advertising clout. But after consumers used it for awhile, the fabric

odor eater wasn’t being used as often as P&G would have liked.

Hence, a sales slow-down.  

Being customer experience oriented, P&G

marketers realized that consumers were using Fabreze in experimental

ways in their homes. Result? Febreze air fresheners, plug-ins, candles

and ingenious pairings with other P&G detergents and household cleaners.

Sales have gone through the roof and Febreze is now poised to become

the next 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 make the

latest Febreze line extensions stand-outs. Fresh, aromatherapy scents

are beautifully captured in soft graphics that whisper to consumers.  

No billboards here. In laundry care aisles

packed with an splashy, bold, primary-colored billboard packaging, Febreze

Décor Collection is, literally, a breath of fresh air. Easy to spot

on retail shelves. Quick to establish a connection with consumers. The

threshold for the first moment of truth is easily met here. 

The clear intention? To take Febreze

products out of cupboards or closets, enabling consumers to openly display

the beautifully-designed containers in their homes. The Décor Collection

web page unabashedly states: “Shameless display of freshness” and

“New uplifting freshness is always within reach”. How brilliant

is this? 

No “out of sight—out of mind” where

these products are concerned. Consumers’ SMOT are fully engaged here.

With a product this beautifully displayed, Febreze provides visual enjoyment.

Better yet, it will be picked up and used with far more frequency than

ever before, hence, faster repeat purchases.  

If more consumer product companies start

thinking in terms of designing the overall customer experience, and

rethinking package design like this, they will deliver their brands

in the most engaging manner.  

Accomplishing this may take an outside-in,

rather than inside-out perspective, meaning that brand managers might

benefit from working more with outside design consultants who can bring

fresh insights to the table. Preferably, outside design talent that

can work seamlessly with inside design departments. But the result of

collaboration can be great. Just ask P&G. 

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