Packaging a Compelling Customer Experience.

Article

“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 www.designforceinc.com

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