Package Design Systems: A Winning Consumer Strategy
Package design can no longer be approached
as a one-off challenge requiring a solution. That approach does not
leverage the full power of brands because it fails to lead to consumer
brand recognition. Translation: missed opportunity to build additional
sales and to reinforce consumer trust and loyalty attributes.
As companies strategize, plan and package
new products or assess current products that need revitalization, they
should be thinking in terms of developing an overall package design
strategy. Given the plethora of consumer products crowding every category,
intensifying competition in the marketplace and lessening consumer loyalty,
failure to develop a system, may lead to sluggish sales, or outright
failure for products that carry high expectations.
All of the advertising and multiple platform
marketing in the world cannot ensure the success of poorly packaged
products. Media campaigns are designed to bring consumers into retail
stores to look for specific brands. However, consumers scanning shelves
in stores make a purchase decision very often at the point of sale,
when confronted with myriad competitive products in tangible form.
The last three feet and several seconds
to the retail shelf make or break the sale. That’s how crucial packaging
is to the consumer in making a final purchase decision. That’s how
important it is for consumer product manufacturers to get it right.
With increasing pressure to maintain sales during periods of economic
downturns, it’s more important than ever to invest in a viable package
design system and standardized style guide for every brand. Right now.
A brand’s most powerful assets are
uncovered by conducting research. Its overt and hidden drivers must
be uncovered to enable packaging to align the brand with consumers’
needs and aspirations. Then, tapping into cultural and lifestyle drivers
reach the targeted consumer on an emotional level. All of these considerations
take place during the pre-design research process.
Armed with profound brand and consumer
insights, and finding the place where they intersect, enables package
design experts, in collaboration with product manufacturers to develop
an overall strategy as they revitalize packaging, add line extensions
or fill pipeline with new products. That strategy should lead to the
development of package design systems and style guides.
Functional package design systems and
standardization through style guides lead to visual consistency. Visual
consistency leads consumers to immediate brand and product recognition.
When a properly positioned brand identity, graphic architecture, color,
artwork, structure and communication hierarchy are part of a cohesive
system, packaging maximizes the retail presence of a brand. Furthermore,
it enhances the experience consumers have with the brand.
Sounds simple. In theory, it is; in practice
it’s anything but. In many companies there is a tacit understanding
that packaging has cost and revenue implications, as well as profit
potential. However, due to demands from various managers, sales and
marketing executives, conflicting demands arise that sometimes leads
to that less than desirable scenario: one-off packaging. Likewise, when
packaging products in various categories a number of issues arise, and
those often lead to making final design decisions that result in one-off
packaging. Again: it is best to avoid this result.
Package design systems and style guides
help avoid these inherent problems during the process, save time and
maximize the packaging development spend. A well-developed style guide
takes the guesswork out of packaging new products by standardizing,
yet allowing for flexibility.
Package Design System Components.
Key package design system components
include: brand and sub-brand identities, package design architecture,
segmentation, imagery and brand communications. By establishing consistency
in these areas, and standardizing them within style guides, package
designers and manufacturers basically give themselves working blueprints.
The resulting packaging enables consumers to connect across the brand’s
entire product line.
Consistency and standardization do not
have to be boring. In fact, companies should consider developing structural
packaging that becomes “ownable”. Distinctive package structures
can be developed for each product category. Remember that people are
primarily visual, and as shoppers, they are making purchase decisions
in a scant 4-6 seconds. Few packages on the retail shelf can be scanned
in that period of time—experts say that consumers take in five or
fewer. Packaging structure that involves a distinctive shape, graphic
architecture and color palette enables consumers to easily and readily
identify a specific brand. How important is that in a few seconds?
The brand identity, graphics and color
used in a consistent manner for each product segment are crucial. Key
brand communications in a well-designed hierarchy are easy to scan and
quickly convey the information consumers want. Product imagery that
speaks to the consumer—“this brand and product is for me”—that
clearly identifies with the target consumer’s aspirations, desires,
needs and lifestyle choices, helps seal the deal.
Segmentation should also be part of a
package system strategy. Segmentation is necessary for packaged products
that target different consumer groups under the brand umbrella. With
a strategy in place for segmentation, all products can be packaged in
a readily identifiable and predictable manner to consumers as part of
the overall brand.
By taking package design components and
standardizing them in a style guide, the brand can be consistently leveraged.
Without style guides, companies make the costly mistake of developing
one-off packaging solutions and lose the consumer in the process. A
style guide also helps marketers to avoid making the mistake of emulating
competitors’ latest packaging rather than being consistent in their
own packaging. Constant packaging changes as a reaction to competition,
lead to customer confusion and have a detrimental effect on brand recognition.
Like everything else, revitalization
is necessary but it should be managed, planned and well executed. A
package design system and style guide take the present and future needs
for revitalization, as well as various products and their package shapes,
sizes and materials into account. A style guide makes provisions for
a number of product segments. Marketing segments due to new product
lines that appeal to various consumer demographics, behaviors, attitudes,
or combinations of these require packaging variations that should also
be allowed for in a standardized style guide.
Packaging is one of the most important
consumer touch points for every brand. It is the only marketing vehicle
that actually delivers branded products to consumers in a tangible manner.
As such, packaging is one of the most important parts of the overall
brand expression continuum. So why leave it to one-off solutions?
Isn’t it time to invest in immediate
visual recognition in a marketplace that has become a sea of sameness?
Isn’t it worth investing in a package design system and a standardized
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.