The holy grail of package design is interactivity. If your package makes shoppers stop, and, joy-of-joys, handle it for closer inspection, it’s a guaranteed moneymaker! I’ve looked critically at thousands of food and beverage packages and few of them break through the barriers to shoppers’ consciousness. The ones that stand out aren’t just eye candy. Their designers have thought through some of the tough challenges to engagement.
Here are five relatively simple things you can do to boost the engagement power of your own packaging.
Visibility Sells. In the olden days, which means before you and I can remember, people routinely selected their foods, both dry and fresh, on the basis of visual inspection. One of the drawbacks of packaging was that it precluded this critical dimension of consumer interactivity. It gave rise to branding as a marketing science to reassure the customer on quality, appearance, and taste without the need for actual inspection.
The fish-shaped die cut and wave patterns in the window are not only engaging, but help convey the message that this manufacturer is not hiding anything from its customers.
In some categories, for example produce, pasta, grains, beverages and sauces, clear packaging has evolved that still permits us to admire our foods before we purchase. In others, we have become used to the opacity of the prevalent packaging forms. Yet now and then a marketer figures out how to differentiate from his or her competitors on this basis by changing the packaging structure to allow visual access.
Above is a terrific example of packaged seafood where not only can you see the end product, but it’s presented in an arresting and relevant context.
Transparent film in the shark's mouth area shows a jaw full of colorful fun! That's cute and engaging for kids of all ages.
Candy is often visible in its packaging; even so, this manufacturer has gone a step further by using the package as a demonstrator of sorts, to emphasize the fun and carefree nature of the candy experience.
By presenting Tostitos chips in a serving suggestion context, this clever package design invites visual engagement.
Finally, the Tostitos chip package manages to place the product in a visual context that is one step closer to actual consumption! This is simple but very exciting stuff and I’d bet dollars to doughnuts the sales impact has been positive.
QR Codes have gotten a lot of buzz over the last year, but in spite of their potential, it’s still hard to find really good examples of their use. These codes are cheap to create and place on packages, and ridiculously easy for consumers to access with a smart phone. The problem seems to be a lack of planning in giving shoppers a reason to bother with them. Hint: it’s about overlaying your needs as a marketer with value you can provide customers.
(Need a QR Code reader? Download one quickly from the iTunes store that works for iPhones and iPod Touch. Here’s one that lets you specify your phone and gives you a compatible app.)
For example, if your goal is to induce trial or respond to a competitor’s offer, two very good reasons for traditional couponing, you could offer a mobile coupon via QR code. This publication by the Mobile Marketing Association, though a few years old, is a very good reference on mobile couponing.
On the other hand, if your category is hard to shop, with significant and substantive choice between varieties, a QR code could pay off with category information that can’t be provided on pack due to space limitations.
Below is an example of an otherwise boring looking package with an excellent QR payoff in a site full of recipes and nutrition information. Go ahead and scan this code right from the screen image below!
Go ahead and scan this code. It's not a waste of time.
And here is one I find a waste of time as a consumer. It takes you to the brand web site where you are free to browse for recipes. Do they really expect customers to search through a web site while standing in the supermarket aisle? This approach does not respect the customers’ interests and is likely to turn them off from further use of QR codes.
This package employed a QR code without having fully considered customer engagement issues.
In addition to couponing and web site linking, QR codes can be used to show videos, promote contests, download pdf documents and more. Regrettably, a recent study showed that only 18% of those who scanned the codes found the information from them useful. Fortunately, consumers are still adopting QR reader technology and there is time to turn these tags into a valuable tool for engagement.
Multicultural Awareness. We’ve all heard that by 2050, Hispanics will outnumber non-Hispanics in the US marketplace. But you don’t have to wait till then to start inviting this burgeoning ethnic minority to your brand party. Hispanics already wield over a trillion dollars in purchasing power with a per capita spend that’s up 108% over the last decade (compared with 49% for the mainstream majority segment).
Depending somewhat on their country-of-origin heritage and generational status, Hispanics are known to be adventurous in their taste preferences, and to consume a wide variety of foods in addition to culturally traditional dishes. They are also known to respond strongly to communications in their heritage language. At a minimum your package might provide product name and flavor/variety information in Spanish. If you’re serious about this segment you can invest considerably more in a Hispanic packaging strategy.
It's not hard to show your awareness of Latino culture in the marketplace. But beware: it's easy to offend when you proceed without genuine understanding. Cultural traditions and basic Spanish vocabulary vary widely from country to country. Although it is tempting to rely upon a bilingual employee for advice, a Pan-Hispanic approach requires expert guidance and translation.
Be forewarned: if you provide any of the FDA required package information (including name, ingredients, nutritional information etc.) in Spanish, you must provide all of it as such. Don’t tell anyone you heard it here, but if you look closely, you’ll find this requirement is often overlooked.
Health Oriented Claims. By law, food packages must be truthful. But there is significant leeway in the interpretation of a number of health-oriented label claims; the result is that less healthy products can sometimes be made to seem more healthy than less aggressively marketed competitors.
As a product marketer, it’s your job to know the limits of the claims you are allowed to make before doing your final copy edit, and you’ve got to make those decisions in the competitive context of your own category.
For example, if there is the least bit of whole wheat added into a refined flour recipe, some manufacturers will legally claim their product is “made with whole grain.”
Not just whole wheat, 11 grams of whole wheat!
Wheat Thins brand crackers, on the other hand, make the more substantive claim that there are 11 g whole grain in every 31g serving.
Fat-Free is defined by the FDA to mean less than .5 grams of fat per serving with no added fat or oil; therefore a small serving size of oil (by definition, a fat) can be advertised as “fat-free.” This is a favorite strategy of faux-butter products and spray on pan lubes.
There are definitions for comparison terms as well. To make a claim of “less” in regard to the nutritional content of one product vs. another, there must be a 25% or more differential in the content of the reference nutrient.
And if your product contains 20% or more of the daily value for a given nutrient per serving, you may legally claim it is high, rich in, or an excellent source of that nutrient.
The rules are complex but clearly enumerated by the FDA, and readily available online. Especially if you are a small manufacturer, know them well to find your competitive stance!
And if your product is truly a healthy one, consider referring to the government’s new MyPlate guidelines. Remember, fruits, vegetables, grains and proteins all play a role in a healthy diet.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, a healthy diet is built on fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy. Does your product support a healthy diet?
Engagement 101: Good Design and Compelling Copy. It’s shocking how often manufacturers overlook the traditional foundations of packaging that sells, especially smaller firms that can’t rely on a half dozen or more facings to create a brand block on a crowded shelf. A professional package design firm knows how to maximize your shelf presence with color, graphics, typestyles, and more. They’ll test their concepts in a competitive environment to account for rival packaging strategies. They’ll make sure the eyeball’s landing point and scanning pattern is productive. And they’ll craft messaging that differentiates the brand, communicates personality, and incentivizes engagement. This is not a job for your marketing coordinator, your secretary or your sister the English major.
Great product name. Strong graphic design. This is a compelling proposition on shelf, especially in a crowded category.
We love the above tea package for its quirky but friendly brand name, it’s plain but tea-serious imagery and honest type. It seems everything a tea package should be, yet looks like no other tea package on the shelf!
You'd have to be blind not to notice this package.
Try ignoring this coffee package, I dare you! Bold and atypical, the designer of this package distilled the critical elements down to a minimum: the brand name and descriptor (Joe Coffee), and the common category color of red. Pour me a cup now!
Here’s a new brand identity and packaging for a snack food from my firm, Goldforest. I think it’s fair to say that this package will help shoppers quickly understand that Apple Rumble offers a crunchy, flavorful and healthy snack time experience.
I hope you’ll agree that these ideas are simple enough to implement but have the potential to impact sales of your product. There are many other tactics you can employ. Feel free to comment with your own ideas and examples!
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