I have always been amused by the notion that snack food companies confuse consumers with the word original as if it were a flavor. From General Mills, Frito Lays and ConAgra Foods to almost every other brand, the word original shows up as if it is
a flavor when of course it refers to the original product.
|Original Sun Chips|
|Original David Sunflower Seeds|
|Original Ruffles (with ridges)|
confuse the consumer? What does the original flavor of Lays potato chips taste
like? It isn’t barbecue or salt and pepper or spicy chili cheese. Original isn't a flavor and until recently, most brands made this confusing packaging error. Recently, some perceptive marketing brand managers figured this out and have changed the designation to Original Recipe, Original Mix or dropped original and instead used the word Classic. Bravo.
Package design is an art and great package design is a joy
to behold. How can you be truly original in creating a package? I have been involved in dozens of packaging projects in my consumer packaged goods career. Working with a great firm is important like the folks at Cornerstone Strategic Branding in NYC. Smart guys like Chris Nunes, their CEO, can be enormously helpful at providing strategic structure and discipline in the design process. Check out their portfolio to see how to do it right.
From my work with Chris and others, I have created eight rules to serve as a guide for this type of work. Some are quite obvious and others more subtle. I’d love your comments on
Always design the
package with your target in mind. If you are selling fifty some, remember
that you want them to be able to read the font so keep in mind who your
audience will be.
|Can your target read your copy?|
Mock it up and put it
in context. It is so critical that you see how your beautiful design looks
in the store. The idea of doing design work in an office without seeing it on the shelf is just
stupid. If you have three competitors use black, why would you want to blur into the
same void? In the picture below, if I told you to get me the shampoo in the red package, you are at least at the brand family.
|How does your product look in context?|
Is it clear that you
have your message priorities straight? What is the primary message you want
to communicate? What’s secondary, etc. Many consumers may not know what is in
the bag (or box) so sometimes the product category may be more important than
the brand name in size. Is this cat food or dog food? Prioritize your prime message. Some marketers refer to this as a decision tree. For example: I want cat food. I want natural cat food. I will consider 3 brands. I want tuna flavor. I want a small bag.
|What's the first level of your product decision tree?|
How can you be
different? If your package looks like everyone else, how can you grab
attention? Study the competition. Do they use illustration or photography? Are
they filled with text and no pictures or vice versa? Figure out how you can be
distinctive. (I'm the upside down can)
|We are upside down!|
Send Grandma into the
store. There is an old adage in
marketing about making sure your grandmother could go to the store and bring
home your brand. What incredibly distinctive and idiosyncratic aspect of design
can give you that hook? Grandma will bring home the right artificial sweeter if
you ask for the pink one. If you ask her to get POM brand of pomegranate juice,
you can describe the unique figure 8 shaped bottle. Own something.
|Can Grandma find your brand?|
Who (or what) is the
hero? Is the product the hero or is
there something about the brand that is a bigger part of your message? As you look at various designs, keep in mind
what you are selling. Sometimes what is for sale is more important than
the product. Think benefits to the target not features. Are you selling
ingredients mixed together or are you selling the convenience of an easy meal? Conveying convenience is a different message than describing what is in the box.
|Clever and distinctive figure 8 design|
What does the package structure communicate about your brand? There
are PET (plastic) wine bottles that hold 750 ml of wine like a standard bottle
but they look about 30% smaller since they use less material than glass. Does
this work with your brand image or against it? For an eco-wine it might be an
asset but for a value brand, it could make you look like you are the same price
but smaller. Size and the physical structure matter.
|What is the root of your brand ethos? |
Is your design too
professional? When my wife and I
started selling our brownies in the freezer case, instead of going to a
professional design firm, we did it ourselves. This is often a big mistake but
we studied the section and found everything looked the same- beautifully
designed. We wanted to convey homemade so we created a look and feel that felt
exactly like the ethos of the brand. Sometimes in a world of great design, the
amateur can stand out. I remember Ben Cohen from Ben & Jerry's telling me once that he thought his unprofessional and amateurish packaging design was one of the reasons that consumers could easily find his product on the shelf. It didn't look like other well-designed products.
|Does your package structure tell reinforce your brand position?|
So how can you be an original? Don't follow the herd. Be different but make sure your target consumer knows what you are selling.
|Do you stand apart from your competitors?|
One final package design anecdote, many years ago my wife asked me to get some things for her at the drug store. It was a pretty easy trip and I found everything but got hung up one item. She wanted me to find feminine napkin product under the well-known brand Stayfree. There were about 32 choices. Her shopping list said that on the package it will be described as NOT-BELTLESS. To this day, I am still confused. Does that mean with a belt or without?
Tighten up your communication through clear package design.
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Labels: Ben and Jerry, Brand Architectures, decision tree in packaging, Marketing Moments, package design advice