Chapter 2:
Who Uses Packaging Design Research? Not Just CPG’s Anymore.

While it is true that Consumer Packaged Goods companies may rely on packaging insights more than other industries, packaging design research is highly relevant for many industries. Electronics, toys and games, pharmaceutical, sporting goods, small appliances and others all rely on packaging design to stand out and communicate imagery, meaningful benefits and evoke emotional responses.

For electronics, functionality and imagery will be keys to appealing to teens. Pharma products must convey efficacy clearly showing relevant benefits. Infant products must instill confidence while also tapping into mom’s emotions. And espresso machines must communicate a premium image. The one common element, however, is they must all stand out in-store and in an e-commerce environment.

Retailers also conduct packaging design research for private label products. Their goals are the same as branded products and often their package designs are very similar to the leading brands. Product benefits may also be similar but can include attributes such as value for money or “premium” store brand status. While retailers have the advantage of experimenting within their own environment, they will often conduct package research in advance.

Regardless of industry and where they are sold, all products must penetrate literally hundreds of distractions to stand out and must ensure their communication connects and motivates buyers.

The best packaging research experts will recognize these varying criteria and combine techniques to ensure optimal development and accurate measurement.

Why Invest in Packaging Design Research?

Packaging has a big job to do! It must attract and connect with shoppers, clearly communicate product benefits, convey your brand image and evoke an emotional response, just to name a few.

However, packaging research can be a missed step due to competing priorities, tight timelines or a sense that packaging is easier to execute using existing expertise. This may be a missed opportunity or a disaster for the brand!

A few simple questions can help you decide if packaging research is worth the investment or worth the risk of not doing it.

First, how confident are you that your packaging is optimized to drive sales?

Start with how well your package breaks through on shelf. There may be multiple entries, formats, sizes, varieties all of which will impact ease of finding your brand. This is one of the most important roles of your package. A package design that stands out on shelf and clearly communicates relevant benefits, both functional and emotional, can make the difference in shoppers choosing your brand.

Despite multiple elements, shoppers will only view three. Avoid clutter as too many elements decreases engagement. On average, only 15-35% of products are scanned by shoppers. Subconscious “codes” such as color, shape, size, icons and faces all help simplify navigation so shoppers easily find your package. Remember, unseen is unsold!

woman wearing eye tracking glasses shopping for groceries

Secondly, are budget demands resulting in shrinking marketing dollars?

In today’s challenging environment with increasing pressures on budgets, your package may be the only point of communication with your consumer. In these cases, your package must work even harder to be seen and connect with consumers. And if you do advertise, the package is featured in most brand communication. Your package must effectively carry your messaging through to the shopping and usage environments.

Thirdly, are you planning changes to your business?

A decline in sales or failure to grow will, of course, trigger the need to analyze all angles of your business to decide what changes are needed. But, there are certain situations where packaging should always be considered.

  1. Innovation: Any new product development process should include packaging research phases. This is particularly important when entering a new category or a new segment of a category where your knowledge base is more limited.
  2. Brand revitalization – time to update a tired brand. Package changes in these situations are higher risk. It is critical to maintain existing users while gaining new ones. Your package cues – color, shape, logos – all play a vital role in brand recognition for current users. At the same time, you need to increase relevance for new users. It’s a fine balance between knowing the elements to keep and which to change. Research will play a critical role in minimizing risk.
  3. New communication strategy. A change in your communication strategy requires changes to all consumer touchpoints. Once you have validated your new strategy, it must be effectively executed across all major elements, including the package. This can include master brand strategy, sub-branding/headings or a change in brand positioning.
  4. Changes in the landscape. A change in competition, retail environment, consumer needs/trends or Government Regulations will drive a need to change your packaging. These all should be regularly monitored and, if you determine changes to your packaging are required, research will help you effectively evolve.
  5. Acquisitions: At times there is a need to fold an acquired business into your portfolio. In these cases, a transition plan is needed and packaging is one of the most important vehicles to plan. The risk is high in these situations where you must maintain the existing value of the brand while bringing new benefits to consumers.

The above situations do not cover every example of when you may change your packaging or conduct packaging research. And, it doesn’t mean packaging research is needed for every package. The key is determining when the risk of not doing research is highest.

In Chapter 3 we examine how technologies like eye tracking are enabling better package design research.