Welcome, there are many websites and blogs that show great package design, in this blog I hope to express my views and discuss issues concerning branding and packaging design in more depth. You are very welcome to join in the conversation.

Please visit me at http://rhpkg.wordpress.com

Monday, June 27, 2011

Why is it that some brands are always leaders, and others are always followers? Why is it that some brands are always successful, whilst others are not?

In our company Design Board, we have a saying: “It’s not the things we look at, but the way we look at things”. Behind this phrase there is a deep philosophy, rather like saying, “Is the glass half empty or is it half full” it implies that the way in which you look at something determines what you see and how you will react to what you see.

For us this means that any design project has to start with and audit and analysis of a brand, it’s competition, the category and market within which it has to perform. For it is only by going through the process of looking at our client’s brands in an objective way that we can have an clear view that, exposes problems or opportunities, which can help create real success in the market.

We also understand the need to be aware of the market conditions that surround our work, for example, in these difficult times of financial crisis, crucial to building success, is understanding the motivations of our client’s main client: The consumer. With more than 50% of consumers today spending less than before the crisis, consumers are clearly shopping with much more attention and care than ever before. Cocooning themselves against the crisis means, they go out less, they eat at home more often and have changed their buying habits. We see consumers, trading up to more premium products, to treat or reward themselves, and trading down to value products, where they can to save money on everyday purchases. Of course, the end result is that there is a real pressure on the already shrinking middle market.

Then there are private labels who, continue to grow in strength every year since the 1960’s, crisis or no crisis. They too have responded to the needs of the consumer by expanding the classic three-tier offer (premium, mainstream and value), to many different and specific tiers of product positioning and by developing quality products and packaging that attract consumers by directly answering consumers changing values. They do this because they understand clearly, whether consumers shop for brands or private labels, their buying behaviour has been radically influenced by the economic crisis. But is also, is being shaped by many other factors related to the insecurity of the financial climate, including more focus on family, health, nutrition, quality, and a desire for familiarity and trust.

Clearly, private labels will continue to develop and improve their offer, and we will see from them much more investment in creating quality products, in building their brands, by improving packaging and starting to create brands and with it real brand equity with consumers that consumers will inevitably come to value.

Already, different surveys throughout the world show that around two thirds of consumers think that private labels are real brands, not coming from the supermarket at all, this perception making competition even more fierce on the shelf.

So how do I see the future for manufacturer brands? With the prospect of a shrinking middle market, a more aggressive private label offer, you may well ask, how can the manufacturer brand survive?

First, I believe brands need to realise that “their brand is their business, much more than their product is”, products can and will be copied by the retailer and ‘will’ be sold cheaper. Only by investing in the brand itself, offers the chance of security and longevity by answering the consumer’s need for familiarity and trust. By investing in building your brand, you will not be linked to a single product type, which will give you the added opportunity to be flexible and adaptable to the changing needs of the consumer, putting your company in a position to create new and exciting offers and potentially expand the brand portfolio.

Secondly, brands will need to re-define what it is they sell. Are you in an area of stiff competition with private labels or do you have something original and different to offer? If you do, I would suggest that these are the areas to focus on. You will need to weed out your weaker offers so that you can concentrate your spending only on your strongest brands. This will in turn allow you to be in a position to invest in equity building for these chosen brands, by improving the consumer experience, innovation and creating real differentiation.

Thirdly, brands need to understand how the market has changed and redefine priorities. In my view, after getting your product and distribution right, branding and packaging should be your first priority. Why? Well, Unilever’s own research estimates that 62% of shopping trips are now quick trips, which implies that people are shopping for less time, but clearly more often. Add to this the fact that we know, two thirds of purchasing decisions are being made right there in the store, and packaging becomes your unique opportunity to speak to consumers on a daily basis, in an environment where your brand is on show every day, and in front of the consumer at every visit a consumer makes. Your packaging also becomes a part of a consumer’s life by being further exposed daily in the kitchen or on the breakfast table in the home. It’s no wonder in a recent article for The Design Management Institute in the USA, Rob Wallace wrote “Package design is the single most effective and cost efficient communicator of a brand’s core identity”

Retailers are well aware of this and consequently we have seen how they have built up their private label market share steadily over the years, by mainly using just the packaging as their main vehicle of communication. So, it just makes sense to invest on a much more serious level in your packaging if you are going to have a chance to play, ‘the same game on the same pitch’ as the retailers. For too long manufacturer brands have looked at packaging as the little brother to advertising and promotion, I say, it’s time for a change! Time to rethink a strategy that clearly isn’t working, when retail brands just keep on taking market share year on year.

Our philosophical phrase, “It’s not the things we look at, but the way we look at things”, allows us to be objective and gain a clear understanding of the changing market around us. We see that, whilst there was a time, when advertising ruled, when it was the principle vehicle for commanding the consumer’s attention, persuading them to go into the store and ask for a product by name. Today however, this has all changed, there is just too much media for a product to have such influence through advertising, too many TV channels, too many magazines, radio stations and websites etc... Supermarkets and hypermarkets have now become the place where consumers make their final choices, and the package has become the key player in influencing that choice.

Rowland Heming © June 2011

See also: http://rhpkg.wordpress.com

Friday, March 25, 2011

Package Design - The Next Ten Years

A quick search of the Web, will reveal a plethora of predictions and trend analysis that can be applied to many areas of design. So, when I was asked to write my point of view as to where package design is going in the next decade, I wanted to avoid repeating what has already be said, over and over again. Of course some of the trends that are around us cannot be ignored, and need to be included here. But in general, I would like to try to give my personal point of view of how I see the future, based not on a wet finger held up to the wind, but on my own experience of the past 40 something years in the profession and the active part I still play today.


First, I thought it would be interesting to go back to the question, ‘Why do we need packaging at all’, and to answer that, we need to travel a little bit back in time. Apart from all the obvious reasons concerning, product delivery; storage, shelf life and protection etc…, packaging products in small portable units came about, because it allowed the consumer to buy neat little portions of product, that were easy to carry home, use and store. But, these neat little portable units offered more than just practical advantages to consumers, they also offered to manufacturers, a way to communicate directly to their consumers, both in the store and in use, and in so doing opened the way for modern marketing to develop. So, here’s a first trend prediction from the past: Packaging will be continued to be exploited, in order to communicate directly to consumers! Yes, I know, that sounds obvious, and it is. But of course, it’s a little more complicated than that to communicate directly with consumers, because today, consumers are themselves are so much more complicated!

Mega trends:

As I said, there are many trend predictions posted throughout the media, that offer ‘mega’ trends which tell us that consumers are, on the one hand, looking for value, but on the other hand, wanting indulgence, that there are consumers who live with uncertainty and mistrust, but who balance this out by searching for authenticity and ethical choices. They tell us that, some of us need to be connected to a tribe or need to cocoon ourselves away, whilst there are others, called early adopters, who want to break out and explore. They tell us that, our modern lifestyle leaves us wanting convenience and fast track solutions, but that our guilt, leads us to seek health and wellness and me-time (or family time). You’ve read the books and articles, you’ve seen the movie, I don’t think I need to go there in too much depth, but more to the point, we do need to ask, what does all-this mean for packaging and the future?

The influence of society:

Well, it has to be said, that packaging is a media just like all the others, and as with most media, it will always reflect society, I think that’s a pretty safe to say, so there’s my second prediction! Packaging will continue to reflect the society we live in. But often, reflecting society means a sort of role reversal, that is to say, if we are in wartime, films become sentimental, if we are in a time of uncertainty they become bold and certain. A good example of this role reversal is the time of grey austerity, after the Second World War in the UK. The generation that followed exploded with colour and broke all the rules, giving birth to the Hippies, Mods and the Carnaby Street fashion of the sixties. We can now see a repeat of the same phenomena, in Eastern Europe following the fall of communism, where consumers in these regions prefer their packaging to be generally more colourful today, because of the austerity of the past and the need to reflect on the change that their society has undergone.

This then pre-supposes that; if we look for the changes in our society, which may occur in the next ten years, we should also be able to ascertain the future trends in packaging design?

The ‘mega’ trends, mentioned above, certainly will continue to apply (far be it for me to contradict all the clever minds that thought them up), but I do believe, they will only apply in differing degrees, in different regions of the world. Let’s just take a moment to see the big social changes we are experiencing and ‘humbly’, try to apply them to possible changes in package design trends. This will definitely not be an accurate science, but then, predicting never is. To put that in context: I still have the encyclopaedias I had as a boy in the 50’s, where it shows that by now we should be living in space age cities, travelling in cars that use some form non-specific pure energy and go from place to place in glass tubes high in the sky – so much for predictions!

However, it is clear that the world today is going through a re-balancing, it’s a time for generation change, the rulers and structures that shaped the post war world have begun to get old, and their dream societies (good or bad), have begun to fall apart. This has clearly been aided by the Internet, which has allowed most of the world to access, or at least, be informed about, what’s going on and what, in some cases, they are missing out on. In consequence, in the places where they have been missing out, there is a demand to be part of the action, and the current ‘haves’, are now finding that they have to share more with the ‘have-nots’. This shift is also bringing a huge demand on resources, as more and more the ‘have-nots’, begin to own what the ‘haves’, are used to having. It’s clear this trend is not going to go away and the consequences of all this re-balancing, is resulting in uncertainty and friction, on the one hand, and forward looking positivity and ambition on the other. Leaving one part of the world looking for re-assurance, and the other on a voyage of discovery.

In my career, in Western Europe, I have seen small shops replaced by corner supermarkets, corner supermarkets replaced by out of town complexes and now corner supermarkets coming back to fill the local gap (these are now called Hard Discounters). I’ve seen Theodore Levitt’s globalisation theory rise and then become diluted, as consumers strive for individuality, reacting against the rise of global retail sameness. Behind all this, I’ve also seen both the supermarkets and the major brands continue to expand their influence.

So, how will such changes in society affect packaging in the coming years? Here are some of my thoughts:


Petrol and oil are clearly becoming a significant expenditure in most Western households, therefore we may see consumers looking to save on their shopping journeys, thus, creating a trend towards local shopping. If this happens, it will allow for more diversity in the shopping experience (coupled with the desire to have more ethical and authentic products), which will, in turn, allow more space for niche products. In packaging terms, this translates to shorter print runs, the expansion of digital printing, greater colour flexibility and some room for more eclectic, and more consumer focussed designs.


We are all becoming aware of the great changes happening to our environment, catastrophic events and worries about pollution are driving us to seek sustainable and, let’s face it, more sensible solutions to the way we package and ship our products. There are now many initiatives, like the Courtauld Commitment in the UK*, which seeks to downsize, reduce, light-weight and re-cycle packaging, as well as looking to reduce shipping and with it, Co2 emissions. This trend of ‘minimalisation’ in packaging, will certainly continue over the coming years because, it not only is a responsible act, but in most cases it makes good commercial sense too.

Internet Shopping:

Shopping on the Internet continues to grow and, as we become more and more constrained and bored by the sameness of our shops and experience the pressures of petrol bills on our household economy, on-line shopping will offer an attractive and easy way out. For packaging (in its broadest sense), the Internet releases us from the constrains of the box or bottle – sizes become almost irrelevant, when there is no shelf, and the product experience becomes broader. So, my belief is that the Internet will drive design consultancies to re-look at their current model, and look for new ways to help clients market both on-line, in-store and on shelf.

Power to the people:

In truth, though we professionals like to think we are in charge of our brands, brands have always really only been owned by people, because the power of a brand exists only in the mind of its consumer. In the coming years this will, I believe become even more true. Brands that do not listen to their consumers, that do not pay attention to consumer’s needs and aspirations, will inevitably fall by the wayside. Marketing to a generation that is well educated and better informed than ever before demands honesty, transparency and accountability. Anything less will be exposed and derided instantly and on a global scale.

Ethical Responsibility:

There’s no-doubt, the Internet has allowed us to check up on brands, to hear dissenting voices and gain information that manufacturers didn’t want us to know. This ability to expose brands without their make-up on, has already made many brands look towards ethical sourcing, I would suggest, that this trend will continue, indeed, in many cases, here too a commercial advantage can be gained, either by promoting products as actually being ethically based, or by helping to improve the production value chain and thereby deliver a superior product. Packaging will certainly have its part to play here, offering a more transparent and open approach to promoting all this good work, and delivering satisfaction and assurance to ethically minded consumers, via design.

Brand De-Sensitisation:

The proliferation of supermarkets and hard discounters and with them, their private label strategies and cross border product importation (especially in areas like Europe), is creating a different mindset for consumers, a mindset where it is OK to try something new, where change is no longer to be feared, but rather relished. Add to this, the ability to buy products from around the world on the Internet, and we realise that consumers are no longer tied to traditional market and brand choices. In my view, this de-sensitisation will mean that ‘brand’ packaging will have to be more ‘iconic’ and a little less descriptive – a brand will have to be much more than a product logo, or even a specific product, becoming instead, a lifestyle choice that may include many and differing product lines, touching consumers in many and diverse ways.

East is East and West is West:

As I mentioned above, all of these trends have to be looked at in terms of the social changes and the re-balancing going on in the global economy today, whilst many of these trends may well come to pass in the old economies, in the new economies things can be very different, their supermarkets and shopping malls are growing, brands are offering the promise of a lifestyle only dreamed of before, there is increasing employment, optimism and growth. Just as Europe dreamed of all those American brands in the post war period, up to now, there has been a hunger in the emerging economies for all things Western – but for this generation, I feel things will quickly change. Already in Eastern Europe consumers have a preference for their own, local brands, and all around the world people now have access to on-line information that will speed up the way cultures adopt and drop new trends.

Finally, there are the Children, the 8 year olds (and under), of today, who are already Internet savvy, they experience thousands of brands on a daily basis, they communicate globally and pick-up and drop a new fad in less than a month. For them, the world is truly global, transparent and instant, and they are not ready or willing to accept the ways of the past. Theirs is the real future, and how they react, will change the face of branding and packaging radically over the next decade.

The theme of this article has been about looking at the future from a personal point of view and comparing it with past experiences, it is certainly not to say Plus ça change (plus c'est la même chose**)”, in fact, in the world of brands, this old French phrase has never been more inappropriate!

Exciting times, I believe!

Rowland Heming© September 2011

See also: http://rhpkg.wordpress.com

*A responsibility deal aimed at improving resource efficiency and reducing the carbon and wider environmental impact of the grocery retail sector - http://www.wrap.org.uk/retail_supply_chain/voluntary_agreements/courtauld_commitment/index.html

**The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Consumer Needs at the heart of dairy industry change!

As milk prices continue to fall in Europe, the Western European, dairy Industry continues to foster strategic alliances, acquisitions and consolidations in order to improve performance and gain economies of scale. For example, Lactalis, through its acquisition, in March 2010, of Ebro Puleva, has now become the second largest dairy company in Spain.

However, the real growth of the dairy market, is shifting towards developing markets, here, Lactalis’s, investments in Central and Eastern Europe reportedly bring the company a major percentage of its retail value, and Danone’s merger with Russia’s Unimilk, giving them 7.8% of the market, underlines this trend. These moves are hardly surprising when, in general, the Eastern European dairy market is growing and according to Euromonitor, 2009/10 figures show the dairy market in Russia is also growing by 9.5%. Other dairy industry leaders, like Nestlé and Friesland Campina, can be seen to be also looking further afield towards Asia, an area seen as offering major future growth opportunities.

This new perspective in the market has also led to non-dairy companies entering the scene, like for instance, PepsiCo with it’s $3.8 Billion acquisition of the Russian dairy and juice giant – Wimm-Bill-Dann making them the biggest player in Russia with a12.5% share. Another new entry is Coca-Cola and its recent launch in India, of their innovative Maaza Milky Delite, a blend of mango and milk developed by their India research and development laboratory in Gurgaon. Clearly, all these changes show that the industry is undergoing a major change and is therefore re-positioning itself for the future.

Meanwhile, consumers across Europe and America, with their aging populations, continue to have concerns about health and wellness, and it’s not just the aging population that is concerned, as we become increasingly an urban society, with limited access to nature, we have all developed a real craving for a more healthy and balanced lifestyle. So, it’s no surprise that Mintels’ ‘Top CPG Trends for 2011’, predict that consumers will continue to substitute what they miss-out on, ensuring a continuing demand for more natural and healthy products, containing reduced sugars and additives, as we enter the second decade of this new millennium.

We would be wrong, of course, to think of this as totally new phenomena within the dairy industry. We have witnessed a steady growth in such consumer demands over the past 60 years for such products, from the original Yakult pro-biotic fermented milk drink in the 1950’s, to the plethora of products on the market today. More and more, over the past decades, we have seen the dairy industry creating products that respond to consumer’s health and wellness concerns, in an attempt to answer the need to get back to all things authentic and natural.

So, whilst not new, the launching of many functional and preventative offers that address health and wellbeing within the category is clearly on the increase as producers try to address consumer’s demands (see: http://www.activiapromise.com/). Dairy products continue to inspire trust, after-all what could be more natural than a cow? Dairy products can also offer benefits like Omega 3, Anti-oxidants, added calcium, Vitamin D, protein enrichment, low fat, organics, probiotics, prebiotics, plant sterols, digestive aid, etc…although the definition of many of these terms and specifically the term ‘natural’, will become increasingly under scrutiny in the coming years.

With this concern for their own health also comes a continuing consumer consciousness of the effects of packaging on the environment. This is clearly exposed by a recent survey made by UBI in France, which highlights the European consumer’s concerns and their preference for sustainable packaging solutions such as, ‘light-weighting’, bio-degradability and recycling.

With most milk packaging today in HDPE bottles (High Density Polyethylene), or in Tetra type, cartons, which due to their multiple laminates are rarely recyclable or need special facilities, there is now a growing consumer preference for environmentally friendly solutions, which is, in turn, fuelling the growth of many new and exciting packaging developments. Some examples include; The ‘Ecolean’ plastic formed pack, who announce on their website, that: By using a minimal amount of raw material we create a lightweight package which combines low environmental impact with consumer convenience http://www.ecolean.com, The ‘Green Bottle’ introduced by Marybelle in the UK, which consists of a cardboard pulp outer bottle and an inner plastic bag, said by PIRA to have reduced the carbon footprint, compared to a standard HDPE bottle, by 48%! http://greenbottle.com. and finally, Dairy Crest’s ‘Jugit’, which by offering a re-usable jug, allows milk to be delivered in minimal simple plastic bags http://www.jugit.co.uk/.

Another important movement in the dairy industry comes from the evolution of our changing lifestyles, today with the growth of single households, or households where both partners are working, the time of the ‘sit-down’ family meal has almost become a thing of the past. With most meals now eaten on the go, starting the day often comes down to perhaps a dairy drink and a few biscuits in the car or eaten on public transport – This is certainly bourn out by Tetra Pak’s Dairy Index, which says the demand for LDP (Liquid Dairy Products) is increasing, once again, TetraPak put this down to growing urbanisation, aging populations and a growing middle class.

This fast pace lifestyle is driving a need for convenience and practicality. With snacking replacing other meals, there is now a need for more convenient portion sizes, and smaller and more accessible packaging. Dannon’s February 2011 launch of Activia Parfait Crunch in the USA, a blend of low-fat yogurt with granola packed separately on the top of the pot, is whilst not entirely a new concept, once again underlines this trend, as does Yoplait-Dairy Crest’s yogurt and fruit juice drinks packed in single portion tubes called ‘Frubes’ designed to bring nutrition to children’s lunch boxes in the UK. (See: http://www.yoplait.co.uk/preview/files/pressrelease1.pdf).

With so many changes happening in the dairy industry today and the growing need to address new markets, changing consumer lifestyles and their health and welfare concerns. The dairy shelf in the retail sector has never been more crowded or more active, with so many offers and sometimes confusing claims, there is a clear need to bring clarity of information and innovative approaches to packaging and product solutions. As consumers become more cash rich, but time poor, their needs remain at the heart of dairy industry change.

Rowland Heming© 2011

See also: http://rhpkg.wordpress.com

Thursday, January 6, 2011

How to make a package design storecheck

There are many reasons why a company may want to design or re-design a product package, these range from the launching of a new product, to revitalising an existing one. It may also be the need to re-position a product, brand or simply be necessary due to technical or legal constraints. But whatever the reason, any new design initiative must be preceded by some form of market investigation, because without an understanding of the context within which a package or brand must communicate, any such initiative would be undertaken with a virtual blindfold on!

Of course there are many professional research companies specialising in market analysis from in-store analysis, sales tracking and scanner panel data collection to consumer behaviour research, but if budget restrictions mean that this is not an option, then another way must be found. Often this comes down to going out to visit stores and seeing what’s happening for yourself, but in most cases such store-checks are undertaken without any specific methodology or plan. The aim of this article is to give some guidance and methodology, in order to make your future store-checks both effective and useful to understanding the market context and aiding the design and marketing process.

So, you are planning to re-design your package and you are off down to the store to see what’s going on – what should you do first?

Sales Channels

Before you start you need understand where your (or your clients’), most important sales are made and who are the main competitors. So to begin with, make a list of the type and names of stores you should visit, in order to get a complete picture of where consumers meet your product and packaging. Take into account your distribution dynamics and plan to visit the different types of stores where your product, and your key competitors products, are found, Distribution channels can be unique to different markets and the display situation may radically change between store types.

In my experience, going out with your sales manager is not as effective as doing this on your own or with your design team, typically the Sales Director will only want to show you where their product is successfully displayed, so you may not get a true picture of your brands’ display situation!

Be armed

When you visit small stores, it’s always best to ask permission to look around, small storekeepers are generally friendly and accommodating, whereas most supermarkets will not allow you to openly do store-checks, so you will need to be prepared to work in a more clandestine way. Of course, I cannot in this article condone or encourage you to do this, but if you decide to follow this plan of action, you will need to go prepared. Therefore, it’s useful to carry a camera and a recording device to make notes and record what you find, today these last two elements can be found on most high-end telephones. Using your phone to take notes will not make you look like a researcher, making it less likely that you will be challenged in-store.

First Moment of Truth

By now everybody in the fmcg marketing world has heard of The First Moment of Truth, it’s that split second where you see or don’t see, understand or don’t understand, are inspired to buy or not. Well, it makes sense that if that’s how it works, that this is the way you need to approach the category and the shelf. Go right in and take a quick look and then walk away and record what you see. Register which packages stood out and your general impression of the shelf display and the ‘findability’ of your brand. With most purchases being made in ‘automatic pilot’ mode, the stand-out effect of your brand is of fundamental importance in winning ‘The First Moment of Truth. This is not a scientific approach, but it will help you to be a little more objective. You should always remember though, that your view cannot be totally neutral, because, as a professional, you are prone to see your product surrounded by the competition, whereas consumers will see your product as part of a range of different choices!

Product/Category Location

Now you can go back to the shelf and start to analyse in detail:

First of all, make a note of how the shelf is filled, are products displayed by product types, or blocked together as brands? Is there an opportunity to create ‘colour blocking’ or is there a need to create a strong range design that can easily identify your brand when it’s mixed up with all the others and displayed by variety?

Where is your brand placed, in comparison to the competitive packs, is it on the left or the right (in western society we read from left to right, so packs placed on the left will often have a visual advantage over others)? Are the packs placed high (at eye level, where visibility scores are high), or lower down (where a design will have to work harder to gain attention)?

Finally, make a note of how many facings are awarded to each brand and private label. This is important, because it gives the designer an idea of the ‘stand-out’ challenge, it also exposes if there is an opportunity to make a repeating design or not.

Packaging advantages

Now it’s time to look at the packaging itself and make a note of the physical construction, of course, design projects that require new packaging forms are less common, because of the investment and lead-time needed, but the role of a store-check is to look at, and be aware, of what’s happening on the market, as this may also influence future decisions concerning the packaging form. This is the moment to see if competitors have any physical packaging advantages, these may be in display, use, transport or storage. Advantages may also take the form of original, innovative packaging solutions or printing innovations.

Sensation Transference

In the 1930’s Louis Cheskin developed a theory called ‘Sensation Transference’, which proposes that ‘people’s perceptions of products or services are directly related to aesthetic details of the design’. Bearing this in mind, here is the moment when you will need to look at the emotional cues that are displayed by the packaging on shelf.

Ask, how your brand, and the competitive brands, fit within the context of the whole category, do they look like they belong, do they deliver on product and consumer expectations? Take a moment to examine how each package interprets the visual stimuli of this communication, and look for points of difference or possible advantages that can be exploited.

Discern the emotional cues that are employed and how emotion is expressed via the design, these may be from the way a product is shown to be, for example: hot and steamy or cold and fresh, to how a product or brands’ quality level is expressed. Design is an integral part of quality positioning, whether it be, value, mainstream or premium, it’s the surface design, materials and packaging form that creates this quality perception in a consumer’s mind.

Shopper Experience

It’s a good idea to stand around a while and watch how people ‘shop the category’, is this group of products bought on impulse or is a more reflective purchase? – the way in which a category is ‘shopped’ will influence the approach to design – impulse purchase products tend to have bold designs that catch the eye quickly and communicate instantly, whereas more reflective purchases tend to use shape, texture and printing techniques to awaken the senses. They may also carry extra product or usage information to reassure consumers of their choice.

You can also take this opportunity to observe consumer gender and age, and to make note of what seems to draw their attention. Watch how they interact with the packages that are in front of them, and observe if their behavior is passive or active, for example; are they just looking at the packaging on offer, or are they actively picking product up and studying the labeling information?

Read the Labels

It’s always worth making a note of who owns what, looking at the back label will in most cases tell you this, but sometimes it is not easy to identify if different products come from the same manufacturer, so here’s where keeping up with press announcements of mergers and acquisitions will help you to build a knowledge of who’s who on the shelf. This is important, as you will be able to spot similarities, as well as design and communication trends. For example, different brands from the same manufacturer may be, for cost reasons, in identical packaging forms or carry similar, or linked promotions.

Price and Content

Lastly, it’s always a good idea to record prices, having a clear idea of price versus quality positioning and content, will put the whole shelf and brand positioning in context – for many consumers price is a significant factor in their decision making process, therefore, you need to be aware how your brand is positioned in the category, from both the price and the quality communication, in order to discern if you’ve got the mix correct!

It’s amazing just how much information and how many insights you can gain from a simple store-checking session. It’s guaranteed to give you a new perspective and a greater understanding of what works and what doesn’t, and will become the keystone in planning your brand and packaging development.

To go with this article, I have developed a store-check check-list, if you would like a free copy please e-mail me at rowland.heming@designboard.com

Rowland Heming© 2011

See also: http://rhpkg.wordpress.com

Friday, October 15, 2010

The impact of the crisis on package design

It is often said that in a time of crisis that private labels increase their share of the market, and whilst this is indeed true, in fact, as we look back over the last 40 years, we see that private labels have continued to capture a growing market share, year after year, crisis or no crisis!

So in the world of brands and packaging, the real effect ofa crisis lays not in the encroachment of Private Labels, but in changing attitudes of the consumers themselves. When uncertainty occurs, consumers call into question the value they receive from brands and question the cost they have to pay.

Consumer values change in a time of crisis, when ‘staying-in’ becomes the new ‘going out’, when ‘mend and make-do’ replaces the excessesof consumerism. This creates a new definition of value, which polarises attitudes, driving consumers to trade up in emotional meaningful categories and trade down in essentials or less meaningful categories.

If brands are to rise above this purely rational consumer attitude, theywill need to offer real differentiation combined with meaningandrelevance to their consumers’ lifestyle needs. This means paying close attention to rituals and desires and creating a brand experience that eclipses rational decision-making and instead builds on a brand’s equities and enhances consumer’s trust. It also means having great respect for the relationship that exists between the consumer and a brand; this is no time to start throwing away the visual equities that offer reassurance and foster trust.

Brands that ignore their consumersand do not pay attention to this consumer relationship will pay dearly for their ineptitude, as we have seen recently with Tropicana and now Gap, who abandoned their equities and product promise in their packaging and with it, all notions of differentiation, resulting in the seeming loss of consumer trust and a branding disaster.

Sustainable and Honest

The reasoning behind the movement towards dressing-down or almost un-branding seems clear, this movement looks to the days of the Great Depression, when it seemed un-fitting to have design that was too complex or extravagant and complicated when austerity reigned so cruelly. Clearly, the lure of those great iconic designs like Raymond Lowy’s Lucky Strike with its ‘stripped back to the basics’ direct simplicity are hard to resist.

What the movement forgets, is that this is no longer the 1930’s, today consumer’s are much more marketing savvy, consumers are used to the three tier offers of the retailer (premium – mainstream – discount), and by adopting this, ’stripped back’style, which is now the visual language of the discount brand, they are throwing away equity and ignoring a relationship that has taken years to establish. Such simplistic visual cues are not the territory of the brand. Brands today need to justify their price premium by offering, quality, differentiation and added value both perceived and real.

Whilst consumers are looking for reassurance and added valuein their brands, they are equally looking for honesty. This is why it’s becoming increasingly important to offer packaging that is environmentally sound, physical packaging that is itself, ‘stripped back to the basics’ and is re-usable and/or recyclable. Consumers see the environmental problem as vast, and feel impotent and unable to act, whilst many consumers will fall into the SWET (shopper with ethics) category, the majority feel they don’t have enough information about brands and packaging to make a decision. So by building in environmental and sustainable elements into packaging and communicating these to consumers, brands will enable consumers to ‘take part’ and contribute. Consumers will choose and support such brands who are making an effort to be more sustainable.

McCain Bio:Responding to consumer concerns by creating a compostable pack (biodegradable in 90 days), respecting the European regulations in material and labelling.

Co- Creation

Getting consumers to ‘take part’ has been around in product design for some time now, today we give this method a new name, ‘Co-Creation’, or consumer inspired design. There is no doubt that working with the consumer to develop a different perspective for a brand can bring forward new and innovative ideas, for example; Lego Factory, where you can download digital designer software and design your own models. (http://designbyme.lego.com).

The idea of listening to consumers seems obvious and simple, but whilst new ideas can be developed in this way, we must remain aware that ‘the consumer doesn’t know what the consumer doesn’t know’. The real benefits of co-creation are that it offers an opportunity to have a view into consumer's thoughts and desires and to discover the needs that they don't even know they have yet. Most of all, it develops a brand’s relationship with their consumers by making them feel like they are part of the process and part of the solution and therefore connected to the brand.

The real impact of the crisis on package design is that it offers opportunities for brands to stand back and assess who they are, to create a dialogue with their consumers and to hone their offer to meet the needs of the new market that will emerge as the recession subsides. This is no time to simply sit back and wait to see what will happen.

Rowland Heming -Design Board - 2010©

See also: http://rhpkg.wordpress.com

Monday, August 9, 2010

Shopper Marketing – The ‘not so’ silent salesman

The role of the package in store

What motivates shoppers to go to the supermarket?

Well mostly it seems, it just to buy a small number of items on a day to day basis (62% of all shopping trips, according to Unilever’s 2004 US study – Trip Management - The Next Big Thing), these shoppers are quick and determined, they know exactly what they want and enter the supermarket, hopefully knowing where to get it.

But, Herb Sorensen in his book “Inside the Mind of the Shopper” (Wharton School Publishing), seems to suggest that most supermarkets ignore this fact and instead, design their stores for the shoppers who need to “stock-up” (which the Unilever study identifies to be only 13% of shopping trips). It does make it appear like supermarkets are deliberately trying to fight against the will of the quick trip shopper (who are remember, 62% of shoppers!), by burying essentials all over the shop, putting as many obstacles as they can in front of them in order to try to make them visit the whole store!

Old style merchandising only adds to the shopper’s frustration (this is where supermarkets move essentials around the store from one week to another), forcing the shopper to go on search expeditions, rather than helping them to shop efficiently. The end result is a shopper rushing through the store focussed mostly on, only what they search for, becoming stressed out and frustrated and trying to get to the cash desk and out of the store as quickly as possible. But despite all the supermarket’s efforts to make shoppers ‘walk the store’, most quick trip shoppers (more than 50%), will not visit,or will skip over sections of the store that don’t interest them. Clearly, there are some issues here that supermarkets need to reflect on, but the question that this type of shopping behaviour poses for me, is…

…what does all this mean for brand and packaging design?

Today packaging has become one of, if not, the most effective components of ‘shopper’ or ‘in-store’ marketing, and because of this many brands are putting greater emphasis on Shopper Marketing and therefore, their packaging. Because, with less and less opportunities for brands to create in-store promotions, packaging is fast becoming ‘the’ most efficient way for a brand to get noticed.

Going back to Unilever’s figures (62% of the shoppers who only focus on quick tips), it makes sense, that with this type of shopping behaviour, the chances of a brand being seen in store is becoming more and more difficult. The now famous Dupont study of the 1970’s calculated that on average a pack had about 6 seconds to be seen, but with the growth of supermarkets and the changing patterns of shopping, that figure has to be a lot less today!

It is my belief that brands need to start to think differently, to abandon the old thinking that you create and promote a brand and shoppers will come to you. Instead, brands need to try figure out how they can help the quick trip shopper majority, by making their brands easier to find with better stand-out and the ability to be understood in an instant.

This, for me means, brands need to first consider what shoppers “do” and then design from their point of view, taking into account what I call, “their” 3 pillars of the shopping moment:

1 Finding what I want

2 Understanding what I’m buying and being convinced it’s what I want

3 Being reassured that I’ve made the right choice

1 Finding what I want

If you focus on the shopper’s needs, they start with the need to “find” the product they want, this process usually starts at somedistance from the shelf, whilst the shopper is moving through the aisle looking for, first the category, and then the brand. It’s essential therefore, that brands understand the shelf they are on, and that they find ways to be, at the same time, part of the category, but also distinctive and memorable within it. Simplicity, contrast and readability are key here, shoppers need to be able to identify their brand and product type immediately, and this can only be achieved by adopting a clear communication strategy, a distinctive design structure, a unique colour (or colouring), straightforward imagery and always strong confident branding. The objective, in this first moment, is to be seen, identified and to be clear about who and what you are, that’s all!

Your package needs to “help the shopper find your brand” and to attract them to it, clearly in this situation, over complication of messages, (too much text or trying to say too much on the front panels), is the enemy of impactful packaging. With most shoppers in a hurry, they will be looking for visual solutions that are quick and easy to understand!

2 Understanding what I’m buying and being convinced it’s what I want

In the “second moment”, your package will have a different role, having stopped (or slowed), the shopper; you will now need to explain your offer (or perhaps you have a range of offers). Because, at this point in the process the shopper knows which section they are in, the role of the package now has a different function to perform; to show your product at it’s best, explaining what it is, what it does in a direct and clear way. The shopper’s eye should find the pack simple and quick to read, with the minimal of eye movement - avoiding “eye wandering” that risks taking a shopper’s eye to the pack next door – this involves understanding how focal points work, creating a clean and correct hierarchy of information, but without adding complication. If you do have a range of offers, make sure that product changes are easy and for the consumer to understand, be consistent and as always, remain simple.

3 Being reassured that I’ve made the right choice

If your package has managed to past the test of the first two stages of the shopping moment, you will now have the shopper’s attention, so, here’s the moment to help their choice along. At this point the shopper is right in front of your package (perhaps they have even picked it off the shelf), but they are close enough up to it now to see the finer details, the quality of the illustration or diagram, little garnish that adds to appetite appeal, the symbol or text that promises a benefit etc…. The objective here is to make sure the shopper is reassured of the great qualities of your product and the benefits it will bring to them, so that they can make the final act of the shopping moment – putting the pack into their basket!

Just as the shopping process is a moving and 3 dimensional act, so the package is also a 3 dimensional medium, with the package now in the shopper’s hand the other panels of your package also become very important. Too often packaging is designed as a “front panel” only (in some cases major brands have even used different /cheaper, studios to create the other panels, or POS materials, in an effort to save costs), but it seems to me that when you accept the importance of the package in Shopper Marketing, this practice seems like shooting yourself in the foot, as a brand should always be consistently presented across all sides of a package and across all media!

For the shopper, the package is not only a “facing on the supermarket shelf” but, part of the product they buy, and subsequently, part of the brand itself. They will take into their homes, they may well see and touch it regularly, or use it every day, elevating the package’s role to being the everyday ambassador of the brand.

The other panels of the package are important because they offer reassurance; they allow the brand to connect with consumers and to enhance the product experience. This is why the same amount of attention needs to be paid to the rest of the package as brands normally do to the front panel, by working on the design of each surface to be sure to holistically express the brand’s personality and positioning. Going beyond imagery, it also means creating great copy that is not stuffy, but developed in a way that it makes the brand “come alive” and is relevant to the consumer.

Once you think your package has achieved the correct impact across the three pillars of the shopping moment, take this thinking one step further, think about testing your package “in-store” (where the package has to work), and equally, once again think holistically, and test the whole pack, not just the front!

The realisation by retailers and brands of the effectiveness of Shopper Marketing has pushed the package to the forefront of customer communication; packaging now has a crucial role, catching the consumer’s attention, representing the brand (in store and in use), as well as building consumer confidence and loyalty. By changing the way we think, and designing “for the consumer and the new realities of the retail environment”, packaging’s effectiveness can only get better and its’ importance only grow, clearly, the future role of packaging, both in-store and in the home, is to become the ‘not so’ silent salesman.

Rowland Heming©

...and it's all over in a matter of seconds!

See also: http://rhpkg.wordpress.com

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


When you come to think about it, colour is one of the most effective tools that package designers and marketers have at their disposal, and yet it is probably one of the most overlooked. Knowing that colour can be used to identify and position a brand, and that it can be used to create an emotive response in a consumer’s mind, informing, reassuring and creating desire, you wonder why we just don’t pay enough attention to it!

Colour is so important because it’s such a strong part of the way that we see our world. We are born with the ability to see colours, and in some cases we are able to understand their meaning without anybody telling us why? Compare this to our other forms of communication, speaking, reading and writing, in order to understand these communication tools we need to be initially taught by our parents and others and continually need to build up our knowledge for the rest our lives… but colour… well colour speaks to us on another level, the level of our sub-conscious minds. Red indicating danger and exciting our senses, greens expressing freshness, blues offering a calming effect or pastels giving us a feeling of softness…

So fundamental is our ability to recognise and understand colour that we even find the need to use it as part of the way we describe the things around us: We say we are “green with envy”, or we say that things are clearer in “Black and White”, sometimes we “get the Blues” and when we are angry we say that we “see Red!” This is because colour is linked to our primeval instincts, and our need to recognise safety, danger, happiness, sadness etc… so using colour to describe what we want to express, makes our verbal description clearer, creating an emotional response in the listeners mind.

Clearly then, colour is an essential communication tool that no designer or marketer can afford to ignore. It makes sense, particularly if you are into creating a product branding or packaging, that an understanding of the language of colour is fundamental to making communication clearer and in helping to create success by extracting the desired emotional response from your target audience towards your brand.

Making colour work for you:

Once you have understood the power of colour, you can use it to make your brand more effective on shelf, here are some of the great ways colour can be used to effect to position your product and to achieve ownability and stand out:


Depending on the intensity, tone or combination, most colours can be used effectively to position a brand, (masculine or feminine, soft or strong, luxury or mainstream, etc…), therefore, understanding the properties and interpretations of each colour will allow you to choose the correct colour (or mix), that best expresses your desired positioning – (see; Glossary of colourinterpretations).

Owning a colour:

A brand that adopts a colour can never really “own” it, as colour in nearly impossible to register on its own, but with the careful use of proprietary lettering, images and structure, the brand can own a total look which, by association, includes the colour palette. For example Heineken, Nivea, Coca-Cola etc…

Using colour to inform:

Colour can be used to express brand or product characteristics, strong colours suggesting seriousness and stability, lighter colours expressing delicacy and softness, multi-colours suggesting playfulness and youth etc…

Using colour to explain product variants:

Larger ranges can become confusing if colour is not used effectively to segregate the offer, this is where colour can help consumers understand a range, be it divided by flavour, products or any other segmentation. Colour change can be total between one pack and another, if the variant communication is the most important, or can be just a percentage of a pack, if consistent branding is desired.

Achieving stand out with colour:

Sometimes it will be necessary to follow the colour norms of a product category as it is understood by consumers. Here finding a new mix may help make your brand individual and different. Where possible, it’s always good to make a colour analysis of the store shelf, there may just be an opportunity to introduce a colour that is new to the category, helping to achieve real stand out.

Colour Blocking:

Colour can be used to create a “block” effect on-shelf, where a dominant colour is used across all products in a range, in this way a brand can be instantly recognisable on shelf, even at a distance. Good examples of brand blocking are Ariel, Barilla, Fructis etc…

The world of colour is a world of deep emotional significance to us all, I believe it’s time to re-assess the way we think of colour and to see it as one of our essential tools, allowing us to communicate with consumers on a sub-conscious level by offering a non-verbal communication platform, that helps build an immediate understanding of a brands positioning.

Glossary of colour interpretations

One of our most interesting colours, we attribute to black many meanings; authority, power, submission, secrecy and even death. So on the one hand it can be sombre and on the other it can be seen to be chic. Priests, teachers and even saucy chamber-maids wear black as do also witches and vampires. In most films it’s often the Black-Knight or the one wearing black, who is cast as the villain.

If you are looking to give your product authority and a qualitative look, look to black, just like Godiva, Jack Daniels, Guinness, Coke Burn, Calvin Klein and many other premium products.

Mostly associated to innocence, purity, cleanliness, sterility and peace, white’s meaning (like black), can be varied and different across cultures, in the West brides and angels wear white, whilst in the East it’s the colour of mourning. The dove of peace is white, and in films, the good-guy is dressed in white, and we say, the White-Knight will come to the rescue.

Products we use intimately or put on our skin are often predominantly packaged in white, like Dove, or La Prairie. The brand Innocent also uses white to underline its purity and simplicity.

It was the English physicist, Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727), who worked out that white light could be broken into the colours of the rainbow, by passing it through a prism. Today, we describe the main colours of the rainbow (Red, Yellow and Blue), as primary colours, and the colours achieved by mixing the primary colours (Orange, Green and Violet), we call secondary colours, and each have their own values and meanings:

Representing passion, fire, love, danger and anger, red is an emotionally intense colour, which can raise blood pressure and make breathing faster. In this way, red stimulates the need act faster and is a favourite colour for fast food outlets. Red is also contradictory, it is the colour of the heart, love and also the colour of the Devil whereas, in other cultures it has different meanings. Red is the colour of socialism, red denotes warning and in China, red is the colour of prosperity and is seen to bring good luck.

Red helps brands bring attention to themselves, it shows confidence, youth and energy. Ferrari, Coca-Cola, Virgin, Cote D’Or, Lays and Red Bull all use red to great effect in this way.

The sun, the Earth’s giver of life, is yellow, and therefore it’s not surprising that the colour that represents positive energy, creation, it’s optimistic and cheerful, but it has been known to increase the heart rate and raise body temperature. It can represent hope, like tying a yellow ribbon on a tree in the hope that someone comes home safely, or it can be alternatively be used to signify cowardice.

Too much yellow can be overpowering in packaging, so brands often use yellow in association with other colours to create visual stimulation, a feeling of energy and stand out. Duracell combines yellow with black to suggest power, Weetabix, a breakfast cereal, helps get your day started with simulating yellow, Lipton Tea is positioned as a positive drink and uses yellow, successfully combined with associations of the sun, to suggest positivity adding green leaves to suggest naturalness.

The sea and the sky are blue, colouring our world blue when seen from space. Blue is peaceful, calm, tranquil, meditative it causes the body to produce calming chemicals. In it’s darker shades it suggests stability and trust, in lighter shades it’s suggests coolness and freshness, for example, in Feng Shui blue is associated with healing, refreshing calmness and serenity.

On it’s own blue can sometimes be too calming for brands, so we often see the colour mixed with other tones. Mix blue with white (Nivea), for purity and trust, with yellow (Chiquita), for excitement and gaiety, with red (Citibank), to convey trust with energy.

Being a secondary colour, orange takes on qualities of its two primary components, red and yellow. Orange is therefore seen, as warm, and sociable, but also vibrant, energetic and stimulating. In this way orange signifies change, the oranges of autumn leaves tell us summer is changing to winter and who can fail to feel emotional as the setting sun marks the change between the positive vibrant day with the approaching warm glow of a restful evening.

In branding pure orange is used to get attention in a positive way and is often used for products promoting positive energy like Fanta. In Ukraine orange was associated with change becoming the symbol of the “Orange Revolution”. Tropicana nearly lost its vibrant energy when it proposed to change the well-known orange pack to a pale yellow version, but consumers soon pointed out the mistake and the old pack was quickly re-instated.

Nature expresses itself with green, it says abundance and life, green is reassuring expressing fertility, calm and relaxation. The green shoots of spring offer promise renewal and things to come. Just as the leaves change their colour as the season moves on, the lighter greens of spring (with a more yellow influence), signal positivity, hope and freshness, whilst darker greens of summer (with a more blue influence), offer stability, calm and balance.

When brands want to show their closeness to nature and naturalness, green will dominate, like Activa from Danone or Green Giant, also today, all things ECO tend to be green. When brands want to emphasise freshness, a lighter green will be used in combination with other natural colours, like blue or orange, as can be seen, for example, with Garnier’s Fructis brand.

In antiquity, purple was one of the most expensive colours to produce, which explains why purple has always been associated with royalty, authority, rank and money. In both it’s forms, violet (leaning more towards red), and Purple (leaning more towards blue), it is both feminine and romantic combining the power of red with the calming effect of blue.

Brands using purple take on some of the quality characteristics of the colour. Cadbury’s or Milka chocolate, Taillefine yoghurt, or the violet of Häagen Dazs Ice Cream.

Rowland Heming © 2010

See also: http://rhpkg.wordpress.com