Creating effective packaging to display products on a shelf is not as simple as stuffing a few handfuls of macaroni into a plastic bag or a box. A great package is functional, accessible, attractive, unique in its own right, and will never be confused with a competitor’s product. Every aspect of the package conveys the intended message, including the colours, shapes, iconography, designs, messaging, and more. And, sometimes the packaging must stand alone as the entire advertising and marketing plan for a product.
Far beyond simply holding 500 milliliters of shampoo or 2 000 pieces of macaroni, packages have a lot of goals to accomplish. If you want to successfully accomplish each of those goals and generate success in the market place, carefully crafted package tests are essential. So how is this done?
Step 1: Understand the product goals and its place in a competitive environment
WHAT does the company want to express? Fine-tune the packaging goals by gathering essential details from key stakeholders, including the brand manager, marketing managers, and senior leadership. These details might relate to the product philosophy, messaging, brand colours, imagery, materials, and more. The stakeholders must have a clear understanding of what they want the package to communicate to shoppers.
HOW will the retailer display the package? The stakeholders and package designer must understand how stores will display the package for customers. What do the packages that will sit beside yours look and feel like? What competitive packaging features might be unique, memorable, and desirable enough to draw customers away from your package? Will customers want to pick up the various packages from the shelf to read the labels, feel the weight, or smell or touch the contents?
WHO will use the package and how? Once a product has been purchased, will consumers throw it in the cupboard or freezer never to look at it again until they need to use it, or will the package sit in a prominent place on the counter for weeks until it is used up? Will consumers want to see variety in the packaging? Will children, elderly people, or people who are disabled use the product, requiring it to open very easily or only with amazing strength and agility?
Step 2: Choose finalists
With all of this product information on hand, the designer can produce a number of prototype designs. The end goal is to determine which packages generate much more or less attention from consumers, and whether people think they’d be more likely to buy one of the prototypes.
With up to twenty prototype images in hand, people can compare your proposed packaging with any other existing packaging you or your competitors have. Learn whether people prefer the old, the new, or the competitors’ packaging. Find out whether people consider some of the packages to be more innovative, appealing, or easier to use.
Keep in mind two main barriers that could fight you the entire way.
- Introducing an innovative new design in a category where people expect the packaging to look, feel, or behave in a certain way could be difficult. Changing a person’s behaviour is much hard than changing the colour of a package they use.
- No matter how incredible an innovative design may be, people will often prefer the existing style of package because they are familiar and comfortable with it. In this regard then, if a new package generates similar scores as an existing package, this could actually be a huge win for the new package.
Qualitative research: At this stage, many options for research will be useful. Qualitative research is the perfect way to present physical prototypes that people can look at and manipulate. It’s even possible to incorporate competitive packaging into a focus group or interview so people can compare a potential package with existing package. Gather opinions on functionality, but also on appeal and purchase intent. Another option with a physical prototype is to conduct laboratory shelf-tests to understand how consumers would respond to the package if they were presented with it in a store. Eye-tracking tools could even be used to better understand how the potential package would compete on shelf in the category.
Quantitative research: If a large number of prototype designs were developed, quantitative research would also be helpful at this stage. A quick concept testing using a quantitative survey could help to weed out designs that would likely be less impactful with consumers. You might even consider running a conjoint exercise with potential package designs to identify which sets of sizes, shapes, colours, icons, and fonts might be most successful. In addition, people could quantitatively rate the package according to various criteria such as appeal, uniqueness, or purchase intent.
Step 3: Tweak the winners
Once the two or three winning designs have been identified and adjustments made as a result of the last phase of research, you are ready for the final stage of research.
Focus groups and IDIs: Qualitative research is required at this point to improve and fine-tune the best designs. As part of focus groups or individual interviews, every detail of the final two or three winning design should be evaluated for potential improvements. This could be slight tweaks of the colour, moving or refining words or phrases, adjusting the contours of designs, or adjusting the package itself for functionality and accessibility.
Quantitative survey: A quantitative survey with a representative group of people in your target group is necessary to help you evaluate the packages in terms of key brand metrics like consumer attention, pricing expectations, brand likability, brand image, purchase intent, and purchase frequency. If one of the winning designs is clearly trailing in the quantitative results, this could be the point where it is no longer considered a viable option.
IHUT: As a final check, an in-home-usage test can be a valuable component of the package creation process. Potential issues with package functionality, viability, product safety, or product damage can be examined among a broad range of potential customers and their friends and family using the package as they normally would in their own homes.
As you can see, the process of creating a new package is detailed and lengthy. Indeed, there is no formal, textbook process agreed upon by everyone. However, if you aware of the various issues that will arise along the way, and work to resolve them as you go, the end result will be a successful package and happy customers.
If you’d like help planning a package test, please get in touch with us! We’d be happy to help you figure out which options would work best for you.
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