October 7, 2013

Dont Let Snobbery Prevent Change

Dont Let Snobbery Prevent Change

There is no one guiltier of snobbery than wine aficionados – with their fancy-schmancy cellars and their “Idiot’s Guides” and their insistence that wine not be packaged in pop-top cans. Sheesh, it’s just a drink, guys; calm down.

It is just this type of snobbery that has caused wine enthusiasts to shudder at the thought of a wine cork that doesn’t need a cork screw; we’re not even talking about the dreaded screw top that was so incredibly controversial it inspired the combined brain power of the UC Davis Viticulture and Enology department to author an extensive study on the subject. Regardless of the results, there is very little doubt that wine lunatics will only relinquish their cork screws when they are pried from their cold, dead hands.

This intensely stubborn resistance to change led to the screw cork, a kind of compromise which combines some of the ease of a screw top with the aesthetic value of a traditional cork. The fact that it is generally believed that proper metal screw tops actually do a better job of preventing oxidation than standard corks is irrelevant; wine fanciers simply won’t drink a bottle of wine that bares even the faintest resemblance to Mountain Dew Code Red.

Even though traditional wine corks will probably continue to be insisted upon well into our future — mostly because people tend to cling to the idea of prestige like a starving wolf clings to a lamb chop – we must remain clear headed about our products and how they relate to the ever changing times. Your adorable product packaging might have been great for the past 50 or so years, but don’t you think that you might be closing yourself off from a demographic that is increasingly demanding convenience in addition to charm? We might be nostalgic for the beautifully constructed vitrolas of the early 20th century, but no one is going to jettison their iPod for one.

Take a Look around You

What are the packaging trends surrounding your product? Are your competitors uniformly switching to another strategy and leaving you in the dust? How are our constantly evolving lives changing the way we interact with products? Can a person consume your sports drink while comfortably using an iPad? These are questions you must ask yourself when determining whether or not your packaging concept is still relevant.

A few decades or so ago, all ketchup was packaged in glass bottles. They were aesthetically pleasing, but ketchup is, essentially, a kind of a low-brow product you wouldn’t find in your hoity-toity restaurants. However, it still took quite a long time to transition to the more convenient squeeze bottle. Of course, squeeze bottles are ugly; it’s a plain and simple fact. However, ketchup manufacturers eventually had to yield to the unsightly designs in order to keep up with customer demand – we were sick of pounding the bottom of ketchup bottles for 10 minutes just to get the faintest dribble of sweet tomato-y nectar. Ultimately, no one’s impression of ketchup was altered even slightly by the replacement of glass for plastic.

Keep What Makes You, You

We tend to cling to what is familiar and comfortable, even when that familiarity and comfort is leading to our financial ruin. If your customer base is abandoning you in favor of another product that is more effectively packaged than your own, then you will have to sacrifice your old-timey package in favor of something that speaks to the public. However, your product, company culture, brand message and superior customer care will remain the same. You will still be loved. The world will still turn on its axis.

Unless your package design is what has always set you apart from your competition or your customers used your package for livestock feed in times of famine, it probably wasn’t the package itself that inspired your customers’ love and devotion. A good package designer will be able to update and modify your original package design while retaining the integrity of your brand, since that is what the customer trusts and remembers.


by Kevin Smith
SmashBrand helps brands create, optimize, and launch successful products, services, and customer experiences. Our data-driven process is the key to accelerating sales and minimizing risks.

We use a strategic combination of market research, design, and consumer testing to solve complex brand problems more effectively, create differentiation, and forge more meaningful connections with customers.

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