February 11, 2013

Packaging Design – The Last 10 Seconds of Your Marketing

Speed is more than just a 90’s action flick and a form of energy-boosting narcotic; it is the method by which we make most of our purchasing decisions. When a customer is in a store, he or she wants to be convinced of the sexiness, worthiness and value of a product instantly, and the most effective and obvious vehicle for this decision is the quality of the packaging.

It’s estimated that customers take approximately 10 seconds to make a crucial purchasing decision. This means that whatever other charms your product might have, one of them must be the ability to sum up what makes the product essential for the consumer concisely and quickly.


The package must reflect the circumstances under which it will be sold. If a sports drink, for example, is too awkwardly shaped to fit into the standard treadmill cup holder, then that could be a factor as to why consumers aren’t interested. A gym-rat wants to slide his electrolyte-laden beverage into the bottle holder with ease. If the bottle has other features that allow for ease of use while shredding ripped and muscular lats, so much the better.


Clearly, marketing is all about persuasion. The shape of the package, as well as the text and the pictures, can issue little subliminal messages to the consumer, convincing him or her of the product’s inherent quality. For example, a soda can might have pictures of fresh fruit on it, giving the customer the impression that the ingredients are more natural and healthy than those of its competitors. Chocolate bars now have pictures of cacao beans on the labels, which reminds the customer of the origins of the product, and helps them forget that it is an indulgence and, technically, not a health food.


Sometimes, a busy label is an intimidating one. Keeping a package clean and subdued, particularly when competing products use tons of graphics, pictures and text, can help it stand out. If you are an adult who might be persuaded to buy a pack of bubble gum for yourself, the brand with the cleanest and most sophisticated packaging might be more likely to catch your eye than the brand that is marketed to 8-year olds.


This is more than merely making a package pretty. Because we read from left to right, our eye will typically fall to the left corners of a package first. If the brand can delineate the merits of the product in the top left corner, a customer won’t need to take as much time evaluating it than he or she would if the layout was vertical.


We would all like to re-live the glory days of our youth. Nostalgic packaging stirs up consumer emotion about the treats we had as children that we haven’t seen for 10 years. Brands have gotten wise to consumer sentiment, and have even begun to reissue product brands that have been discontinued in an attempt to re-capture our longing for the days of old.


Emotions are a huge part of packaging. The product needs to tell the customer how the product will make him or her feel and it must do so boldly. If a sluggish shopper comes across an energy drink that has its benefits defined on the label clear enough so that it can be read through a haze of exhaustion, a customer will buy it.


We tend to think of characters and trademarks as a marketing device used to lure children, but adults respond to them just as readily. If your product is fun, whimsical and charming, the customer will be seduced. Done right, your brand (remember, this is different from your logo) will be a vital component to customer loyalty and purchasing decisions. Make sure it’s immediately identifiable and unique to your products.


When a customer makes a purchase on impulse, that customer will have to feel as though he or she is getting a great deal in addition to getting a great product. Oftentimes, brands will use comparison methods in order to stress the inherent value, either by comparing the quality of the product with its competition, or telling the customer how much more he or she would be getting for the cost. That’s great, but just make sure you’re not overdoing it, otherwise it just makes you look like you have something to prove and may end up sending the customer to your competition just to see why you’re getting so defensive about it.

That should get you started. Remember, you have 10 seconds to make an impression, so don’t waste them on things that distract or confuse the customer. Just try to remember the first time you went in for a job interview that actually mattered. You spent hours preparing for it just so you gave the right impression (and if you didn’t, this is why you didn’t get that job). Same situation applies, just this time the product is speaking for you.


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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