March 7, 2014

The Top 5 Complaints Consumers Have about Your Packaging

The Top 5 Complaints Consumers Have about Your Packaging

Package designers are notorious for thinking of packaging concepts that appeal to package designers more than the general public. These package designs, if they wind up on the shelves, could turn the packaging, marketing and whatever-product-they-contain’s world upside down. Or they could thoroughly confuse or offend the audience they’re trying to attract and bring shame and disgrace to everyone involved. It’s a fine line.

Everyone, regardless for their individual affection for design and beauty, responds to a pretty package, but if the package is merely pretty without being effective, it will drive customers away from the product. Likewise if the package design is too Spartan. If the package doesn’t broadcast the benefits of the product adequately via the strength and usefulness of the design, it will devalue the product inside.

We’ve talked about packaging issues that have bugged us as designers, but customers have a different set of standards. Here are five common and yet totally avoidable packaging problems that will cause customers to avoid your product like the plague.

1. Can’t open it.

Seems pretty simple, doesn’t it? A package should be openable if the consumer is going to be able to use it. However, some packages (largely the dreaded clamshell packages) are so aggressively encased in their stiff plastic packages that they can’t be opened without the aid of a Hattori Hanzo sword. Moreover, shearing open the package creates lethal exposed edges. Believe us, potentially fatal package design is enough to drive a consumer away forever, or at least post really off-color and damaging Tweets.

2. Uses too much, or unrecyclable, material.

In old movies and television shows that depict what was imagined to be the 21st century, there is always huge amounts of highly sanitized, individual product packages – largely in the form of nutrient pills that make consuming full meals easy and convenient. Funny how, now that we’re actually in the 21st century, that ideal has become the exact opposite of what we find acceptable, and we’re back to agrarian principles and we happily look up ways of making homemade preserves and mulberry cider on our iPads.

In an age where “environmentally responsible” has become a cynical marketing buzz-phrase, it seems ridiculous that some companies are still packaging tiny items in gargantuan amounts of material, or materials that are thoroughly unnecessary considering the products they contain. This mistake will certainly drive away the eco-consumers, and could result in the kind of publicity you don’t want.

3. Packaging is flimsy.

Packaging is a great delivery system for brand messaging and product use, but packaging is supposed to protect the product during shipment and storage. If it fails to protect the product, it fails to have a point.

Not only is the product in danger of becoming damaged in shipment, the brand is in danger of developing an image for cheap or shoddy goods. Even if the product itself is just fine, a luxury item in a plastic bag just gives off the wrong message, if the message is: “Spend a huge amount of money on this product.”

4. Packaging doesn’t look like what it contains.

Consumers devote a mere fraction of a second to retail shelf and individual product scrutiny, so if your product packaging is vague or misleading in terms of the type or quality of article it contains, business will suffer.

Packaging that is deceptive or confusing will not only fail to attract a consumer base, it could potentially injure the consumers who do purchase it.

5. Packaging is overly designed.

We’re all for stylishness, but getting so incredibly creative with packaging design it alienates the consumer is just shooting yourself in the foot with a style gun.

Packaging concepts that were simply ill conceived or over thought aren’t just rookie mistakes, either – huge corporations have been guilty of it. When you’re thinking, “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if my line of mechanical pencils and refill leads was shaped like syringes and packets of heroin?” it’s time to take a time out.

Packaging can just as easily draw a customer in as it can push him away. Make sure you take public fascination into account when you are designing your package, and ask yourself, “Will the average consumer find a toothpaste tube in the shape of a potato gun as fascinating as I do?” We’ll answer that for you: No.


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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