Design optimized for the home not just the store

Last week I attended the Package Design and Development Summit, sponsored by Packaging Strategies, and there was change in the air.

I have a sense that we are entering a significant new period in the design of mass-market CPG brands. It could just be the first major change in approach since the 1950s.

For the last 50 or 60 years marketers have worked to optimize their packages for the shelf, and everything we did as designers was meant to support the retail presence of a brand. If a package “jumped off the shelf” or “grabbed your eye” it was considered a winning design. In many CPG categories, this on-shelf boldness and brute strength was often considered the primary test of design success.

There was virtually no thought given to whether the package could become an active participant by enhancing the shopping experience, or make the home use experience richer.  This is clearly no longer the case.

Marketers are beginning to realize that the experience we have “living with” a brand is much more important than the experience we have “shopping for” the brand. Package design is in the early stages of reflecting that shift in attitude, and there are three very powerful forces driving this change.

Let’s call them – greener, easier, smarter. And two presentations showed how radically these forces are changing the retail landscape.

Rudi Becker, Director of Packaging at method, reviewed the creation of their new method laundry detergent. It is an 8X concentrated liquid product (3 to 4 times more concentrated than most national brands), which significantly reduces the size of the package. And the bottle, roughly half the size of a typical detergent jug, is manufactured from 50% PCR material.

We are moving inexorably towards more sustainable packaging. And though we are all aware of this, it was made even more evident, in talk after talk, that retailer incentives (WalMart) are driving much of this movement.

This can be seen with smaller sizes, lighter weights, higher percentages of post consumer recycled materials, and of course just less stuff of all kinds. Secondary packages are disappearing and manufacturers are reducing the sizes of primary packages in lots of creative ways.

Method and others also discussed their use of ethnographic and human factors research to identify real consumer benefits and ease of use features. This is leading to products optimized for in-home consumer use and not just the retailer.

Their use of an airless pump to dispense a measured dose of detergent is a clear example of this trend. It is easier to use and much less messy. The design of packaging with a demonstrable consumer benefit is beginning to trump other in-store packaging priorities.

David Javitch, VP of Marketing at Scanbuy, spoke about the packaging use of their ScanLife technology on smart phones to interact with retail packages and download promotions, recipes, nutritional information, coupons, and more.

As anyone who has read this blog knows, I believe this technology will revolutionize the shopping experience, and soon. Just click here for the “augmented reality” tag, and you’ll see several previous posts on this subject.

I came away from the conference with a feeling that smart marketers now realize the relationship we have with brands doesn’t start or end at the store. As I said, our experience “living” a brand is becoming much more important than “shopping” the brand.

That’s why our packages are beginning to be greener, easier, and smarter.


About Richard Shear

designer, husband, teacher, blogger, father, athlete, author, historian Richard has over 25 years of brand identity and package design experience, with a wide range of clients such as Ahold, Coca-Cola, Hasbro, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Pernod Ricard and Procter & Gamble. He began his career working with the legendary advertising art director, and AIGA Medalist, George Lois and the British design manager Clive Chajet. In his next design management position at Lippincott & Margulies, he worked with Walter Margulies learning the complex skills of global corporate identity. He then became Creative Director and Partner at Peterson & Blyth, one of the premier brand identity and package design firms of the time. He is a founding faculty member of the Masters in Branding Program at New York’s School of Visual Arts. He publishes the blog The Package Unseen, and has been a guest lecturer at colleges including FIT, Trinity College and Tyler School of Art. He is a graduate of the Tyler School of Art at Temple University. Richard is a Board member of the AIGA MetroNorth Chapter, past President of AIGA‘s Brand Design Association, President of the Package Design Council and a member of its Board of Directors. He is a member of USA Cycling and US Rowing, a nationally ranked masters bicycle racer, and a member of The Saugatuck Rowing Club, the 2010 Masters Club National Champion.
This entry was posted in Beauty & Personal Care, Design Criticism, Design Practice, Environmental Packaging, Packaging Technology and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Design optimized for the home not just the store

  1. Great insights and thanks for sharing them. The fact that brands and retailers are finally waking up to the fact that product packaging has to put the consumer first in the hierarchy is long over due. Why they act as if this is an epiphany, boggles the mind!

  2. davidsontm says:

    Interesting analysis, Richard, thanks. I know from experience in-house with a large CPG company that another of the factors that has driven package design (at times, at least) was a desire to create a new and unique trade dress that could be enforced against generics and copyists.

    It’ll be interesting to see how well the marketers are able to combine that goal with the ones you’ve described.

  3. Pingback: Facing the Facts: The New Realities of Packaging Are Reason, Risk and Traction « Hello.

  4. Pingback: “The New Realities of Packaging Are Reason, Risk & Traction” by David Kendall « Jeni Herberger

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