Consumers have changed completely in the past couple of decades. They’re better informed than ever and research consumer product reviews online. They’re not easily swayed by advertising which does lead to brand recognition but doesn’t necessarily breed trust. They’re more influenced by word of mouth. Due to this, some marketing reports suggest that consumers have largely made up their minds about which products to purchase before shopping.
I disagree. Ultimately, purchase decisions are overwhelmingly being made at the retail shelf where consumers can analyze category products side by side. McKinsey & Company marketing research bears this out. Consumers want to look at a product in action and are highly influenced by the visual dimension: up to 40 percent of them change their minds because of something they see, learn, or do at this point say, packaging, placement, or interactions with salespeople. Since consumers are more likely to make purchases for emotional rather than rational reasons, they can be swayed. Implication? The onus rests significantly on packaging and its unique ability to capture emotions and drive sales in the scant few seconds when consumers are scanning products in retail stores. A big part of being able to leverage the power of packaging lies in understanding consumers new purchasing drivers.
What are consumers’ new purchasing drivers?
Brand marketers and package designers point to the need for innovation to gain competitive advantage. New packaging substrates attract attention but something else is needed to make consumers want to purchase the product – the specific cues that satisfy their current purchasing drivers when packaging new products or refreshing existing packaging. The key: integrating entertainment, product and packaging in an emotive manner to appeal to consumers and turn them into fans, making the brand memorable and shareable with friends.
There are great examples in the toy industry. About five years ago, Lego built AR (augmented reality) into its packaging to show a three dimensional view of the model inside, which was a major innovation in the industry. When focusing a camera inside LEGOLAND stores on the AR block on packaging, an interactive store screen brought the model to life delivering great satisfaction to fans of Lego and its many licensed, co-branded products. Lego has totally evolved from a toy company to an entertainment brand. With its blockbuster, The Lego Movie in 3-D, the brand’s future solidly lies in the seamless integration of entertainment, product and packaging, extending the customer experience in 360º. This is an increasingly important consumer driver, but one that few consumer product companies have been able to master in the creation and marketing of products, Apple being a notable exception.
Key toy industry players are leveraging new purchasing drivers in package design
Legos major competitors, Mattel and Hasbro, are working in the same direction. Warner Bros. Consumer Products, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation recently announced the creation of original new content based on the success of Mattels and Fisher-Prices Imaginext toy lines. Well-conceived products that are emotively packaged (read: deliver an engaging storyline) can achieve great things. Made-for-video animated movies and shorts are planned to extend the play experience. Bringing dimension to the action figures and playsets available in toy aisles globally, each program will engage millions of young fans around the world like never before. Companion apps will allow kids to bring their play patterns to life in an interactive and individualized manner.
In another interesting move, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. are about to roll out the first animated film in a planned series. Justice League: Throne of Atlantis debuts in the spring of 2015. In the movie, the newly-formed Justice League, including Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman (DC Entertainments answer to Marvels Avengers) come together to combat evil forces that threaten Atlantis in an epic adventure. The primary focus and hero? None other than Arthur Curry, aka, Aquaman. Fisher-Price Imaginext toys have been created and packaged ahead of the movies release. A great example of packaging that optimizes storytelling in a visual manner shows seven action figures in one playset: a panoply of Justice League heroes lined up with the menacing Gorilla Grodd in the background, threatening to pounce on them. The visuals dominate the packaging along with the Fisher-Price and Imaginext brand identities, as well as that of the Justice League in its red shield. No verbal brand communication is needed. The story is told uniquely through the visual representation of the characters and it’s immediately recognizable and emotive to its legion of fans.
Exclusive Comic-Con package design drives desire among Transformers fans
Even as Hasbro’s classic Transformers property continues to enthrall with new characters and storylines, its heritage characters are also repackaged to appeal to multi-generational fans. In conjunction with San Diego’s Comic Con 2013, Transformers Masterpiece Soundwave, a beloved character from the original animated series, was made available in an exclusive offering to the delight of fans. The larger scale, quality model features fine detailing and a great deal of articulation and is immediately recognizable with his signature helmet and faceplate. Soundwave comes with an Energon fuel cube, the favorite, intoxicating drink of Decepticons everywhere. The figure converts back and forth from robot mode to microcassette mode; it also includes 5 converting micro-cassettes for Laserbeak, Buzzsaw, Decepticon Rumble, Decepticon Frenzy and Ravage.
Masterpiece Soundwave might be a classic character but the packaging is anything but old. It’s bold and modern, showing imagery of the distinctive blue and silver fan-favorite figure as well as the classic cassette to which Masterpiece Soundwave converts. The black center panel is a dramatic back-drop for the model; it is also a sleeve with a purple wrap-around that features the iconic Transformers mask embossed in white. The Transformers Masterpiece brand appears horizontally right over the figure and the character name Soundwave appears vertically down the right-hand side of the packaging; again in white on purple. The Japanese iconography reminds fans of the origins of both the Transformers brand and the Masterpiece line. This is premium packaging, as collectible as the exclusive, higher-priced figure inside, appealing to kids and adults alike.
Package design refresh with consumers’ new purchasing drivers in mind
There are great opportunities to package new consumer products, of course, but what about classic products that have considerable heritage but might be in need of a package design refresh? When the classic drink mix, Tang, was losing relevance with consumers, Kraft refreshed the packaging. The new packaging is still in a canister but the graphics on the full body shrink-sleeved label are more compelling. The old label depicted a splash of the orange drink with a slice of orange and the Tang logo prominently placed above it. The brand communication “Delicious with breakfast” appeared above the logo. While colorful, it did nothing to advance the brand to a new generation of consumers; nor did it convey its heritage.
The new label features an exclamation point with the Tang logo appearing vertically within the upper part of the exclamation mark and the brand communication “Orange natural flavor” inside of the period. The font is contemporized as well. Large splashes and orange slices appear on both sides of the exclamation point, which itself denotes upward movement and energy. Large orange slices appear alongside the splashes. “90 calories per cup” was added to the new packaging, as important as energy and natural flavors for today’s consumers. And forget talking about breakfast. Consumers are eating light meals and snacks all day long and they’re looking for healthy choices.
Since Tang was developed in the 1960s for the space program, it makes perfect sense to leverage the heritage of the brand’s origins in this manner that suggests energy and vibrancy. Doesn’t the exclamation point remind you of a rocket lifting off? Contemporizing classic product packaging has to be done periodically, but care must be taken to ensure that key brand assets are retained while leveraging those aspects of the brand that matter more to consumers now. This is a balancing act and Tang has refreshed its packaging in the right manner.
An energy bar that leverages new purchasing drivers on its package design
There are an amazing number of sports and energy bars in the marketplace but what’s top-most in consumers’ minds now? Fewer, simpler, more natural ingredients and lots of protein. Enter in RxBar. Real food bars (whole and unprocessed) pair fruits and nuts with lots of protein from egg whites without any artificial ingredients or preservatives packing significant nutritional punch. While the original packaging declared the cleanness of the product and used the brand communication: “High protein energy bar”, it still didn’t convey the information in a manner that currently drives consumers so the packaging was slightly tweaked to deliver the message in a subtle but important manner.
The RxBar logo is larger and more prominent since the ingredient visuals are now on the right-hand side of the package, rather than below the logo. The tagline: “As prescribed by nature” now appears below the logo. The all-important 12 grams of protein is highlighted inside of a colorful burst. The brand communication: “No gluten, No GMOs, No Soy, No Dairy and No BS” appears more prominently below the flavor designation. Simple and effective.
These examples of new and refreshed packaging give us a few insights into how to leverage consumers’ new drivers into effective package design. It doesn’t matter how unique and high-quality consumer products are if the packaging doesn’t seal the deal with consumers in an attention-grabbing, emotive manner. And to do that, effective visual and verbal communication has to be leveraged to speak to whats driving consumers today.