Want Results? Avoid Beauty Contests When It Comes To Package Design
Marketers will often turn to focus groups for feedback on current or proposed packaging design. Unfortunately, traditional focus groups tend to mimic beauty contests. They turn into opinion gathering sessions that support a participant’s point of view, rather than providing feedback on consumers’ actual buying behavior within the store environment where products are purchased.
Participants play art director over design issues, confuse the brand with the package design, react emotionally to price increase questions, and talk about what they “like” and “don’t like”. As a result, the output quality of this type of research is minimal at best.
On the other hand, effective behavior-based focus group research measures the effect of brand influence, analyzes the buying behavior of participants in a comparative retail environment, and uses eye-tracking technology to find out what consumers pay attention to – and what they ignore.
The significance of brand influence
Effective brand value testing involves separating the brand name from the actual proposed or current package design. This measurement gives an indication of how the brand is perceived prior to seeing a packaged product. Participants are then introduced to the packaging and asked if the new or proposed package design adds, or detracts from, perceived brand value. Marketers may be making a costly mistake if the perceived value of a brand is negatively affected by a new design architecture.
Buying behavior of participants in a retail environment
Packaging design is measured and tested in the comparative marketplace for which it is intended. A comparative marketplace is one in which the competition sits side by side for comparison and consideration. This is a circumstance that does not usually occur in print and broadcast media; as competitors usually do not jockey to be side-by-side.
According to Wharton School research, over one third of the brands displayed on the shelf are never seen. A colorful and exciting new design that is approved in the boardroom or chosen in a focus group may fail if all the other packages on the shelf in the same category are equally as colorful and exciting. Contrast is what makes a package design stand out on the shelf, and this can be achieved through the effective means of both design and structural innovation.
Consumers spend 2-3 seconds scanning a package for relevant information. If they do not immediately comprehend the benefit they will move on to a competitor’s brand. It is imperative to know what consumers are seeing and what they are not, and this can be done effectively with eye-tracking technology. This type of research gives marketers an idea of which messaging to prioritize, and which information to minimize.
Not surprisingly, the more text there is on a package, the less it will be read. Unfortunately, many well-meaning marketers think the opposite, and act accordingly. Some of the product designers at Microsoft have put together a great parody of this practice by showing how the Microsoft marketing department would redesign Apple’s iPod package. Instead of the simple and elegant messaging Apple created, it becomes a hodgepodge of system requirements, badges, call-outs, sub-branding logos, benefit statements, feature lists, and more!
Effective behavior-based focus group research goes beyond “opinion gathering”, giving researchers the feedback necessary to understand the impact and value of both present, and proposed packaging design in real-world terms.
Tim Robertson is Creative Director of BigCity, a packaging design agency. Visit http://www.bigcitygraphics.ca for more ways to avoid old-paradigm thinking around package design and research.
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