The Art of Persuasion

Package design, at its root, is an art of persuasion: Persuading a shopper to pick your good up and purchase it; persuading a retail buyer that their customers want your product and your brand aligns well with the retailer; and persuading brand managers that your design or branding strategy can transform or keep retail buyers and shoppers as brand fans.

That’s why Taja Dockendorf, owner and creative director at Pulp+Wire, advocates engaging the client early in the creative process. “By letting clients play a central role in the process, they’ve already been involved in some of the early stages of creative, including discoveries and research, by the time we get to the big presentation,” she contends. Then the presentation can be about the aha moment, when they get to touch and feel the concept.

“It’s not about five different directions,” Dockendorf remarks. “That’s just a waste of time and, honestly, a waste of budget.”

Instead, she suggests, give the client the satisfaction and the excitement of seeing your collaborative work in a nearly final stage, while still affording them an opportunity to tweak the design if it doesn’t match what they perceived to be the collective vision.

In addition to developing working prototypes, Dockendorf suggests showing the brand owner how those designs will look on shelf to ensure the packaging will perform at retail.

Describing a recent redesign of the packaging for Yo-Goat, a drinkable yogurt made from grade A pasteurized goat’s milk, live active cultures and natural flavors and without added preservatives, Dockendorf says, “We took a photo of the shelf space in Whole Foods and then replaced out their old packaging with the new packaging so that the client could see how it really worked amongst their competition. That was great, because one of the directions that they liked previously, really lost its impact on the shelf and started to look like everyone else, so it was great for them to see that.”

Noting that even though agencies like hers may look at shelf sets earlier in the design process, design firms should still include shelf sets in their presentations. This lets all the project stakeholders, Dockendorf says, see how the design competes on shelf “before printing 400,000 or more shrink sleeves.”

That’s precisely why Tom Newmaster, partner at WFM, likes to give the shelf set prominence in his presentations. “If I can hold back seeing the individual package on its own, I will do that every time,” he remarks. “Think about it, none of the other stuff matters if the design doesn’t work on the shelf.”

Showing the shelf set too late, he contends, can also encourage the project stakeholders to focus on minutia instead of the design’s bigger, broader, strategic goals.

“When you show the individual concepts first, human nature takes over,” he says. “Instead of looking at how the design jumps off the shelf and is an improvement over the competition or a weakness in the previous design. It’s a natural tendency for people to want to get in the weeds and spend their time fine-tuning details of the individual design because everybody wants to add something to the project.”

From choosing the presentation progression that optimizes everyone’s use of time to deciding how formal and long a presentation needs to be, design firms should make these considerations on a project-to-project basis. “You don’t have an excessive amount of time to spend on the presentation,” he remarks, “and the client doesn’t have that kind of time either. Get to the point and move on.”

This approach also leaves more time to finesse the design after the presentation. Laura Wilkinson Sinton is the CEO of startup FreshTape, which aims to offer consumers a better and cleaner alternative to potato chip bag clips via its resealable tape product. She walks into every presentation to a retail buyer with the attitude that the design is not final.

Describing her initial in-person presentation with Cooks Warehouse Stores’ buyer Kate Pedrick, Wilkinson Sinton recalls, “I walked in, set down the point-of-purchase and packaging that Haney PRC had designed for us and asked for her input. The packaging surprised her, pleasantly, but she had great ideas on how to improve a few things. We took it to heart, and they are now a favorite retailer for us. They move a lot of FreshTape.”

Wilkinson Sinton advises other brand owners and managers to remember that presenting to the retail buyer is a consultative sell. Approach the process with this question in mind, “How can our product help you sell?”

3 tips for presenting to retail buyers

Laura Wilkinson Sinton of startup FreshTape is successfully wooing buyers. At time of publication, FreshTape is in 150 stores, and Wilkinson Sinton is in ongoing discussions with other retailers interested in her product. She shares her top tips for presenting to buyers.

1.  Involve your top buyers in the  process. Actively seek their input as early as you can.

2.  Bring beautifully executed A/B/C prototypes. But avoid presenting more than three design options or decision fatigue will hurt you.

 3.  Bring visuals of what the product may look like in their specific store. Rather than rely on generic shelf set pictures, use Photoshop to help the buyer visualize your product in their store and against their specific competitive products. Wilkinson Sinton says this subtle difference can make a sale.

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Hands-on Team Player

Q&A with:

Peter DiDonato, owner of DiDonato Design

Judy Dixon, vice president of production at Hornall Anderson

Terri Goldstein, CEO of The Goldstein Group

Pamela Long, director of client services at Little Big Brands

John Nunziato, founder and creative director of Little Big Brands

Faster and cheaper has been the business directive from time immemorial. This desire, Little Big Brands’ founder and creative director John Nunziato says, is fueling a disturbing modern trend in package design. “Because of timing and cost being hero, people are approving PDFs as proofs,” he explains. “This type of proofing will most likely result in a client who’s disappointed when the product gets printed because they’ve seen the image in a very different way,” Nunziato says, noting that packages printed on white ink look different from prints on white paper and very different from images viewed on screen. A physical prototype can more clearly communicate concepts and how the package will look in different retail environments.

A prototype also lets everyone involved in the process, including the designer, brand manager and retail buyer, examine the concept closely.
A consumer packaged goods company understands the proposed direction much earlier in the process as well. “The ability to actually hold a prototype or walk up to it—depending on the project—really accentuates the detail,” Hornall Anderson’s vice president of production Judy Dixon notes. “It’s amazing how many details you realize about a design concept once you see it in 3-D.”

Nunziato adds, “That [the prototype review stage] is when the brand manager really starts to fall in love with the design idea. A prototype gives them a real package that they can go to the store with and put on the shelf. They can keep it around at eye level. They can send it to other people for review.

“It’s also easier for clients to be able to visualize type and color tweaks compared to a 3-D rendering or even a lay flat,” he adds. “A prototype can spur more creativity from the client side. I think it can even lead to some buy in from their side and result in a few more dollars invested in the project because they can see just how beautiful the brand’s going to look.”

To make sure that designers and brand managers are getting the most out of their prototypes, Little Big Brands’ director of client services Pamela Long recommends using a service that’s flexible enough to partner on some of the decisions. “They need to be able to roll with the changes,” she remarks.

Nunziato warns that designers should avoid services that “just receive a file, run it and say, ‘Well, that’s what we received.’” Prototyping services with this philosophy don’t add to the creative process. “I believe creativity continues from the agency to the prototypers to prepress to the printers,” Nunziato explains. “But I believe some of them are not using their creativity. So you want to make sure the prototype house you’re using is asking lots of questions. You want to make sure that the prototyper is invested in the client’s brand as much as you are because they’re a part of the project now and not just a piece of the process.”

That’s why Terri Goldstein, CEO of The Goldstein Group, lists service, a consultative approach and knowledge of retail environments as her top three criteria for choosing a prototype house. A commitment to customer service will help ensure that the prototype house will not only manufacture a viable prototype but also will build a plan for the packaging supplier for making the final packages. A consultative approach helps an agency get the most out of the technical expertise of the prototype house. Knowledge of the retail environment will help ensure that the package design’s intent is met despite how the package is displayed.

Goldstein explains that a good prototype house can then contribute to the design process by making sure that the best substrates and coatings are chosen for the project. “Often a brand can be sitting on the bottom shelf or way up on the top,” she says. “A prototype house that truly understands the retail environment can note how elements might look darker on a shelf or what parts of the design are likely to be covered by shelf tags. A good prototype house also keeps up with the latest technologies and substrates so they can make suggestions that adjust for these conditions.” These suggestions can have a great impact on the efficacy of the final design.

That’s why Peter DiDonato, owner of DiDonato Design, says the first and the topmost question he asks himself when choosing a prototyper is, “Do I trust them?”

“Yes, you have to consider price and quality,” he adds. “But it really comes down to the person you’re working with.”

When you trust that person, Nunziato says, you know that everyone is working toward the same goal. “I trust that they’re a business that’s invested in building beautiful brands with our agency,” he explains. “As a business owner and creative director, I believe it’s important to let creative people be creative. I try to find the ‘specialness’ in a brand and in my team, and, of course, manage expectations.”

Goldstein adds that businesses can quickly reap the financial rewards from a good design-firm and prototype-house relationship. “A good prototype service paints a picture of how colors are met with exact formulas, how blends are achieved, basically how everything is broken down,” she says. “When a client goes to their package printer with a prototype from a great comp house, they don’t have to stay at the printer for two, 15-hour days. They simply say, ‘Here’s the target and here’s how you hit it.’

“My mandate is never to let a design go out of my studio without a comp that the client has signed off on and the formula to hit that target,” Goldstein remarks. “That’s how you get great brands that look as good on shelf as the phase one concept the client fell in love with.”

A peek behind the curtain
In our December 2013 issue, Package Design will showcase prototype services companies as well as manufacturers
of prototyping equipment in a product and services focus on prototyping. Here’s a sneak peak at some of the early submissions:

Manufacturing Target Development
Guy Conti Art & Design Inc. specializes in package design exploration and development. Specialties include folding carton, tube, jar, bottle, box and bag prototyping. Package decorating and finishing options include foil stamping, custom embossing, custom spraying, chrome finishing, shrink wrapping, laser die-cutting, custom dry transfer and silk screening. The firm can also create digital proofs and prepare mechanicals and production targets.

Packaging Prototypes
Schawk’s brand deployment packaging prototype services range from providing comps for “live” local market tests in-store, to production comps used to sell new products at retail, to hero comps suitable for media exposure and public relations opportunities. SGK can produce a wide range of CPG prototypes, comps and sales samples, particularly for the food, beverage, health and drug industries including: both rigid and flexible packaging, comprising cartons, pouches and shrink labels, which can be produced using clear, white and metallized substrates, along with heat shrinkable films.

Complex Prototypes 
Bridge Premedia prototypes allow clients to reproduce metallics, white ink, spot varnishes, and embossing effects on production substrates such as shrink overwrap film, shrink sleeves, foil, paperboard, biaxially oriented PP, PET and corrugated board. Prototypes offered include cartons, pouches, shrink label and overwrap, rapid prototyping of jar and bottle structures, and interactive virtual prototyping.

Food Packaging Prototypes
As a digital printer of FDA-approved food packaging, PrintSure can manufacture prototype pouches, cartons and shrink sleeves that can be used for direct or indirect contact with food.

3-D Structural Prototypes
IBC Shell produces 3-D printed prototypes on a Cimquest fused deposition modeler to communicate the beauty and confirm the functionality of packaging concepts. The 3-D CAD Buildware can transform design concepts into complex, finished decorated prototypes that can also incorporate moving components.

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