Views from the Hills by R. E. Stevens, GENESIS II (The Second Beginning) E-Mail

Packaging, the Most Neglected Feature of a Brand

My experiences during the past three years have reinforced my feelings that packaging research is the most neglected area of brand development. I often have the feeling that the package is almost an afterthought. It is the last part of the brand to be developed and it is carried out with little experimentation or even thought.

It seems that most companies look at the package as just something that delivers the product to the consumer. It is my experience that a great deal of attention should be paid to the package. There are at least five major areas of the package that should be addressed. The five areas are:

  1. Functionality
  2. Protection
  3. Appearance
  4. Communication
  5. Image Projection
I have seen packages that were ergonomically deficient, that dispense an inappropriate amount of product (both too much and not enough), which were extremely difficult to open or handle, which leaked in transportation or at the point of sale, etc. With little effort and cost these problems could have been uncovered before market introduction.

I have seen packages that were both over and under designed for protection. In one experiment I conducted for a client a couple of years ago, we found that an element of their packaging was unnecessary and costing them millions of dollars a year.

In another study a couple of years ago, I identified a feature of a new product appearance that generated a powerful negative image. This feature had gone unnoticed by the manufacturer and would have been disastrous to the brand.

I have researched what was thought to be market ready packages where the research showed that the consumers could not identify the product category from the packages. It is my belief that a package should identify the product and its right to be in the market (Reason for Being). My memo titled "Packages are sales tools, too, they are Billboards at the Point of Purchase" published last year covers much of my thoughts in this area.

We should always be concerned about the image projected by the name and the graphics of the package. Of particular importance is the consideration of who are we communicating to and who is the purchaser?

Having said all this, there is one caution. It is extremely important to consider not only the type of research to be conducted, but also the environment surrounding the research. I have many case studies demonstrating both the psychological and the physiological test biases.