According to a recent POPAI (Point-of-Purchase Advertising Institute) survey, 76% of consumers make their brand decisions in the store— an increase of six percentage points from the last study in 1995. This increase is fascinating in light of the impact technology is having on the shopper journey.
Smartphones, apps and other technologies have changed the way consumers learn about products. One would think that the plethora of information available to consumers would mitigate the importance of the in-store experience. But, as the data indicates, more people are making brand decisions at the point of purchase, thus increasing the pressure on brands to optimize their food packaging design.
Design Has Become a Strategic Imperative
Regardless of the industry you’re in, packaging is a crucial element in your brand strategy. But if you are competing in retail, especially grocery retail, packaging can be a make or break proposition. Considering that the average grocery store carries more than 40,000 items, CPG Marketing Trends has suggested that food package design and labeling must serve 3 strategic roles:
- Reinforcing your brand positioning. Effective design can and should create a strong brand image in the mind of the shopper.
- Differentiating your brand from the competition. Here, packaging serves two functions. First, it attracts non-users to your category OR competitive users to your brand. But, perhaps more importantly, it prevents your core users from jumping ship.
- Closing the deal. Great package design includes the most relevant information and, perhaps even unique offers/calls-to-action that encourage the consumer to pull your brand off the shelf.
Again, imagine the average consumer strolling up and down the grocery aisles, taking in over 40,000 different product offerings. How effective is your packaging at bringing your brand to life and compelling the shopper to choose your brand over those on either side of you?
Understand the Rules of Successful Packaging Design
Grocery is a $600 billion industry. To get a bigger share of the pie, your brand needs to make that first impression counts. The collaborative graphic design marketplace 99 Design suggested several rules to guide your design process:
- Keep it simple. You may have the urge to squeeze as much information as possible on your packaging. But consider this: the average consumer will dedicate about four seconds to scanning a package. You need a design that answers 2 simple questions: What’s the product and what’s the brand behind the product? You don’t need a long list of features and benefits. Be succinct, both verbally and visually.
- Keep it consistent… and honest. Many brands feel compelled to create on-package imagery that stretches the truth about what’s inside the package (i.e. show cookies loaded with large chocolate chips when the actual product has only a handful of tiny chips). This can be tempting, but it’s ultimately short-sighted. If you make a product seem significantly more appealing than it is, you will mislead and disappoint consumers, ultimately eroding whatever brand equity you’ve been able to build.
- Be authentic. Create packaging that is dynamic, yet true to your brand. You need to stand out, but consider your competition in designing your package. If other category brands are using product photography, consider an illustration or typography. If others are going horizontal, design a vertical layout. Use a retro approach to combat competitors who are going with a contemporary design.
- Create impact. Your brand is sitting among hundreds of competitive items in endless vertical and horizontal rows. “Shelf impact” refers to the distinctiveness of your packaging vis-à-vis your nearest competitors. Study your competition to determine where there might be openings to create bold, distinctive designs that will deliver competitive shelf impact.
- Design for extendibility. Your product design should allow for future line extensions. Let’s say you are introducing a new line of apple juices. Is your packaging dictated by apple images or is it flexible enough to adapt to grape juice a few years down the road. Create a visually systematic design which allows for easy changes to a product’s visuals or other information.
One final thought here: invest in consumer testing to assess the potential impact of your package design. Explore both quantitative and qualitative (focus group) testing options. Testing not only gauges shelf impact, but can be used to determine the purchase volume potential of your design within a competitive context.
With nearly 8 in 10 consumers making their brand decision at the shelf, it’s the first moment of truth for most retail brands and the reason food packaging design has become a critical element in every marketing plan.