Let’s face it. When it comes to the weekly shop, people today are spending less and less time doing it. Grocery shopping has become a chore that has to be ‘got out of the way’, and is less about the joy of discovery. Online shopping has made it worse, largely eliminating that chance encounter with a new product that makes the retail experience interesting. For this reason, brands today need to work a lot harder to stand out from the clutter, and connect with consumers. If your brand doesn’t connect in an emotional way – be it on the shelf or online – it runs the risk of being ignored.
Yes, but how can this connection be achieved?
In the current context, brands need to design packaging that communicates the brand story and offers a meaningful experience, and doesn’t just create shelf impact. A truly successful brand today needs to understand its target consumers, and connect to their emotions by telling the brand story in a way that is both truthful and bold. Above all, customers are looking for authenticity and something they can identify with, and not just any brand which ‘does the job’. In our view there are five ways a product can achieve this emotional connection with consumers, and stand out from the crowd:
1. Understand the consumer
Going beyond just identifying target consumer profiles and demographics, we need to dive deeper in order to understand their needs, aspirations and expectations. It’s about uncovering the human truths that drive purchasing behaviour, which will help us to identify the single proposition, the big idea, that will connect with the consumer and trigger a sale. It’s about uncovering insights which are the first step to creating impact.
La Roche-Posay “My UV Patch” is an innovative product that was created as a result of a survey of 19,000 women and men, which revealed a huge gap in consumer behaviour. While 92% of consumers were aware that unprotected sun exposure can cause premature ageing and cancer, only 26% protect themselves all year round, regardless of the season. The UV patch changes colour when exposed to UV rays in order to indicate varying levels of sun exposure. Consumers are also able to analyse their UV exposure via an app when they upload a picture of the patch.
2. Tell a great story
Everyone loves a great story, be it inspiring or humorous. Great stories connect with shoppers by touching their hearts. Authenticity is extremely important here – consumers want to know the history of the product, why it works and what it can mean to them. Essentially, a great story can and will help to change consumer perceptions, and trigger a purchase.
Japanese Koi Sake by Imayotsukasa Sake Brewery, which recently won a platinum acolade in Pentawards 2016, is a great example of using ‘Koi’ (ornamental fish) to capture the brand essence of being Japanese and 100% pure. The company has a long and proud history of producing premium quality sake which is totally undiluted or unadulterated, in an industry that is notorious for it.
3. Connect to the emotions
Packaging is not just a container for a product, it’s also a platform to connect with consumer’s emotions and make the product come alive. It should speak to them from the moment they pick up a product by involving them in a sensory brand experience which communicates the essence of the product, even before they use it. Augment that experience by telling the brand story on social media or the product labelling, and you can engage the emotions and affinities of consumers in a multi-dimensional way.
Consider Uni-President’s Assam Ice Tea. A graphic illustration combining a stylised cow for ‘milk’ and a tea bag for ‘tea’ presents the essence of the product in a light hearted manner. Capitalising on familiar motifs and symbols, the brand becomes instantly memorable and likeable.
4. Be true
Packaging should create a talking point through design so that customers will desire it. But the story it tells must be perceived to be true, or else it won’t work. So let the packaging serve a greater purpose in adding value to the brand by communicating the authenticity of the product. Or sending a green message by encouraging the use of environment-friendly material, or by recycling the box. Be purposeful in communicating with the consumer in the most honest manner. Apply the principle of Essentialism in the structure of the packaging – simplicity, minimalism, and efficiency – in order to help consumers determine what is vital and authentic during their purchase decision.
One example is Oat-Ly organic milk, a Swedish ready-to-drink (RTD) oat based product. Their goal is to deliver products that have maximum nutritional value and minimal environmental impact. Oat-ly’s brand philosophy expressively states that they are ‘not a perfect company, not even close, but our intentions are true’. That’s being very honest, but when brands are that honest, people trust them.
5. Be bold
In a retail environment where brands rarely break the mould, have the courage to do something different. The world is changing. To enable your packaging to become a talking piece on social media, be bold in your approach and create a stand-out design piece. Breakthrough packaging is all about knowing who you are and what your purpose is, and having the courage of your convictions. That kind of differentiation is what creates affinity with your consumers, and makes them want to part with their money and buy your brand.
One outstanding example of this is the Man Cave range of premium meat products. A Platinum winning brand in the Pentawards 2016, the award citation says it all: “Moving from the stall at the Minneapolis Farmers Market out into grocery stores required the creation of a punchy packaging design for Man Cave Craft Meats to proclaim the makers’ innovative flavor combinations and obsessive pursuit of quality. This was a product with a bold and authentic identity, and a strong measure of individuality, reminiscent of the artisanal world of craft beer with its small-batch production and straightforward, masculine irreverence. So for the unpretentious foodie core customer, the new design uses hand-crafted typography on a strong black background, and images of burly, bearded men with tattoos, alongside taglines such as: “Long live the butcher!”
As we have argued above, the future of packaging no longer lies in creating shelf impact alone – it is also about connecting with the shopper, at every brand touchpoint. It’s about creating a compelling experience almost like theatre. Well-designed packaging is about touching the hearts of consumers with a well-told story, delivered in a seamless way that is unique to the brand personality. But it’s also about allowing consumers to draw their own conclusions, and share their views about it with others. Indeed, it takes a certain level of boldness to create a truly unique offering, that will rise above the clutter. But you know what they say – ‘Fortune favours the brave.’