Some Rules Are Not Meant To Be Broken

When we meet someone new, their face is a quick giveaway of who we think they are. If they have a loud, forceful voice and an impressive stance, one might think they are aggressive and quite dynamic. If they have small delicate features, a soft spoken tone and a slight build, we might assume they are gentler, maybe someone that can be pushed around. Thus, a book is indeed judged by its cover. So it is for packaging. The face of a brand is everything and carries its fortune. It is the first point of contact and the basis for recognition and perception. Its power is immense.  And not everyone gets their packaging right.

Packaging is used to reflect personality. However some packaging works very well and some products once launched at shelf are missed entirely. What governs the right kind of package? Are there any rules we could instill, that would ensure a successful, winning formula?

1.    Focus:
Know your brand. Create a core DNA for it and live it. A good packaging design will be reflective of a defined brand promise. You can own the idea of energy or freshness or soothing capabilities. But not all three. More than one communication base is a crowd. Dove owns moisture. Their brand oozes this across product categories. Firstly, it owns white at shelf. When you see white packaging you think of Dove. Something that was built out of the promise of ¼ moisture content in their soaps; now exists in deodorants, shampoos, body washes and body lotions. A defined sense of self ensures that their product is differentiated at shelf, is relevant – speaking to a core consumer and is able to meet their emotional and functional needs.

2.    Foundation before color:
Great packaging is defined by structure, first. Many brands do not pay heed to this in their overall package design. When Parachute launched its Advanced Body Lotion it did so in the silhouette of a woman’s body. Its shape very clearly speaks to the Indian woman- she is curvy, she is feminine and she is not “the entire family”. With its customized shape – it makes her feel special. The graphics are very simple for this offering – the design language and massaging need very little support to communicate what the shape does, so effectively.

3.    Visuals over copy: While the West is flushed with brands that are copy driven (Dean and Deluca, Whole Foods,) in India, images and visuals work better. Especially in the food and beverages category, consumers gravitate towards color, imagery of ingredients, enticing and appetizing visuals that communicate taste in ways that words would not be able to. In non-food offerings we are driven by swirls, graphics shapes and elements that add a little more character on pack than a flat, minimalist visual. A relationship between mother and child, a growing boy, origin or source of the product all help communicate benefits that words cannot capture.
Sunfeast’s Pasta treats which are high on appetite, appeal both with their use of food imagery as well as a clever mascot.
Bar One from Nestle with its visuals of oozing caramel induces hunger before one can bite.
Sunsilk has an exclamation mark and supporting graphics that create elements of interest on pack.

Surf Excel gives you “matic” (machine) wash benefits with the promise graphics and swirls that indicate this movement, in the background.. Visual stimulation does in fact achieve a lot more than words could.

4.    Now you see me, now you don’t:
You don’t have much time at shelf to get your consumers attention. With how crowed the retail scenario is – both at MT and GT, your package has to work even harder to be noticed. Clarity of messaging, engaging graphics, an adequate use of color as a pop, will all ensure definition for the brand at shelf. A strong brand architecture articulated via the 10-5-2ft rule further enhances this. At 10 feet consumers see structure and color. At five feet they see varianting and at 2 feet, specific messaging. Nescafe, world over, has managed their portfolio distinctively, following such a principle. The difference across the offerings is seen in structure and supported through graphical treatments. Their everyday offering is differentiated in structure from a more premium offering. Nomenclature is used as support as well – wherein the everyday range is termed classic, and the premium range is gold creating a very obvious differentiation for the consumer at shelf. Graphics are used to separate the core offering from decaf as well as special flavors or roasts. This creates an overall impression of a mother brand (all bearing the Nescafe identity) and yet allows for segregation within the portfolio – appealing to taste and budget.

5.    Back of pack, a missed opportunity:
 This is where the benefit, efficacy and product story go. For consumers who are deciding between your product brand and another – the back of pack could be the panel that makes all the difference. A well designed back of pack with graphic intervention, procedure and usage cues is an valuable communication tool for a brand.  Innocent, a UK based brand utilizes the back of pack effectively. In some cases it would be safe to say that the back of pack is as well designed and informed as is the front of pack. Graphics that are engaging, almost cartoon like, have appeal versus what would have just been paragraphs of text that nobody would read. Information that would help a consumer choose your brand over another’s should be included on back of pack.


6.    Harmonization:
Packaging is all about creating a brand block at shelf. While each sub offering must have personality of its own, the overall takeaway must be for the brand. A defined messaging hierarchy, a noticeable, unique brand identity treatment, a defined color palette, visual imagery that is differentiated and yet in sync in an overall style that the brand can own, all contribute in creating consistent messaging at shelf. Pepsodent does this successfully. Their premium range of Expert Protection, Whitening, Germicheck, Herbal toothpastes, all have personality of their own. However at shelf, the use of blue against other sub-brand support colours and graphics allows the overall brand to create distinction at shelf.
For most things in life, rules come into place to create some sense of order. So it is with packaging. There will always be the one off – where no rules are followed, and the product flies off shelves in spite of this. However, if the above rules are considered, we have enhanced opportunity to engage our consumers.

Ashita Sarin,
Sr. GM, Unilever Account,
DY Works

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