Thursday, January 26, 2006

Packaging By The Numbers - Demographic Challenges

One of the most frequent questions I am asked about packaging is what's hot in packaging? Interestingly, the answer is not what you might think. What is hot in packaging now is determined by who is buying and where?

Never before has there been so much focus on the consumer. Historically, the popular notion was that the consumers know nothing about packaging. That being said it was believed that the customer could not know what they want or understand it. Have
you ever heard the phrase “designers design packaging?” Yes, in a limited sense it is true. But, what if your designer knows design but does not understand for whom they are designing? Unfortunately as much as we would like to believe it: Great package design doesn't equal increased sales. In fact, in a recent study I conducted it was proven that designers care much more about design elements such as shape than the general populace. That is unless the shape relates to the product’s functionality.

Now the package design focus has finally has begun to change to one based on consumer awareness. This factor should be driving all product-packaging decisions. I have seen some very interesting packaging campaigns that, on the surface, seem well thought out and logical. However, the reality is that they simply don't understand their consumer or their target demographics.

Let me give you an example. This past holiday season we were inundated with products packaged in pink. The companies fully expected to capture the women's market in record numbers. The truth is that the color pink only works in few appropriate product applications and is not the answer to capturing her attention to pick up your product off the shelf.

Where did this myth originate? If it’s pink, she will buy it. This suggests that marketers simply don't understand their target audience. They work off the unfortunate misconception that pink translates to female-friendly or that a product has to appear infeminine colors before it will appeal to her.

Here is a second example. Companies that market products to the 50+ generation that insist on identifying their products as ones designed for older, aging, mature or senior consumers. This is another great misconception. That generation simply cannot identify with that nomenclature. That is not how they think of themselves. In fact, using the terms older, mature, and elderly alienates rather than "connect" with this consumer. The average 50+ consumer thinks of themselves as 20 years younger than they are.

So how can you begin to capture these elusive and fast moving consumer demographics? First, forget stereotypes. Look at contemporary consumers. Get a sense of what motivates them in their purchasing decision. Keep your connotations about age and gender appropriate but don't typecast your consumer.

Second compel them to pick up your product though product packaging. Fulfill a need, offer an innovative feature, suggest convenience and ease of use, or tout other package attributes that appeal today's shopper. Remember, time is our most critical issue so think simple, easy, quick, and convenient.

Third, understand how and where they shop. What's driving today's purchasing decisions? What retail outlets are growing and what centers are in their demise? Where can someone shop and get virtually every thing the need and in a hurry?

Finally, know what the consumer expects out of products. How fresh is it? How and where can it be stored? How soon does it need to be consumed or used? How user friendly is it? How much will I have to read to make this product work?

Answering these questions should get you started thinking from a consumers perspective. Keep in mind the importance of who makes the purchasing decision too. If it’s her (women are the purchasing decision maker 80% of the time) then appeal to her wants and desires in your packaging.

Keep in mind that great design works when coupled with answering the question: How will this product make my life easier?

If you have a product that targets the 50 + generation I want to hear from you for my upcoming workshop "How to Sell And Connect With Boomers." Email me at PackagingDiva@aol.com. Details TBA.

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