Effective Packaging Design: Is Alienation a Real Risk?

Do Revolutionary Packaging Design Relaunch Concepts result in Alienation? Or is that exactly the level of Change a Brand Relaunch needs?

Often, when working on a brand relaunch, the question of alienation comes to mind at some point during a project. Do the agency’s proposed new packaging design solutions look too different? Would the change alienate my current consumer base? Will our sales take a hit because people might think our brand is not that good anymore? Are we changing too much? What happens if consumers can’t find us after a relaunch? Would they switch out and move to a competitor? Or is it that exactly the progressive change we need to modernize and update our brand?

All Eyes are on You.. What will you do Next?

Sooner or later the time comes when you, the brand- or marketing director, will have to make a decision. Do we go for that awesome new concept that you love so much or are you gonna play it safe and stay closer to current with that slightly more evolutionary route that is also still on the table? All eyes are on you, nerves start to kick in, these are the moments that might define a career and the one question that runs through your mind is ‘What should I do?’

What do failure and best practice stories tell you?

Having read horror stories about some infamous brand relaunches from the past that failed miserably and almost killed the brand, perhaps got the marketing director fired and the agency thrown out (who doesn’t know the story of Tropicana’s failed 35 million dollar (!)  Brand relaunch by the Arnell Group). You as a rising star in the marketing world don’t want such a disaster on your resume. You are trying to build your future, establish a reputation so you’ll quickly ascend the corporate ladder, but what is the right thing to do that will help grow your brand and your business?

Here are a few pointers that will hopefully help you make the right decision:

1. What you like is irrelevant, only the opinion of your audience matters

Don’t let personal favorites or that mighty ego guide your judgement. Unless you perfectly fit the profile of your target audience, what you think doesn’t really matter. Instead, try to put yourself in the shoes of a consumer or a shopper. How would they feel about the directions that are on the table? More excited or more worried? If you fear the latter but love the design, ask what 1 single change to the current design you could make to bring the design closer to current? Think of the design solution on an element level. Does a color change aid purchase decisions for the better? Or would it be better if we bring colors closer to where we came from? What about other individual elements such as the logo, the product visual, the information layout, the bottle shape, any icons or violators that are used. Small changes to 1 element might bring a design closer to where the audience might feel the familiarity they might look for, without losing the uniqueness of that new concept that you originally loved and might positively disrupt your category, moving your sales up.

2. Do you have an alienation-sensitive audience ?

When you target an older consumer base, that with or without admitting it is perhaps quite set in their ways, alienation might pose more of a risk than when you deal with a constantly changing audience. If your peanut butter brand’s following is very loyal or if your consumers have been with you for an entire lifetime the same might hold true. If you are in charge of a formula milk brand, where every 3 to 5 years your brand caters to an entirely different audience you can probably take a bit more risk.

3. Does your category lead by innovation and change or by not rocking the boat?

In some categories consumers are very happy with existing products. Any change in product, whether it is a formula, flavor or taste chance might annoy users and buyers and logically these kind of categories react more negatively to drastically new design, just for the sake of change.

Other categories that are extremely competitive and where product innovation happens very quick, fare well with packs that change in obvious ways to convey ‘new news’.

4. If your brand is already very successful and established avoid drastic change without ‘new news’

A face lift is the better approach when its time for a relaunch, but you don’t really have anything new to say.

If however there is a distinct change in the product itself, such as a formula or taste change or perhaps a strategic positioning change a more overt and stronger redesign could be justified, to reset the mind of lapsed or non-users.

5. If you have a failing brand however – alienation rewards are often bigger than the risks.

If competition has a highly modern and progressive look, if your brand looks dated and hasn’t been updated for ages or if you face increased competition from some international brands or new market players with deep pockets – a big change might be needed to help you stay relevant and not get lost because your brand doesn’t speak to the next generation of users.

6. Change a few things but not all

Refreshing your packaging without alienating or losing appeal to existing shoppers involves careful balancing to make sure you get it exactly right. Treat existing visual brand assets with great care and look for balance to decide which elements are up for change and which elements should not change too much.

One good approach is to build and improve on design elements that consumers love, pick 1 key element and move them on further while you avoid drastic change on others.

Another good idea is to see whether the addition of a new distinctive asset can be integrated into a design to help enrich the look and feel.

7. Evaluate change using the right tools

The last tip is to make sure you evaluate design concepts by using the right tools. And for those of you who don’t know it yet. The personal tastes of your boss don’t matter and focus groups are not the right way to evaluate packaging design changes! People generally don’t like too much change, so when you ask them whether they like your progressive new design ideas, these might not survive. That doesn’t mean that proposed change isn’t right for your brand. Henry Ford’s famous quote “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses not cars.” captures this dilemma how people might not see the value of something new, until it’s there. Our favorite methods at the moment to test if new packaging concepts work are eye-tracking studies, where possible in combination with neuro validation to see if designs win the visibility battle, are shoppable, quick and easy to read and to see if design changes evoke better emotional responses.

8. Support Big Revolutionary Relaunches with the Right POSM

Any big packaging should be communicated properly. Point of Sale material that support a relaunch and show old pack and new pack and a “new look, same product” or “new look, better product” type message should be clear on the POSM material. In addition, further support might  be needed to help communicate the change in the first 2 months following a relaunch. Do this effectively and a large packaging design change can be more easily pulled off.

All set? Or still not sure?

There you go, we hope these 8 tips will help you make better decisions on whether or not to go for a more progressive or more safe design solution.

If you need help with your high-profile, high-risk brand relaunch, feel free to get in touch here.

Before you do that though, make sure you check out these awesome brand relaunch case studies we worked on recently. One is the example of a hugely disruptive and revolutionary change to a market leading vodka brand that already owned 88% market share which, after relaunch, doubled in sales and massively expanded its market. The other, a textbook example of a more cautious and evolutionary relaunch of Danone’s biggest kids dairy brand in the world (by volume) where we grew an already huge sales volume of 1 billion units a year to a whopping 1.7 billion units a year (+ 70%) following the relaunch.

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