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PART 5: The secret to successful packaging design


How do you demonstrate value for money on a retail shelf without a discount sticker?

The gurus will tell us that real value for money is based not only on the purchase price of a product but also on the maximum efficiency and effectiveness of the purchase. In other words value for money is how well the product can solve my problem and give me what I need.

As marketers we know the great value the consumer will get from buying our product/s but somehow they just don’t seem to “get it”. Your consumer just doesn’t understand all the ways your product can bring them real value.

What is it that makes your product so special, so unique?

As a marketer your toughest job, when it comes to demonstrating the value of your product to your targeted consumer, is to get them to picture the full depth and breadth of everything your product has to offer. How do you do this without cluttering the pack?

The answer is … every product in your range must have its own stand alone unique selling proposition (USP). Savvy marketers understand that their USPs are not the sole domain of the brand. Products themselves should stand on their own with their own recognisable, distinctive attributes and USP.

In 2013 Nielsen conducted a global survey of “Loyalty Sentiment”, the results of which were published in a report entitled “How Loyal Are Your Customers?” A key finding was that, as consumers, we are more likely to switch brands for those products that we buy most frequently.

About the report, Chris Sgourakis from BrandAide wrote, “This is counter-intuitive, as one would have expected that for everyday staple products, we choose the “default”.” Rather, across all of the 16 categories surveyed, the survey found that:

  • Loyalty was lowest for foods and beverages, namely alcoholic beverages (43% likely to switch brands)
  • Snack foods (39% switch)
  • Carbonated beverages (38% switch)
  • Cereals (37% switch)

The switch rates for snack foods were even higher in Europe, which Nielsen attributes to high levels of discounting of such products.

If, as Nielsen suggests, there is little or no loyalty for those products that we buy most frequently, then marketers should consider distinguishing their products with unique, stand out packaging design or a compelling USP or both, rather than simply discounting to woo consumers.

Marketing 101: USP

One of the foundational teachings we learn in any marketing school is the value and importance of having a USP. It is the “unique something” which sets a business apart from all others. While the majority of marketers get the USP concept, in many cases actually coming up with a unique and compelling USP is not necessarily easy, which is why it is often neglected or out-sourced. When it comes to products and their packaging, the concept of USP creation equally applies. Products require their own “stand-out” USP to differentiate them on shelf. Author of “How to make money out of thin air”, Brian Sher teaches, “Branding is about trying to get your customer to choose you over your competition; USP is about getting your prospect to see you as the only solution to their problem.”

Consumers want solutions to their problems. Products on shelf are just a mechanism for solving a problem.

A compelling USP

Why is it that for so many marketers getting to grips with their product USP is still a mystery?

The fact is that clearly understanding and then demonstrating your product USP is Ground Zero for all your marketing activity. Without question … it’s the most important part of your marketing. So why is a compelling USP so critically important? Because when a USP is developed correctly:

  • It increases the likelihood of your target consumer putting your product in their shopping basket
  • It will stop customers shopping you on price

Yet … even with all the promise that a well thought out and compelling USP can bring … remarkably the research shows that only a small minority of products presented on the retail shelf have a clearly defined USP … or does it well.

  • Do customers want to buy … a hammer? No, they are looking to hang a picture.
  • Do customers want to buy petrol? No, they are looking for mobility.
  • Do customers want to buy a computer? No, they are looking to gain access to information.

Customers are looking for solutions to their problems and it’s a compelling USPs that gets them to want your product as the solution.

The difference between branding and a USP

According to USP specialist Brian Sher, “Branding is about trying to get your prospect to choose you over your competition, whereas a USP is all about getting your prospect to see your product as the only solution to their problem.”

When one looks at a sea of me too products on a retail shelf it is all too apparent that the vast majority of product USP’s are either ABSENT, CONFUSING or WRONG. Every product needs to justify its ‘reason for being’ – it cannot just “exist” today there is too much of just about everything. Supply has almost exceeded demand. So…

10 questions to determine if your product’s USP is strong enough

  1. What is your product’s reason for being?
  2. What problem does your product solve better than any other product in its category?
  3. What does your product have that is UNIQUE = “no one else has this”
  4. What is the proposition your product makes? Proposition = “promise to your customer”
  5. What does your product promise your target consumer that others alongside them on the retail shelf do not?
  6. What is the number 1 “thing” that attracts customers upfront that explains to the consumer why they should buy your product as opposed to that of your competitor?
  7. Tell me how you will solve my problem in a way that serves my self interest … That is better than anything else out there?”
  8. What is the biggest emotive problem your product solves for your target consumer?
  9. How does your USP address the conversation going on in the head of your target consumer?
  10. Does your pack clearly articulate how clearly your product is unique?

If your product USP answers the above questions, your targeted consumer’s mental response when engaging with your pack should say … YES … THAT’S ME!

Ian Segail is the General Manager – Operations at Sydney-based branding, packaging and design agency Jam&Co.
Read Part 1 of the series here.
Read Part 2 of the series here.
Read Part 3 of the series here.
Read Part 4 of the series here

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