Simple Packaging Innovation Leads to Big Brand Rewards


National brands are generally the end result of big investment, big ideas and big marketing. So why am I finding that my own consumer choices are being increasingly influenced and determined by niggly little things instead of the big picture?

One of the little things that got hammered this revelation home for me what the security seals on meal replacements. Both Ensure and Boost are nationally advertised, similar tasting and priced about the same. One has simple perforated plastic ring that you break when you twist off the cap. The other has a foil seal with teeny tiny tabs that you remove with your fingernails if they’re strong enough to apply about 2,000 pounds of pressure per square inch. If they’re not, you have to stab the seal with a knife. It may seem like a small thing. But, when you think about it, this is product category primarily focused on an older demographic that is even less dextrous than me. Why put these consumers through hassle when the whole point of your product is to make their lives easier?

Getting to the actual product in the package is the ultimate pay-off for every brand. Which is why I don’t buy loose charcoal for the barbecue anymore. Why hunt for scissors to cut open a bag and then pour out the briquettes in a storm cloud of charcoal dust when I can choose a brand that lets me toss the whole bag into the barbecue and use one match on the bag to light it? This is brilliant. I am betting the idea came from a product manager who actually has a charcoal barbecue and uses it.

And while I’m on the subject of barbecuing, I want to commend the people at Maple Leaf who had the foresight to package Prime Chicken in leak-proof trays. Thanks to food safety experts, we  know that handling raw chicken and plutonium are about equally deadly, but many grocery stores continue to wrap their chicken trays so the raw chicken juice manages to leak out the bottom. With Prime, I can confidently purchase poultry without a hazmat suit.

After investing mightily in what’s in the package and on the package, I would encourage brands to invest more time in thinking about how consumers open the package; which is one of your product’s most important brand touch-points. It may be a small thing, but I suspect it influences more purchasing decisions than they believe.

Maybe it’s time to refocus some focus groups on collecting insights about that moment of truth when consumers experience products for the first time. After all, the product experience outweighs all of the brilliant and cunning marketing that gets them to the point of trying it. The real beating heart of innovation is simply answering the unmet need. It doesn’t have to be a big unmet need. But if that unmet need you’ve met is something your competition isn’t doing, you will win.

I will buy a battery with a best-before date on it before a battery that makes me guess. I will choose a network provider that continually tells me how much bandwidth I have left for the same reason. People are only loyal to brands as long as the brands work for them. As soon as your brand creates angst in my life, I’m unfriending you faster than you can say salmonella.

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