A Smarter Packaging Revamp: Listening to Consumers Before you Lose Them

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Article Takeaways:

  • Packaging updates are critical to maintaining the relevance of your brand, particularly for legacy brands.
  • How do you make a packaging change that balances elevating your brand and attracting new users with maintaining the loyal customer base you’ve spent years acquiring?

Who hasn’t been there?

Allow me to set the scene: A quick trip to your Target after day-care pick-up, whiny children in tow, for the allergy medicine you ran out of that morning. You take it every day (because it works) and it’s ragweed season so you know you’re going to get sick if you miss even one day. And, girl, you do not have time to get sick this month!! Lo and behold, as you sprint to the trusty Allergy Aisle and beeline to the shelf where your favorite brand has sat for the past many years you’ve used it – alas! An imposter! What is this new version of your brand? What are those weird stripes and background colors? And the ultimate question: “Is this still my brand?”

Who has time to bust out their Nancy Drew sleuthing skills in the store aisle?

I certainly don’t have to tell you that consumers are pressed for time when they’re in-store. Rarely do consumers stand in an aisle comparing the ingredient labels of all of the different options and cross-referencing claims. If they do this, it’s usually the first time they’re shopping the category. What you risk with a packaging change that’s too dramatic and not accompanied by in-store support is that your loyal consumers WILL go back to that product comparison stage and your product will no longer emerge as the winner. If you’ve ever noticed your new packaging launch coincides with a pop in Google searches for “is <BRAND NAME> still the same formula?” you know you’ve got a big problem – one you may soon be seeing play out in your sales numbers.

Ch-Ch-Changes, Time to Face the Strange

Marketers know that refreshing product packaging is a smart way to give their brands a facelift. Not only is it an opportunity to update on-pack claims, it can be a turning point to shift the product positioning and attract a new audience. In short, packaging updates are critical to maintaining the relevance of your brand, particularly for legacy brands. However, that change comes at a cost, and the cost is the risk of alienating your loyal users. How do you make a packaging change that balances elevating your brand and attracting new users with maintaining the loyal customer base you’ve spent years acquiring?

Full disclosure, I am a market researcher. Nevertheless, I have no problem touting market research as the savior of the packaging refresh dilemma! After 15+ years in this industry, I can confidently tell you that consumers are more than happy to share their POV. If you reach out for some insights about your brand’s new packaging, they’ll be happy to tell you if they love it or if it’s awful. Frankly, you’re best off having them give you this feedback – in a research environment – BEFORE you go through the expense and headaches of actually rolling out that new packaging to Target and beyond. There are tools out there that will tell brands which new packaging designs deliver a successful facelift and bring loyal customers along for the ride. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Take the time to think about it: Brainstorm with your team, conduct store audits and do some shop-a-longs to gain an understanding of what’s working already – and what’s not.
  • Test your package design, a lot: Package screening, using a wide array of prototypes, can help you narrow down features that will advise design further down the pathway.
  • ..test your package some more: Optimize the best two to three designs you uncovered during prototype testing and put them in a competitive context. You can even take it a step further and make refinements by talking to actual purchasers during an in-market pilot launch.

I think we all have some version of my Target allergy medication story (unfortunately). Brands don’t have to go into a redux with blinders on. The right approach to consumer research can help you make a smooth change, keep your brand equity and keep your loyal customers.

Emily Trentacosta

Research Director at AMC Global
Emily brings over 15 years of both client and supplier side market research experience to her role at AMC. She greatly enjoys working closely with her clients and developing customized research solutions to address their business needs. She has a strong background in quantitative methodologies with a focus on CPG and consumer healthcare. Before joining the team at AMC, Emily worked as a market research manager at GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare. She is grateful to the University of Delaware for introducing her to advanced analytics and to her wonderful husband. When she’s not “diving into the data,” Emily can usually be found taking advantage of lake-living in Michigan with her family.

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