Recently, I came across a blog posting titled Greener, Easier and Smarter (on Richard Shears’ The Package Unseen). The perceptive observations stood out as a rising voice of reason in the otherwise irrational world of package and brand design. Like the author, I believe the biggest shift since the 1950’s is happening in packaging and product development. So, how can we respond and address these new realities?
1. Integrated Process
Package design is now integrated into many company functions and cannot be viewed or operate as a stand-alone silo anymore. In a sense, there are now, more than ever, more participants in the design process. With new involvement from innovation or procurement, each with complex management teams, they all have taken an ownership stake.
Much like research, distribution and promotion are a consistent consideration throughout a product development cycle; package design is starting to affect other disciplines much the same way. Yet contradictory to the actual development effort and costs, these days the package design is only a small part of the marketing bet on success. It’s no longer a “marketing brute in the aisle” that can muscle its way into a consumers cart and justify the costs of design.
In this new era there are many more complex pieces to the puzzle of success. It’s no wonder the role of the package as the sales hero has been overshadowed and downplayed in these new times. But, like any good process, the more smooth and integrated the process the more successful it can be. No matter how big or small the consideration the package is to the final sale.
2. Mitigated Risk
Understanding the hard costs of a product line overhaul or reset, we clearly can see the risk associated with a new package design. At times, it’s apparent that the costs are not necessarily in line with the return. Traditionally with high risk ventures throughout a company, there are checks and balances for entering and mitigating that risk prior to taking the risk.
However, companies have not learned a metric or industry wide measurement in which to evaluate and mitigate the risk, especially in hiring a package design firm. And in many cases the process for mitigating that risk is to reduce costs specifically in the design process and increase costs in other marketing disciplines to compensate or reduce the risk.
The rub is that package design as a professional service should not be viewed as a risk. Done with consideration, it can greatly reduce spending in other areas that need to compensate for the risk of poorly executed packaging. Hence more profit in the end.
3. Efficiency vs. Traction
Generally, if you can put a time line to it you can quantify it. But like a lot of things, faster does not necessarily mean better. For instance, we often hear the 0-60 speed/time reference used in car advertising; however one thing to keep in mind is that at about three seconds or so is the fastest physical time a car can achieve 0-60. At some point below that time, the rubber on the tires will not create traction, thus creating a physical problem in reaching a quicker time. More horsepower does not always equal faster.
Likewise, package development can present an efficiency issue, but at some point in the development, you cannot actually go any faster or trim any more corners. Technology improvements have done a great job to knock down the days, hours and minutes it takes to get a product to market. It has also made us painfully aware of what the difference in return one day can mean in reaching the market on time.
But at some point there is no more efficiency to be gained and we have to accept that it takes a certain amount of time to reach a desired goal. Otherwise, the short cut will undoubtedly create a physical traction problem. We should account for this in our strategies as part of a product development life cycle and marketing strategies. Perhaps a better way to think about it is the more traction you have the more efficiency you could gain in the long-term.
With these ideas in mind, I believe it’s time to re-craft the package design constitution and make it more efficient, easier and smarter for the next generation of designers, packaging managers and, ultimately, the consumers to shift to some of the new realities of product development.
How would you re-craft the package design constitution?
This article originally appeared in the May 2010 issue of Package Design Magazine and again at http://hellokendallross.com.