Dont Think Like A Package Designer - Think Like A Customer


Some of the most successful package introductions have come from people who knew nothing about package design. How can that make sense? Designers are creative. They get paid to design packaging, which may or may not necessarily be what the customer wants or needs. Good designers keep up with the latest design trends and technologies. What's hot and what is not in might be the perfect answer to a package design. But what if it is not?

We all get caught up in established rules and parameters. You can't do this because of the way it needs to be manufactured or if it's this product it has to be packaged this way or in this particular material. Or the concept the designer has in mind is the latest rage in package innovation so it will work for this product and any product too. But let's think laterally about design for a minute.

Do you continually challenge stereotypes? Why does a particular product need to be a certain shape? Is the product in a particular package because it's always been done that way before? In my recent survey about packaging products for female buyers there were dramatic differences between what packaging designers and packaging professionals perceived as important and what the perception of its importance to consumers or the ultimate end user.

One package design characteristic I asked about particularly was shape. Designers were drawn to it. They believed, as do most packaging professionals, that shape was an important component of package design. Designers see a dramatic new shape and are immediately impressed with the creativity of it.

However, the customer wasn't as intrigued by the shape as by the functionality of the package. They believe, "Make it work for me first, then worry about how pretty it looks." Don't think like a package designer think like a customer.

Consider this during the design process: who do you expect to use the product and how? If it's women, the 80% purchaser or influencer of purchasing decisions, what is really going to impress them? Hint: its not necessarily design.

My survey results demonstrate that convenience and ease of use and storage were particularly important to women. After all, the woman does most of the shopping and in most cases puts the products away. Isn't this a logical conclusion to designing what women want in their packaged goods? Think about what makes it easy to use the product.

Consider the age factor too. Ergonomics and ease of opening were rated highly by both groups of survey recipients. Products designed for specific age groups need to work for that group and not just look pretty on the shelf. Spend time scouring the isles when working on new products. Don't just focus on the category you design.

Look for features and innovations that can cross boundaries. Look at emerging trends. Don't just look at cosmetics and toiletries either. Go to multiple types of shopping outlets and don't forget to use the Internet. A recent example is the complete reworking of power tools. They are now produced in female friendly colors. It has created a whole new brand category.

Put yourself in the buyer's position. It helps if you can get different perspectives too. Not everyone will view the same packaging attributes with the same opinions. Cross a spectrum of potential buyers with a few targeted questions. Don't be surprised by the answers.

One last point, just because it's highly publicized or advertised doesn't mean it works. Consider all the celebrity endorsements and money spent courting high profiles figures. It is designer this or designer that. The most surprising outcome of my survey was that a staggering 89% of women would not be induced to buy a product because of a celebrity endorsement.

So put on your thinking caps designers and start thinking like a customer.


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