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  Harrington The Path to World-Class Packaging: The Annual Review
by Barbara Harrington
July 2, 2010

Is packaging a “line item” on your annual brand review? Why should it be? It is not uncommon for brand directors to admit, “We look at our packaging every day, yet somehow things got past us that we didn’t see until now,” or “We got blindsided by [a competitor’s] packaging, and can’t seem to get back on track with ours.”


How does this happen? Here are some of the most common real life reasons that packaging starts to falter:

• An "extension template" doesn't quite work for one or two SKU's, so Marketing instructs the production team to do the best it can ... if the items are successful, they will revisit the template in the future.

• Products/brands that your consumer is purchasing in other categories have undergone redesigns, changing their approach to messaging/graphics/structure. How does this influence their expectation for your brand/category?

• The "80/20" rule. Most packaging decisions are made for the entire line. However, the "cash cows" are often considered and "tweaked" separately, resulting in a disjointed line that may not make sense to the consumer.

Research discovered opportunities/key advantages for your brand. Rather than a complete redesign, changes are made to the messaging and/or graphics. Most of these were add-ons rather than replacements, which seemed less risky — but now the package is a mess.

• Feel lucky to have a heritage brand? You are! But the classics can be the most challenging to update and improve. Does your pack impression keep pace with consumers' impressions of your brand, and retain the emotional connection to your brand's heritage?

• Victim of success. How wonderful that one SKU wildly outperformed all expectations! Next, that SKU was tweaked to respond to buyer/consumer input ... now it is looking even better, but different from the original line. You are now faced with segmentation and messaging challenges that need to be sorted out.

• And the most common reason: there wasn't enough time to do it right the first time.

Scheduling an annual review will not only prevent missteps, but it can lead to a stronger brand in-store that secures your brand's leadership position. Advantages include:

• Discover insights and opportunities that reveal themselves during the review, which become action items for improvement.

• Helps you establish a sound packaging plan for the brand.

• Determines the need and/or goal for consumer pack research.

   Barbara Harrington is the founder of Brandesign Incorporated, “Using design thinking to motivate consumers to believe and buy your brand.” Brandesign is a leading brand development firm specializing in Brand Strategy, Identity and Package Design, spearheading major design and strategy initiatives for US and global Brands. From new product development to Brand repositioning and rejuvenation, Brandesign provides insightful analysis of branding, packaging and communications issues that uncover opportunities for the Brand. An award-winning designer, Barbara was Director/Global Package Design for the Campbell Soup Company, as well as VP/Creative Director for Sterling Design, prior to founding Brandesign in 1994. For more articles by Barbara, click here.

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