Consumer products brand design is wrongly predicated on the notion that shoppers make rational, informed decisions. In truth, most are purely instinctive and reactive. Eye-tracking studies show that consumers read on average only seven words in an entire shopping trip, buying instinctively by color, shape and familiarity of location. Best sellers succeed by appealing to the reptilian brain, which decides before logic has a chance.
Instinctive reactions can be designed into packaging through the application of Biomotive Triggers. These are sensory cues that affect our subconscious, generating emotion and action before the conscious part of our brain can respond. There are lots of triggers, and we have identified 16 key combinations that are interconnected. Understanding these primal cues can help brands connect emotionally with consumers, build defendable assets and sell more products.
To be successful, every brand must have a distinctive point of view and be able to express this clear and unique reason for being. Effective packaging makes it easy to understand at a glance, who I am, what I am, and why I am relevant to your life. Naturally, the product has to deliver on its promise to ensure repeat purchase.
1. Stand out. You need to make your brand the consumer’s signpost to the category. Just covering the shelf and shouting louder than everyone else won’t cut it. You need a point of orientation on the package that draws a shopper’s eye and communicates the essence of the proposition. One way to do this is with cusps. Cusps are sharp, pointy shapes that trigger feelings of fear, danger and caution. You couldn’t miss the ads for Maleficent before the Disney premiere, because everything from the typeface to Angelina Jolie’s clothing, headdress and eye makeup formed cusp shapes that demanded your attention. Similarly, you can’t miss Nexxus on the shelf, because the cusp shapes in the logo attract your eye and thus stand out on the shelf.
2. Be Simple. Simple design is more effective. In a busy, visually agitated market, we so rarely experience moments of visual or auditory calm that we gravitate toward it. Buster, the drain cleaner once barking on the heels of Mr. Muscle (Europe’s Mr. Clean), unseated the giant in England by introducing a small pack devoid of the power graphics that typify products in the aisle. An Elmwood client, Buster also recognized the emotional agitation of consumers who need to unclog a drain, and answered it with a calm, clean, simple package that contrasted with the visual noise at the shelf. Sales rose 42% and market share hit 30% with no above-the-line support, and the brand is now expanding into Europe and Asia.
3. Pass the five-year-old test. If you can describe your brand to a five-year-old, send them into a store to find it, and actually get it, your packaging creates an iconic connection. Consumers will come back week after week looking for it. The key to this stickiness is a distinctive brand mark. For example, you could tell a five-year-old, to get the salt pack with the girl in a yellow coat with an umbrella on it; she will come back with Morton Salt. Similarly, ask for the blue pack with the big black and white cookie splashed in milk, and he will return with a package of Oreos.
4. Trigger emotional engagement. Consumers act when a brand makes them feel something. When someone looks at you, you’re compelled to look back to determine the nature of the attraction. That’s your survival instinct at work. For this reason, there’s nothing more powerful in packaging than eye contact. The next time you’re in an aisle, notice how many packages bear photos of people that don’t make direct eye contact; they’re looking away, or slightly past you.
5. Create iconic assets. The best packaging creates a series of visual equities, a sort of tool kit that can be transferred to every form of consumer communication. Coke is the master of this. The brand has an array of assets – the agitated red, the dynamic contour wave, the iconic bottle shape and the logo typography – that can all be used to help amplify the brand experience. People think the Coca-Cola logo is all about the signature and flowing curves. But look closer, and you’ll see three cusps– two under the “C” and the “a” of Coca and one in the center of the “C” in Cola – that focus your eyes on the center of the words. From there your eyes can take in the curves and the suggestion of flow that’s accentuated by the rest of the typography and amplified by the bottle. The assets are so memorable that even the suggestion of one in any marketing communication connotes the feelings associated with the brand.
At a time when many consumers actively screen out marketing messages, the surest place for CMOs to make a bigger impact is at the point of consideration. This can be done consciously when Biomotive Triggers are designed into packaging. The creativity conversation shifts from subjective likes and dislikes to the science underlying attraction, which allows design to be accountable for quantifiable sales uplift. That way, manufacturers and retailers can make more informed choices that make more money.
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