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Packaging and Product Aesthetics

By: Curt Altmann
Posted: May 30, 2014, from the June 2014 issue of GCI Magazine.

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The task analysis can be implemented in many ways. One method is consumer panel testing, where test subjects evaluate a list of tasks. If panel testing is not in the launch plan, marketers can implement it as an analysis group from within the company or as an extension of package compatibility to go beyond the time/performance relationship of the formula with the package to also include the user interface.

Once an analysis is complete, the marketer now has a concise set of performance attributes to work through with the primary packaging supplier, and these suppliers are now challenged to customize the performance dynamics of their standard offerings to meet a higher level of product expectations. The basic one-size-fits-all concept in standard packaging no longer applies. Some examples of product aesthetic challenges include:

  • Sheer terror—As the product does back flips through the valves of a dispensing pump, it can break down the actual formula. In some pumps, the product may actually reverse direction twice, under great pneumatic stress, before exiting the actuator.
  • Just a dollop—Controlling that “just right” amount of product. Dispensing pump technology today has the ability to change the mechanism for a softer or stronger actuation force and to adjust the amount of dosage per pump. It also can offer solutions for thick viscosities dispensed though small orifices to guard against stringing—that unattractive dose resembling spaghetti.
  • Having it all—The ability to get all of the product out of package. By making the heads of tubes wider, products can settle better to the last squeeze. Will the consumer still take the cap off of their first-time purchase? You bet. But when they see that all of the product has been evacuated, they likely won’t do it again. Thus, a better user experience is achieved.
  • The dropsies—Protecting from breaking or spilling. The same consumer who will blame themselves for dropped and broken glassware will blame a package, even a glass one, for not surviving the fall. Standard packaging must be designed to survive a fall from real world resting places like bathroom counters or store shelves. This kind of criteria needs to be designed into standard packaging early on.
  • Star ingredients—Raw material development in the beauty category far outpaces plastic resin development in primary packaging. A recent example is isododecane, a hydrocarbon solvent that is a superior emollient with a weightless feel to the skin. However, it has compatibility issues with traditional polyolefin resins used in the majority of skin care packaging. With the popularity of such ingredients, packaging suppliers need to pay closer attention to formula innovations and treat them as the new rule rather than the exception.

Making It Right

It has long been the habit of packaging companies that, when faced with these challenges, to revert back to the marketer to request they modify the formula. This is not an option anymore because it compromises the aesthetics, efficacy and integrity of the formula. Formulas are built to meet certain criteria, and any change negates the testing and validation that may have been established. Additionally, while packaging companies are pushing innovation as well, they cannot do so in a vacuum, just for innovation’s sake. They must partner with marketers up front to develop more versatile packages that can be more adaptable to formula innovations. It’s the way forward.

Curt Altmann is the marketing director for Yonwoo International/PKG Group, and has previously held positions in creative, marketing, new brand development and consulting at Max Factor, Revlon, Benetton, The Body Shop and Coty.