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The Link is the Thing: Determining a Cohesive Packaging Strategy

By: Abby Penning
Posted: November 26, 2012, from the December 2012 issue of GCI Magazine.

When you think of your very favorite beauty product, what hits you first? The feel of it on your fingers? How it looks on your skin? Maybe its scent?

Ask consumers this question, and many would likely respond with a description of the beauty product’s packaging—the shape, the color, the height, the dispenser, the heft and so on. Vision is the dominant human sense, and as such, the visual details of a product are paramount to its success. However, the consumer’s idea of the visual details of a beauty product typically aren’t of the product formulation itself—they are of the packaging. Therefore, in the development of brand loyalty across SKUs and even different beauty categories, a cohesive package design strategy is a must.

“As we think about package design and the role that it is already playing between brands and consumers, we feel that there’s just an inordinate amount of untapped potential in those spaces,” says Tracy Scott Doherty, director of design, MWV. “So we’re really focused on trying to figure out how to improve and enhance the consumer experience, both functionally and emotionally, in those areas.”

That includes figuring out how to link products in the same line and from the same beauty brand. Nathalie Nowak, director of marketing and innovation, Rexam Personal Care, expands, “Rexam’s role is to work in partnership with our customers to develop visual, tactile and auditory packaging cues that extend across each SKU. Color, shape, style and decoration elements should ideally harmonize so that, as seen by the consumer in the retail set, the overall impact communicates the brand essence.”

And developing that brand essence is essential for each individual SKU because it’s rare for any beauty product to exist solely on its own, apart from a line. “Retailers are no longer satisfied with dedicating space to a singular-item product line, [and] long gone are the days where marketers gain measurable success or shelf space with an individual item. They must create and build a brand, an image, even a lifestyle conveyed through their product line, which will be offered to a consumer. In addition to the formulation, at the core of a brand or product line is the packaging; the packaging is what makes all the difference and sets brands apart from one another,” says Benny Calderone Jr., sales and marketing director, YonWoo International/PKG Group.

The Building Blocks

Creating a cohesively packaged beauty lineup isn’t as simple as just choosing a packaging family and being done. There are many considerations, especially when you take into the account the importance of the package, as Scott Doherty notes. “Consumers interact with your package—they touch it, they feel it, they look at it,” she says. “There needs to be something there to connect it.”

Calderone explains, “When developing the packaging you must first define the parameters of what the brand requires in terms of size, image, aesthetics, function and, of course, cost of goods. Often times the most viable method will be through the use of existing stock designs, or custom adaptations utilizing an existing platform from stock designs. Both of these methods allow marketers and brand managers a fast, versatile—and most often an economical—method when compared to the creation of a fully developed custom component. Once this first phase has been completed, you can then organize all other design elements for the packaging, inclusive of color and secondary decoration features, which need to be capable of following suit across all materials, shapes and sizes involved.”

Carrying those design features through is a key to cohesive packaging strategy, but it’s also about determining which features should be more prominent on a specific product package. “A commonality of some, if not all, elements helps to deliver the brand message,” notes Nowak. “Then, once these core design elements are decided upon, brand owners can use custom decorative elements to set each new product within a range apart. In the case of Lolita Lempicka’s Si Lolita fragrance, the initial product used the XD11 fragrance pump and cap, and later editions have a custom twist, such as a different color scarf for each collar. Elements ideally work together for the greater good of the brand, much like notes within a musical scale. This heightens the total sensory impact.”

Scott Doherty continues this thread, explaining, “We really believe that packaging is an extension of the brand, so if the brand stands for simplicity, the packaging should be simple—it should look simple, it should be simple to open, and it should be simple to use and dispose of or recycle. If a brand stands for undiscovered surprises, the package should be surprising, or it should look like the kind of package that would hold something that’s surprising or offers an unexpected experience. For us, brand is really about emotion, and you think about the non-conscious priming that a package can convey, that can deliver that emotional charge and that brand message.”