Cooking Up the Perfect Package, Part 1

Packaging sketch courtesy of Cosmetics Packaging YONWOO.
Packaging sketch courtesy of Cosmetics Packaging YONWOO.

This article is the first of a four-part series which examines each of the phases of the package development process (see chart): conception, feasibility, development and execution.

Having worked for some of the most prestigious companies in the beauty industry over the past 15 years, my goal in writing this series is to synthesize my personal experience to provide a clear and concise step-by-step guideline for marketers to use as a reference tool when working with their package development counterparts.

As a packaging engineer and an aspiring chef, I can’t help but draw similarities between the package development process (see chart referenced above) and planning for a dinner party. When preparing for a dinner party there is a series of successive phases one must follow to ensure the best possible outcome. In the same manner, the package development process follows distinctive phases.

Establish Your Concept

The conception phase is when you ask yourself: “What is it that I want to create?” When you are preparing a meal, you may ask: “What type of cuisine should I make, how many courses should dinner be and when should the party be?”

When developing a package, similar questions must be answered: “What package form (i.e., bottle, tube, jar) should I select?” or “What colors and shapes should my package be?” Once you have answered these questions and established the product concepts, you have completed the first phase of the process.

Developing Realistic Expectations

The second phase of the process is feasibility. This is when you pose questions such as: “Do I have the budget, resources and time to bring my idea to life?” It’s all too often that, during the feasibility phase, you realize that modifications are necessary.

“Even though I wanted to make fresh homemade pasta for my dinner party I don’t have the time, money or equipment, so I have to use store-bought instead.” This is similar to wanting a completely metalized shiny gold package for your premium skin care launch for which you can only afford a hot-stamped logo.

Once you’ve made the necessary adjustments and have a product concept that you can afford—and launch on time—you’ve completed the feasibility phase. It’s now time to start cooking.

Be Prepared to Improvise

Development is usually the longest of the four phases. Depending on the cooking instructions, a meal can take a few days of preparation in advance for it to turn out as desired. During the development phase in packaging, you also must be prepared to make adjustments along the way. After all, that’s why it’s called “development.” 

Many times what you’ve envisioned doesn’t turn out to be true in reality, so improvising becomes part of the game. Sometimes I need to add an extra spoon of flour (more than what the recipe called for) to thicken a sauce or an extra pinch of salt to optimize the taste of a creation.

Execution

Now the cooking is done and it’s time to start the party. Execution is the fourth and final phase of the process. This is where everything you’ve worked so hard on culminates in the creation of the final product. You’ve used the freshest ingredients, you’ve followed the recipes to the tee and setup the dinner table.

It’s important to note the process of developing and launching new products is extremely team-centric.

Your guests start eating, everyone is ranting and raving about how delicious everything is, and they are even going back for seconds (product is flying off the shelves). You’ve completed the process on time, on budget and within design specifications.

Congratulations your product launch is a huge success. Now that you have learned about the processes, let’s talk about organization and teamwork and, later, we’ll delve further into the intricacies of each individual phase.

RACI: A Note on Organization and Teamwork

Before we take a closer look at each individual phase, it’s important to note the process of developing and launching new products is extremely team-centric. Therefore, the success of the process is heavily dependent on the team’s ability to work together effectively.

Since many tasks are interdependent, it is critical that each team member completes their tasks correctly and on time to ensure success. The RACI (Responsible Accountable Consulted Informed) concept is an extremely valuable tool to use to help the team gain alignment on who’s doing what. I have developed a RACI* for the seven steps encompassing the conception phase for you to use as a reference. The definitions are as follow:

  • Responsible: Those who do the work to achieve the task. For each step there is at least one party that is responsible; however, multiple parties can be responsible to complete a task or deliverable.
  • Accountable: Those who are ultimately answerable or accountable for the correct completion of the deliverable or task. There must be only one accountable party specified for each task or deliverable.
  • Consulted: Those whose opinions are sought, typically subject matter experts. There could be multiple parties that are consulted to complete a task or deliverable.
  • Informed: Those who are kept up-to-date on progress, often only on completion of the task or deliverable and with whom there is just one-way communication.

The 7 Steps of Conception

As mentioned earlier, conception is the first phase of the project, when ideas are turned in to concepts. This phase comprises seven steps.

Developing a Marketing Strategy

This step’s objective entails establishing the product portfolio, identifying your target consumer, projecting financial requirements and completing a competitive landscape analysis. This is the information necessary to develop a complete concept.

Completing the competitive analysis will make you better informed when making key decisions regarding packaging and will enable you to identify competitive product benchmarks which you can reference when establishing your product design requirements.

Best practice: Include your package development counterpart in this step and make this activity fun. Schedule some time to go on a competitive shopping trip together. Being in an environment outside of the office is a great way to get inspiration for creative ideas. It’s also a great way to strengthen the relationship and build trust within the team.

Output: Completion of marketing strategy and competitive landscape analysis.

Create Development Initiation Brief

This document is used to initiate the project. It outlines critical information about the product concepts and enables the team to begin evaluating the project.

Best practice: Make sure the brief is complete. Missing information will prevent the team from fully assessing the concepts. Once the brief is completed, email it to the rest of the team prior to the kickoff meeting.

Output: Completion and issuance of the development initiation brief.

Project Kickoff Meeting

Schedule this meeting a few days after issuance of the development initiation brief. Participants should include package development, creative design or the outside design agency, product development (i.e., formulation) and procurement.

During this meeting you should review the completed brief with the team to ensure everyone is aligned on the desired product concepts and expectations.

Best practice: Bring data and samples of products from the competitive analysis to share with the team to establish benchmarks. Allow time for an open discussion among the team during the meeting.

Output: Team is briefed on project and can begin evaluation.

Create the Product Conception Profile

The objective of this step is to create the product concept profile. This document is intended to capture critical product characteristics from the consumer’s standpoint. It is essentially the “contract” between the team that outlines the desired attributes of the product that will be developed. There are several sub-steps that are necessary to complete this step, which are outlined below:

a. Packaging development engineer extracts the pertinent information from the development initiation brief to begin drafting the product conception profile.

b. Packaging development engineer schedules a meeting to review the document. This is a working meeting during which the team begins to establish critical characteristics of the product.

Best practice: Use benchmark products for sensorial and functional attributes. For example, the wall thickness of a squeezable tube, the audible snap of a flip-cap, the weight of a prestige compact or product fill level of a shampoo bottle.

Output: Completion of initial draft of the product conception profile.

Aesthetic Design Turnover

The objective of this step is to refine the product design concepts and approve final product aesthetics. This step entails working with the creative team to refine and finalize the design of the product concepts, including packaging.

Upon completion, aesthetic models of the package portraying the size, shape and colors of the product are produced. This process can take several rounds until a final decision is made.

Output: Final product design and turnover of aesthetic models to packaging development.

Route and Approve Product Conception Profile

Here, the packaging development engineer makes final edits to the product conception profile document based on the finalized product design and provides hard copies of the final document to marketing for routing and approval by management.

Best practice: Review the document first before distributing to management. Any comments/notations made during the review process can be handwritten on the document. Upon approval by all parties, the packaging development engineer scans the document and archives it in the product folder.

Output: Final product profile document signed by management.

Creation of the Technical Product Profile

Here the package development engineer utilizes the approved product conception profile along with the benchmarks and aesthetic models to begin creation of the technical product profile. This document is used to initiate the technical feasibility of the product concepts. 

Best practice: Package development engineering routes the completed technical product profile to procurement, manufacturing and external suppliers to initiate the feasibly phase of the project. Output: Completion and issuances of the technical product profile complete.

Next Steps

With the completion of the above seven steps, the team has now completed the first phase of the package development process and is now ready to start the feasibility phase, which will be the topic of the second article in this series. Now it’s really time to get cooking.

*M Jacka and P Keller, Business Process Mapping: Improving Customer Satisfaction. John Wiley and Sons, p. 257 (2009)

John Morgan is a package development expert with over 15 years of experience in the beauty industry. Morgan has worked on numerous development projects on brands such as Artistry Cosmetics, Garnier Fructis, Maybelline and MAC Cosmetics. Most recently he has worked for Amway as a senior scientist in open innovation. He can be reached at johnrm26@gmail.com.

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