By Sara-Lea van Eeden

This topic has been on my mind for a while now, and as I was YET AGAIN struggling with packaging this morning, I decided – screw it – I am sitting down and writing this today. The main question I have for companies with products that rely on some form of packaging is this:

  1. Do you test the packaging with a focus group?
  2. Or even just use it yourself and decide – yes this is easy to use and functional?

I don’t think many of you will be able to give me an authentic “yes” to these questions, I can say this because I use your products and think – who decided this was good enough? I haven’t even touched on sustainability and being kinder to the earth – because this is a whole topic on its own – and if we can’t get the basics of packaging right, then sustainability is a dream. Let me treat you to some examples.

Number 1 – baby products.

Makers of baby products – why would you consider packaging that requires two hands to operate? All liquid baby products – body wash, shampoo, lotion etc. should come with a pump action bottle. Think I’m being dramatic? Try giving a first-time mom with a newborn, about to give her first solo bath to said newborn, a squeeze bottle. It’s a mess, literally and emotionally. Newborns are slippery little suckers – especially to hands who’ve just met them. PUMP ACTION – make this change and see what happens to your sales – buying decisions in this category has a lot to do with ease of use of packaging.

Number 2 – the Mirena.

Taking one step back from babies, and sorry for the brand shaming – there is no other way to do it – the Mirena. The two things that got to me the most about this packaging:

  1. They show the actual size, of the actual product on the packaging. Please see visual evidence below, along with a size comparison to sunglasses. The box is more than 10 times the size of the product. Ok so it may be that the insertion tool is the culprit here – but surely – there must be a better way?
  2. Which brings me to my next point – lugging that huge box to your doctor’s appointment without anyone walking past you knowing your chosen method of birth control.

Please spend time with your target market and go on the whole journey with them – from purchase to end use, and ask them what bothers them, and what you can do better and make better for a more pleasant experience – this is especially true for any product that is a grudge buy or could be associated with pain before the benefit of the product.

Number 3 – animal products

Producers of animal products are actually making an effort for their end-user – the animal. I’ve seen many pet food producers now using resealable packaging for their food – keeping the food fresh and yummy for the eater. If we humans can just figure out how exactly to open that resealable thing the first time. 🤨

We’ve worked with enough companies to know that for producers, packaging is a grudge buy. It takes up half of your production cost – and your customer just throws it away! We get it. But most customers don’t want to be “consumers” anymore – we’ve all grown, so let’s talk about it.

  1. CONSULT your focus groups about your packaging. And please, I beg you – test different genders – women sometimes send men to buy tampons – different ethnic & culture groups, different ages etc. go as wide as you can. If there is one thing I’ve seen – what flies for Sally, kicks Saartjie and pisses Sibongile off. And remember to go on the WHOLE journey with them, from the decision to buy right through to the actual use and after.
  2. Test it on yourself. If something is bothering or irritating you – it will definitely have that effect on someone else too.
  3. If there is a solid, valid reason for your packaging being the way it is – communicate it. Use it in your marketing campaigns – print it on the box. Talk about it.
  4. Your product packaging is a powerful marketing tool – use it wisely, or just use it! Think about packaging longevity – can your packaging be repurposed around the house? Is your packaging recognizable even when your labels are removed? Are you using you packaging to educate? Think long and hard about this point – and in whose hands your packaging might end up, and how you can contribute even to them. Examples here of commonly repurposed packaging is ice cream tubs and in agriculture the repurposing of animal feed bags.
  5. Encourage earth saving behaviour with your products and packaging. Ask these questions and then crunch the numbers: Can my product be sold by weight or volume determined by the buyer to encourage reusing containers? As a step 2 to this – can I create reusable containers for my customers which they can have refilled? Even if they decide to fill your container with a competitor product – who has the brand visibility? Can customers return my packaging for an incentive? A great example here is back2mac. Can I remove one layer of packaging without compromising the product?

What would you add to the list? Or what is a commonly repurposed product I missed? Or who needs to rethink their packaging and why? I would love to hear from you.

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