While we marketers and designers may feel confident that we know our consumer's needs well, we cannot forget that we have competition, not only from other brands, but for the busy consumer's time and attention.
Seven seconds! That's the maximum number of seconds a shopper spends at the retail shelf deciding which brand to buy. With so many choices within easy reach, first impressions of a pack – like appealing graphics, innovative, eye-catching packaging designs that showcase brand value – must really pack a punch to knock out competitors and get your product to the checkout.
Visibility is measured by contrast and the physiological driver that creates contrast is colour.
Colour is one of the brain's three visual pathways and, since we process every object within view simultaneously, colour is the mechanism that places emphasis on certain areas. In addition to enhancing on-shelf visibility, the appropriate use of colour can increase brand recognition by about 80% and simultaneously serves as a brand identifier.
What about shape? Memorable shapes also initiate an emotional process of evaluation and brand preference. Shapes often determine the first impression of a product while communicating key benefits and advantages. In combination, colour and shape can signal quality, and enhance perception.
For example, symmetrical shapes go well with passive colours, triangular and diamond shapes with active colours. Colour/ shape combinations can also communicate brand personality, so like colour, the use of shape in brand identity and design plays a role well beyond on-shelf visibility.
Symbols are a nearly instantaneous means of communicating meaning – think about the Nike swoosh, the yellow M for McDonalds, or the swirling red, white, and blue Pepsi globe. Associations derived from symbols become imprinted in consumers' minds through repeated exposure, and shoppers intuitively gravitate to familiar symbols to help them navigate the shelf.
Research has shown that a package cluttered with words fights for attention and creates shopper confusion. The best approach is to focus on a single competitive point of difference that distinguishes a brand from its competition. As previously discussed, colours, shapes and symbols all enhance onshelf visibility, create an emotional reaction, and assist in the purchasing decision. Therefore, the more words one adds to the design, the less the opportunity to use colour, shapes and symbols effectively.
Special finishes deserve a mention too. The lustre of specialty inks and premium gloss coatings will enhance graphics and protect packaging. Film-laminated, reverse printed cartons offer high barrier protection, outstanding scuff resistance and superior gloss for a shining impact on the shelf. Consumers equate higher product quality and better taste with a metallised finish on packaging. Special packaging effects like holographic film, foil film, foil stamping, and metallised inks provide a touch of class and 3-D visual effects that can enhance sales.
Now, while these fundamental design elements provide a sound guideline, to be truly ingenious in our designs and our thinking about design, we should take heed of the wisdom of French novelist Marcel Proust, who is widely quoted as having said, "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but having new eyes." New eyes looking differently at what is already before us – in order to recognise and maintain what is good and in order to improve and find solutions where necessary.
- AIP education officer Pierre Pienaar (FAIP)