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3 best practices for qualitative packaging research on a budget

3 best practices for qualitative packaging research on a budget

After having spent more than 18 years focused almost exclusively on packaging insights, I’ve seen plenty of examples of what makes for best-in-class pack research. But now that I’ve had an opportunity to be a part of much broader (non-packaging) engagements, I can really appreciate the discipline it takes to guide clients toward the best decisions when it comes to managing their brand’s physical presence and visual equities. Here are three key mantras that have consistently re-surfaced as I’ve reflected on what makes for excellent packaging research in 2020 and beyond:

  1. It no longer starts at the shelf

While shelf context is still critical, today’s world really is all about omnichannel, even for CPG brands. It takes a seasoned team to know how much to lean into digital vs. physical (brick & mortar). Yes, the packaging is the product, but now the product is so much more than just the package – it’s a holistic narrative weaved together across so many potentially relevant touchpoints.

For example, in a recent engagement, we worked with an incumbent brand that was losing share to a relative newbie in the space. Through our work, we identified packaging and naming architecture to determine how to position the brand and maximize its personality – both online and in-store. By taking an omnichannel approach, we were able to identify new ways to more effectively communicate product advantages and strengths and recommend new designs to reflect a sleek, modern look with a more simple message – leading to improved perceptions of and confidence in the brand’s products by consumers across all touchpoints.

  1. You don’t need any fancy bells and whistles to get pack research right

For Qual, what you need is an expert researcher, someone who understands packaging and shopper dynamics, and who can sniff out when a design firm nails it vs. misses the mark altogether.

While some of the fancy off-the-shelf tools sound really good, at the end of the day, they’re just tools. The MITs (most important things) always reign supreme: 1) how distinctive is it (or isn’t it) at shelf, 2) do shoppers understand the offering and how it’s different from competitors, 3) how does it make them feel.

  1. It doesn’t have to be expensive

To do good packaging research, you don’t need impeccable, shelves with expensive comps or hi-def printouts. That never hurts, of course, but what matters is context – being able to get consumers in a proper shopper mindset so they’re encountering your product in as realistic a setting as possible (likely competing with other brands for attention) rather than in isolation.

Recently, a client we partnered with had neither the time nor budget for full-fledged mock-ups (3D comps), so we had to get creative. They wanted to see their product in a competitive shelf, so we used what we’ve come to refer to as a 2.5D solution. Instead of polished comps, their nimble design firm was able to put together some scrappy prototypes last minute. (It wasn’t perfect, but it got us way more learning than what we’d have gotten in a pure 2D environment – and with way less money and time than it would have taken to do another round of research in a pure 3D set.)

Whether you’re thinking it’s time for a refresh or are launching something new, at Magid we know packaging inside and out. Let’s talk!

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