What Drives Sales: Product Packaging or the Brand?

We are preparing to launch a new consumer product; it will be sold primarily in big box stores.  How important is packaging design to the product’s success relative to the brand?

By Jim Sweeney

Sheesh, that is a loaded question.  The most important purpose of product packaging (ignoring functionality and sustainability for the moment) is to identify your brand.  This assumes, therefore that you have good brand awareness in the marketplace.  And how do you know whether your brand awareness is solid enough for the new product launch?  Research baby.

Unless you know for a fact that a significant portion of the marketplace (that portion you need to achieve your sales goal) is aware of your brand and has a decided preference for it, then you should put the packaging on the back burner and turn up the heat on branding.

While study after study confirms that consumers are drawn to “good” packaging, it rarely if ever trumps the importance of brand.  In other words, Cool Cola may have a totally innovative package, but Pepsi and Coke will kick its tail from here to oblivion.  Consider the storied launch of the Apple iPhone in January 2007.  The product packaging was a plain black box – beautiful in its simplicity – but it is just a plain black box… and it sold millions based on the mere promise of the brand. 

Remember, even though packaging is your product’s promotional advertising at the point of purchase – distinguishing your product from your competitors through design, shape and color – it is the brand reputation that most affects the decision-making process and influences conversion.

So ask yourself:

• Do we have a good brand?
• Do we have good awareness of our brand?
• Are consumers loyal to our brand; are they loyal enough to prefer our new product?

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