Would you sell your product in an unbranded package? That may soon be the fate of cigarettes in the UK. After an Australian study revealed that smokers found plain-pack cigarettes less satisfying in taste and experience than branded ones, British lawmakers may follow Australia’s example and attempt to discourage smoking via changes to the product packaging.
Mark Hartstone, Managing Director of LRW Europe, shared the story with his colleagues, noting that it reinforces the work from our Pragmatic Brain Science Institute®, demonstrating that brands shape reality and actually change how we experience products. The implications for packaging testing lit up the inboxes of our team last week, as person after person recalled the fates of iconic brands that tinkered with or transformed their product’s packaging. The results were mixed: some going up in smoke and other redesigns fanning the flames of success!
There are plenty of reasons to make a packaging change. Refreshing a package can modernize a brand, stimulate attention, or provide important new information for consumers. If you need to stimulate trial for an improved formula, executing a package redesign is a solid strategy to cue people that something is up. But, if the beloved product is unchanged, and just its window-dressing has been spruced up, watch out…tests by one major brand found that without the call-out “new look, same great taste”, branded consumer taste test scores faltered.
Why? Because changing the visual iconography of your brand can be risky business. Not all news is good news, especially in lower involvement categories. If a change means your product is less recognizable on shelves, you may trigger your habitual buyers into search mode and lose some of those buyers to a now more conscious choice. Or you may cause them to re-assess their use of your product on the assumption it may have changed.
Considering a package redesign? Test it. An obvious recommendation from a research company, but some very public “new look” packaging failures could have been avoided by the application of solid consumer research. Assess whether the benefits of the package change are worth the potential disruption of habitual buying of your brand. Remember that there will be greater and quicker impact among your brand buyers than your prospects.
Here are some tips from our Marketing Science team:
We’ll leave the citizens and legislators of the UK to huff and puff over their particular challenges to this branding question. But, if you follow these guidelines you can build your brand and ensure your loyalists’ continue to carry a torch for you.