Product packaging can play a significant impact on consumers’ opinion of a product as it is often the vehicle to their first impression of a product. The aim of a good package is not only to convey the product’s features, but also matching the underlying desires and interests of its target market. However, package designers need to be careful not to get it confused with another brand or product or an unintended value, while ensuring its visual appeal. Regardless of how far marketers have gone into the package concept design, market research can be employed to ensure that the packaging is on track with its intended objective.
Early stages of package design:
Before making some decisions on the direction of the package design, qualitative research such as focus groups can be used to explore what consumers within the target market are looking for. Opinions on currently available competitive designs can also be collected to estimate what package features are desired, which ones need to be improved, and what the market’s overall expectations are.
Either in conjunction or as an alternative for qualitative research, a choice-based conjoint can be applied to measure the level of preference of a design. In a conjoint exercise, simulated packages can be created for research purposes based on a pre-defined set of dimensions (e.g. colour, package shape, text font, logo, etc.) and within each dimension a pre-defined set of levels (e.g. blue, green, red among the colours; square box, cone, cylinder among the shapes; etc.). These virtual packages are then tested in such a way that respondents’ preference for each level is determined, as well as determining the impact of each dimension on their overall packaging preference. This research can direct designers to a small number of options that would be most compelling to the target market.
Later stages of package design:
Once a shortlist of concepts has been established, these can be tested among consumers. This can again be done in either a qualitative or a quantitative framework, or both. Qualitative research can only be used if the concept packages can be viewed, manipulated, and handled in-person. In cases where this is not feasible, an online quantitative survey can be employed in which the concepts are presented. The testing of the concepts would first be in a monadic fashion, i.e. the sample is split into equal sub-groups, with each sub-group presented one concept on its own. The concept is then rated it on a scale on various measures (appeal, uniqueness, etc.). Then, other concepts are presented, and respondents are asked to compare which concept most stands on those same measures. Each concept can also be tested in a word association exercise (“old”, “novel”, “daring”, “boring”, etc.), and then mapped against each other on these descriptors.