The Packaging Matrix Linking Package Design Criteria to the

Document Sample
The Packaging Matrix Linking Package Design Criteria to the Powered By Docstoc
					              The Packaging Matrix:
Linking Package Design Criteria to the Marketing Mix


                Laura Bix
                Assistant Professor
                School of Packaging
                Michigan State University
                153 Packaging
                East Lansing, MI 48825

                Nora Rifon
                Associate Professor
                Department of Advertising
                Michigan State University

                Hugh Lockhart
                School of Packaging
                Michigan State University

                Javier de la Fuente
                Graduate Student
                School of Packaging
                Michigan State University
                                       The Packaging Matrix:
                         Linking Package Design Criteria to the Marketing Mix


       31,000 new products were introduced by packaged goods companies last year (2002) in

the United States and Canada alone. Information Resources Inc., an international sales and

marketing research firm based in Chicago has reported, “75 percent of the individual UPCs

introduced between November 1996 and November 1998 failed within 2 years of introduction.”

Increasingly, companies need to differentiate their products to:

       •         create consumer perceptions of a product’s relative advantage,

       •         attract first time sales (it has been estimated by Point-Of-Purchase Advertising

                 International that 72% of shoppers decide to buy something at the Point-Of-


       •         and generate repeat purchases.

       Carefully planned and well-executed package design is one part of the promotion mix

that can affect consumer perceptions of tangible and intangible product attributes and benefits

that result in positive consumer response. While doing this, the package must perform a number

of other functions. This paper presents the “Packaging Matrix”, a simple tool that allows

companies to consider the whole host of functions that a package must accomplish in different

environments. It is a template of the criteria to consider for effective package design or


       The retail arena is increasingly competitive. The number of new product introductions in

today’s market is “more than double the number launched a decade ago” (Anonymous, 2003),

with decreasing timelines to establish relative success. A great deal of academic literature

continues to examine the roles of pricing, marketing communications and promotion strategies,

with little attention to the role that packaging plays in a product’s success or failure. In addition

to a package’s traditional roles for protection from damage during transit, extension of shelf life,

and innovations in product dispensation, packaging can influence consumer perceptions and

make a significant contribution to the product’s brand equity. “Packaging is what consumers see

first in this marketing endgame… this is why package structure will be a key differentiator of

products in the near future” (Arnold, 2003). However, the importance of packaging has been

overlooked by many marketing researchers when they place its role within the domain of the

marketing mix. Additionally, no comprehensive approach to packaging decisions has been

formulated and decision-makers are offered little guidance. Accordingly, more academic

research is needed to expand our understanding of the various dimensions of product packaging

and its role in creating positive consumer perceptions.

                       The Importance of Packaging to Product Success

       When package design is not given appropriate credence, several problems can occur

including: failure to fully protect the product, over-packaging, failure to attract the consumer for

an initial purchase, and failure to serve the consumer. As such, packaging plays a role in the four

p’s of the marketing mix. A package may viewed as part of the product since packages

contribute to successful product performance, including maintaining shelf-life and ease of use.

Package design may be intimately related to product price points. Perhaps most notably,
packaging has been the focus of designers seeking to protect products through their channels of

distribution, and promotion decision makers seeking to position and communicate product


       Customer trial, satisfaction and repeat purchase, may be a direct function of packaging

for many consumer non-durables, and perhaps some durables as well. Packaging that fails to

fully protect the product has the potential to result in excess damage and waste, diminished shelf

life, and loss of flavor or efficacy. Problems associated with insufficient protection are likely to

lead to customer dissatisfaction and negative word-of-mouth advertising. Obviously, attracting

the customer to a trial purchase is insufficient for true product growth and eventual maturity.

The product/package system must generate satisfaction, and poorly designed packages have the

potential to discourage repurchase. Consumers who are frustrated by packages that cannot be

easily opened, or labels that cannot be read without magnification may opt for brands that have

considered the “human condition” in their package design.

       Recent examples of product package innovation successes illustrate these points. “In

recent years, three new package designs have grabbed headlines for their innovation and

marketing success, as measured by significant sales increases. The stories behind how Dean

Foods’ Milk Chug, Dutch Boy Twist and Pour paint containers, and Listerine PocketPaks hold

lessons for other marketers looking to duplicate their success” (Arnold, 2003). These success

stories illustrate how packages that facilitate product trial and consumption are essential in a

variety of product categories.
                                                            The Packaging Matrix

                      When all functions and environments are considered simultaneously, packaging becomes

               a socio-scientific1 endeavor. When viewed this way, packaging is not just a means to protect or

               contain the product, but has the potential to impact the decisions of consumers, and the lives of

               those interfacing with it.

                      Lockhart (1997) has synthesized this concept into a tool referred to as “The Packaging

               Matrix.” (see Figure 1)

                                                   Packaging Functions
                                                 Protection                                      Utility                     Communication
                                                                                            Reclosable designs                    Brand name
                                                                                           Easy to open designs                     Warnings
                                                                                            Pre measured units                      Directions
                                                                                          Compliance packaging                  Expiration dates
                                            Tamper evident features
                                                                                      (packaging that, by nature of its        Storage information
                                            Child resistance features
                                                                                        design, helps people comply                 Graphics
                  Human          Designs that do not require scissors or knives to
                                                                                         with medication regimens)                   Material
                                                                                              Talking packages                       Shape

                                                                                                   Material                           Color
                                                                                                    Shape                         Configuration
                                                                                                Configuration                        Texture
                                                                                                   Texture                        Photographs
                                    Amber Color to protect from UV damage
                                    UV Absorbers to protect from UV damage
                                               Water Vapor Barriers                      Controlled atmosphere
                                                                                                                             Time and temperature
                                    Oxygen Barriers to protect from oxidation                    packaging
                Biospheric         Oxygen absorbers to protect from oxidation         Modified atmosphere packaging
                                Antimicrobial films to retard microbial degradation             Edible films
                                Water Vapor barrier to protect from Moisture Loss        Wet strength corrugated
                                                       or Gain
                                            Wet Strength Corrugated
                                                                                                                                  “This side up”
                                                                                               Stretch wrap                          “Fragile”
                                                                                                Shrink wrap                         Bar Codes
                 Physical                      Shipping containers
                                                                                          Self heating packages           Radio frequency identification
                                                   Corner posts
               (Distribution                         Air bags
                                                                                          Self cooling packages                “Handle with care”
                                                                                         Freezer to oven capable           “Temperature not to exceed
                Channels)       Materials with Adequate compression strength to
                                                                                           Handles for carrying              70 degrees Fahrenheit”
                                                withstand stacking
                                                                                         Appropriately sized cases                  Pictorials
                                                     Figure 1- The Packaging Matrix
          Employing the matrix requires companies to regard all environments and functions when

creating new packages or changing existing designs. It presents visually the complex

considerations involved in package design. The goal of the matrix is to maximize the

intersection of each function and environment without diminishing performance at other


          For instance, a designer concerned with child safety might maximize the

human/protection intersection by making an extremely effective child resistant closure. This

could be a problem, however, if at the human/utility intersection, the ability of an elderly person

to access the product in the package were significantly diminished. In fact, this is just what

happened with the early designs of child resistant packages. As a consequence, the Consumer

Product Safety Commission launched a multi-year program of research and testing which

resulted in a substantial redesign of the test protocol published in 16 CFR 1700.20 "Testing

Procedure for Special Packaging" (Code of Federal Regulations, 2003). Designers must not only

consider the design’s effect on these two intersections, but on all others as well. The matrix

“forces us to remember that functions and environments interact continuously and

simultaneously,”(Lockhart, 1997) helping us to appreciate the complexities involved and

anticipate difficulties with proposed design solutions.

                                     The Matrix Intersections

          When assessing packaging through the matrix, designers simultaneously consider three

functions (protection, communication and utility) in three environments (the biospheric, human

and physical). The following sections give a brief description of each of the nine possible

intersections of the Matrix in an attempt to demonstrate the intricacies of well-attended package

                     Intersection 1- Protection and the Physical Environment

         Protection is bidirectional in nature; the product must be protected from the environment,

and the environment must be protected from the product. In the physical environment this may

involve protecting the product from shocks, drops and vibration associated with transit and

handling during distribution; it may also involve protecting the distribution environment from

hazards contained within the package. Adequately protecting the product from damage that

occurs during distribution prevents unnecessary loss and provides customers with product that

arrives in pristine condition.

                    Intersection 2- Protection and the biospheric environment

         In the biospheric environment protection takes on a new meaning; packaging must

protect the product from the biosphere (air, light, moisture, temperature, etc). Several tools are

currently available, and new technologies are emerging in this arena.

         Anti microbial films, materials that retard the growth of microbes, are currently used to

extend the shelf life and preserve the freshness of a variety of products. Opaque packages or

materials containing ultraviolet (UV) absorbers may be used for products that degrade in the

presence of light. “Oxygen scavengers”, items which absorb oxygen as it penetrates the

package, may be added to packages containing oxygen sensitive products so that they are

protected against oxidative reactions. All of these represent tools available to designers to

extend the shelf life of products, preserve freshness, and, ultimately, develop a positive brand


                      Intersection 3- Protection and the human environment

         The package can also provide protection in the human environment. Mechanisms for

human/protection include things like child resistant closures, and tamper evident features. Child
resistant closures have been required on hazardous household substances since the Poison

Prevention Packaging Act was enacted in 1970. It is estimated that since the time it was

implemented that the lives of more than 800 children have been saved because of child resistant

packaging 2.

                 Intersection 4- Communication and the physical environment

       Communication in the physical environment ranges from simple to complex. Companies

that wish to understand the types of shocks that their packages experience during distribution,

use accelerometers to collect data about the distribution environment. Accelerometers are

instruments that record changes in acceleration; this information is then used to inform

companies about shocks that occurred to the product throughout distribution so that they can

make informed decisions about package design (cushions, etc).

       Communicating in the physical environment also involves conveying messages to

workers throughout distribution about the proper storage and handling of products. These

messages are typically textual or graphic. Text messages such as: “Handle with Care”,

“Fragile”, and “This Side Up” exemplify these communications. These messages are not only

textual; frequently they are graphic in nature. Pictorials communicate handling instructions to

illiterate workers and those that do not read English. Committee D-10, ASTM International’s

Committee on Packaging, has devoted much energy and effort to standardize such pictorials.

They are published in D5445-03a, “Standard practice for pictorial markings for handling of

goods” (ASTM, 2003). See Figures 2 a and b for examples of pictorials developed by

Committee D-10.
        Figure 2a *- Symbol for “This side up”              Figure 2b *- Symbol for “Fragile”

   *Symbols and appropriate placement developed by ASTM International Committee D-10

                Intersection 5- Communication and the biospheric environment

       Like communication in the physical environment, communication in the biospheric

environment ranges from simple to complex. Time and Temperature Indicators, also called

“TTIs” are frequently used by companies that are concerned about temperature and moisture,

things that can adversely impact certain products as they travel through distribution. TTIs are

indicators that communicate that a package/product system has faced conditions that may have

compromised it (such as an elevated temperature or relative humidity). The inappropriate

temperature may be communicated through a color change of the indicator, or may require that

temperature data be downloaded into a computer and analyzed, depending on the system that is

       In addition to making sure the product has been appropriately handled as it traverses

distribution, companies must also communicate to those handling the product appropriate storage

conditions. Like the physical environment, these are typically indicated both textually and

graphically. Text may indicate things like “Keep Frozen”, “Keep Refrigerated”, or “Keep Dry.”

These have also been translated into pictorials by ASTM International’s Committee D-10 (see

Figures 3 a and b and Figure 4).

               Figure 3 a *- “Keep Frozen”          Figure 3 b * - “Keep Refrigerated”

   *Symbols and appropriate placement developed by ASTM International Committee D-10
                                              Figure 4- “Keep Dry”

                  Intersection 6- Communication and the human environment

       To some extent, all of the aforementioned levels of communication work in the human

environment; it is typically a person that we are trying to inform by transmitting a specific

message. The intersection of human communication can be obvious or subtle. Obvious

communication includes text (brand name, directions and warnings, ingredients, nutritional facts,

etc). Information can also be conveyed subtly through material, shape configuration, texture,

and color, and product positioning. The combination of all of these variables communicates a

complex message that is easily understood. In a very few seconds the package transmits:

           •   product category: dairy pasta, personal care, automotive part, etc.

           •   brand differentiation

           •   values: quality level, home-made, environmentally friendly

           •   origin: import or domestic
        Functional communication provides consumers with information that is needed to use,

store and handle products safely and effective, this is important as society becomes increasingly

litigious. The subtle communication of the package form, it shape, its color, etc. is one way to

evoke an affective response, generating sales.

                       Intersection 7- Utility and the physical environment

        Improving utility in the physical environment involves forethought into the systems and

people that will be handling the product/package system throughout distribution. It can be as

simple as appropriately sizing shipping cases so that they are not dangerously heavy for workers,

or providing handles with comfortable grips. Another packaging component that can improve

physical utility is the use of plastic pallets. Plastic pallets are less prone to splinters and rodent

or insect infestation, and are lighter for workers to handle than their wooden counter-parts.

Another packaging material that improves physical utility is stretch wrap. Stretch wrap can keep

palletized loads more stable decreasing the likelihood of damage to the product, and improving

safety throughout the supply chain.

                      Intersection 8- Utility and the biospheric environment

        Utility in the biospheric environment is probably not something that is intuitive to most

users, even those that work with packaging on a regular basis. It encompasses improving a

package’s usefulness in the biosphere. Probably the most direct examples of an improvement of

biospheric utility are Controlled Atmosphere Packaging (CAP) and Modified Atmosphere

Packaging (MAP). CAP and MAP are technologies that allow us to have fresh produce during

the “off season” by carefully controlling the atmosphere surrounding the produce. These are also

the technologies that allow products like salad mixes and cut produce to be possible. By

modifying the atmosphere surrounding the produce, the respiration rates of the products can be
controlled and degradation can be retarded, extending shelf life and allowing products that would

not otherwise be feasible to be marketed.

                       Intersection 9- Utility and the human environment

       The final intersection of the Packaging Matrix is human/utility. Utility in the human

environment is something that consumers are willing to pay for, and companies are taking notice.

One demonstrable success of the value in improving utility is the recent redesign of the Dutch

Boy paint can. Dutch boy began shipping its new “Twist and Pour” container in July of 2002.

The “Twist and Pour” moved Dutch Boy from a “wire-handled, metal dinosaur of round cans to

a side-handled, spout-pourable, square plastic container” that has garnered rave reviews and

“multiple quarters of increased market share” (Arnold, 2003). Additionally, because the new

container has a closure system that does not require a tool and “splash over” is unlikely, it keeps

the product fresher than traditional cans, offering an improvement at the interface of

biospheric/protection as well.

It is likely that the demand for increased human/utility will continue to grow as the populations

of the “developed world” increase. It is predicted that 20% of the US population will be age 65

or older by 2030 and that by 2050, people over 85 will constitute 5% of the population (Federal

Interagency Forum on Aging, 2000). This trend is not unique to the US. There are already 130

million people over the age of 50 in the European Union. By 2020, one in every two European

adults will be over that age (Design Council, 2000). These older citizens are seeking improved

product accessibility through improved package design (increased human/utility)

       Besides the effect of the aging population, there are a growing number of people with

disabilities. Census 2000 counted 49.7 million people with some type of long-lasting condition

or disability in the US. They represented 19.3% of the 257.2 million people who were aged 5
and older in the civilian non-institutionalized population, or nearly one person in five (US

Census, 2000).

       Old age and mental and physical impairments will never be eradicated; we will all have

to live with them to some extent, and should embrace them as part of the human condition. The

central focus should be striving to minimize the effect that they have on our lives by designing a

world which works for everyone, regardless of ability. It is not just smart business; it is the right

thing to do.


       Packaging is ubiquitous but invisible; consumers do not tend to put conscious thought

into packaging until they are dissatisfied by its performance. They may not even realize that

their dissatisfaction is the result of poor package design; as may be the case with foods with off-

flavors or drugs that lack efficacy by the time they reach the consumer. Regardless of whether or

not consumers realize that poor package design is the problem, once they are dissatisfied, it is not

likely that they will purchase and negative word-of-mouth advertising may result.

       It is important that designers recognize the power of comprehensive package design and

the complexities involved. The packaging matrix is one solution that simplifies the myriad of

considerations that should be taken into account when considering packaging in your

promotional mix.

Anonymous. An expert’s rules for new product launch success. Stagnito’s New Products
     Magazine. Pp. 26-27. August, 2003.

Arnold, Catherine. Way outside the box: how the most innovative packages were created.
       Packaging. Pp. 15-16. June 23, 2003.

ASTM International Committee D-10, Committee on Packaging. D5445-03a, Standard
    practice for pictorial markings for handling of goods. 2003.

Code of Federal Regulations, Subchapter E - Poison Prevention Packaging Act of 1970
      Regulations, 16 CFR Part 1700 Poison Prevention Packaging (January 1, 2003)

Consumer Products Safety Commission. Poison prevention packaging: A text for pharmacists
      And physicians. Washington, DC; 1999.

Lockhart, H. A paradigm for packaging. Packaging Technology and Science. 1997; 10:237-252.