The Packaging Matrix: Linking Package Design Criteria to the Marketing Mix By 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 Professor 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 Abstract 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- Purchase), • 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 reformulation. Introduction 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 benefits. 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 open Talking packages Shape Environments Material Color Shape Configuration Configuration Texture Texture Photographs Text 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 indicators Biospheric Oxygen absorbers to protect from oxidation Modified atmosphere packaging Pictorials 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” Cushioning 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 Accelerometers 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 intersections. 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 design. 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 image. 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 employed. 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. Conclusion 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. 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