Consider this: your product and its packaging are the only marketing vehicles that 100% of your consumers see. Not all of them will have direct contact with a salesperson. Many will purchase your product without ever reading a single piece of marketing collateral. Your advertising may or may not reach your intended audience. But every consumer who picks up and ultimate buys your product will interact with it and its packaging.
Think of your brand like a promise and your product design as the visible representation of that promise. You know that when you pick up a can of classic Coke the soda inside is going to be equally sweet and refreshing. And you assume without even thinking about it that the piece of cool, minimal furniture you pick up from IKEA will be easy to put together once you get it home.
Whether or not your product’s look and packaging has anything to do with its ultimate functionality, you need to make sure you’re communicating your brand’s unique value via your designs. Here’s why:
Consumers are Emotional Creatures
It’s estimated that over half of all purchasing decisions are based on buyer emotion, even outside of the retail space. That’s especially true when a buyer isn’t loyal to a particular brand or isn’t sure about the value of a certain purchase. It just makes sense to think about how your product’s design will make people feel.
Still not convinced that emotion matters? Companies that have invested in arresting and unforgettable design that spans product lines have a definite edge over the competition – think Apple and Bang & Olufsen – even when their pricing isn’t particularly competitive.
Market Differentiation Matters
In today’s marketplace store shelves (and search results pages) are crowded with a near endless array of products that may look at first glance to be identical. To avoid choice paralysis consumers do a quick assessment of the products in front of them, classifying them in myriad ways. That one looks cheap. That one will be the first to break. That color is ugly. That’s too big or looks too expensive. And so on until the customer has whittled a hundred options down to a handful.
The takeaway should be that market differentiation has to be about more than standing out. After all, a heinous color will certainly stand out from the crowd but won’t convey anything positive to potential buyers.
Associations are a Strong Driver
Clearly product design is about more than form and function. Beyond the emotions the product itself evokes in the consumer, there are the associations buyers will have with a brand’s other products. These can be invaluable in shaping new product development as these associations fuel customer loyalty.
Apple has certainly taken this to heart in its new product designs, which are evocative of the company’s past products, new and old. For Apple fans, unfamiliar products nonetheless feel familiar thanks to design.
People Make Decisions Quickly
Today’s consumer is faced with an overwhelming array of options every time he or she makes a purchase. And most of us are busier than ever before. Strapped for time, we rely on our senses (sight and touch), reputation, and cues to make decisions.
For instance, a package of BAND-AID brand adhesive bandages quickly communicates the therapeutic nature of the product and the long-standing trustworthiness of the brand. The bandages themselves haven’t changed much because the classic design is one people associate with treatment and recovery – which may be why classic adhesive bandages still dominate the shelves when many alternative options have come and gone.
Your Product IS Your Brand
The product is the only piece of your brand that people actually interact with – it’s a constant, tactile reminder of your company’s values. With that in mind you should take steps to ensure that the product itself, the packaging, and your marketing messages are consistent. When they’re out of synch with each other consumers who buy your product expecting the experience communicated by your advertising will be disappointed, regardless of how high quality your product may be.
It may help to think of design as not just an aesthetic concern but rather a value add – the small touches that help new customers feel positive toward your product and remind repeat customers why your products are best. Remember that ultimately perceived value can be just as important as real value so branding as it relates to design cannot be an afterthought.