Stand-out packaging is critical

Product packaging is often overlooked, but can be a critical differentiator for sales and customer experience

When it comes to capturing your customers’ attention, marketers of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) are aiming at the tiniest of targets. The typical customer spends between just three and five seconds assessing whether or not they are interested in a given product – if you’re lucky. For these ‘low involvement’ categories, in most cases, the potential customer won’t even have realized that your product is on the shelf.

This makes product packaging a critical element of the sales and marketing approach, but it is one that is often overlooked. Most consumer products have secondary packaging, especially in FMCG. This is partly to protect the product during transport, and partly because of all the information that, legally, must be displayed on the product. It also provides a great space to brand and market your product. Yet packaging usually looks the way it does because of production methods or retailer requirements, rather than by design. The ideas of appealing to the end customer or simply being user-friendly are overlooked.

A prime example is blister packaging, whereby products are wrapped in a hard plastic that is hot-stamped shut. Blister packaging is so customer-unfriendly and frustrating to open that it has given rise to the term ‘wrap rage’, which has earned a Wikipedia page. There are even ‘Oyster Awards’ for the hardest-to-open items.

In short, a lot of packaging is not designed with the customer in mind. That’s something my company, Invisibobble, set out to do differently.

From the very beginning, it was clear to me that our innovative hair-tie invention, which not only looks unique but also works differently in the hair, deserved unconventional and customer-friendly packaging.

A new approach

We developed packaging never used before for hair ties. Usually hair ties are stapled onto a piece of cardboard equipped with a hook for hanging. It’s easy to pack, easy and cheap to transport, and simple to place in stores. However, it doesn’t offer a very pleasant customer experience: the cardboard is often very plain, and the products themselves are exposed to everything around them. That gives rise to the possibility of tens, if not hundreds, of different hands touching the hair tie before it is finally bought by a customer. For a product worn in your hair, or around your wrist, that’s not the nicest thought.

We wanted to give the customer an ‘unwrapping’ experience so that buying an Invisibobble no longer felt like purchasing a commodity product. We wanted to elevate the customer experience to the point where they regarded buying an Invisibobble as a treat, and also perceived it as a giftable item. This is why our hair ties are packaged in small transparent cubes decorated with beautiful, detailed designs.

As a result of this approach, we have experienced three distinct benefits.

1 Category establishment

If you’re going to bring a revolutionary new product into an existing market (in this case, spiral hair ties in a world of round fabric hair ties), then the goal should be to establish that product as a new category. A good way to achieve that is to complement the innovative product with a disruptive approach to its packaging.

This sets a standard for how your products should look, and differentiates them from the competition. In any industry, once you bring a successful product onto the market, it will be copied. Those copies are likely to be packaged in a similar way to yours – and that establishes the category. At this point, all you have to worry about is becoming the category king, and defending your position by constantly innovating and generating a buzz around your brand.

2 Differentiation on the shelf

When you’re in FMCG and you have mere seconds of attention from your potential customers, your packaging is doing the talking for you. When shoppers are scanning an aisle filled with hair accessories, their eye is very quickly drawn to products that look different from the rest. Differentiation on the shelf increases the chance that a customer will engage with your product, learn more about your brand, and hopefully buy it.

3 It really helps to tell your story

We live in a world where brand is king. Customers are excited to find new brands that appeal to them and hear the stories behind the product they are buying. Differentiated packaging makes it easier to produce limited collections and special editions, which appeals to customers, especially during key consumption periods such as Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, Independence Day, and so on.

Packaging can tell an entire story if it is designed creatively and is perceived by the customer as ‘never-seen-before’.

It is easily overlooked, but stand-out packaging can offer incredible brand benefits. In the hyper-competitive world of FMCG, it can help your product stand out, help you tell your story, and generate word-of-mouth promotion – and we all know the power of getting a concept shared widely on social media platforms, especially when it happens without spending any marketing dollars.

The success of the Invisibobble just goes to show what a difference great packaging can make.

––– Sophie Trelles-Tvede is chief executive of Invisibobble, the company she founded as a student in 2012. In 2016, she was named in the Forbes 30 under 30 Europe list