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Messaging and Imaging

Today’s shoppers have a lot on their minds, and not much time to shop, especially for something new. Consumers also already have plenty of options available to them. As such, new products need to stand out on the shelf and attract consumers. One of the keys to any new product launch is the visual cues of the packaging that can engage the unsuspecting consumer, especially unique visual cues. While colour and shape might be the strongest visual attention grabbers, messaging and imaging on the packaging are viable tools in the new product developer’s tool chest. Images attract, says Aaron Keller, managing principal at Capsule, Minneapolis, and words close the sale.
“We, as human beings, see and process information before we read,” he explains. “Hence, images and visual language are often consumed fi rst before messages are read. Therefore, the images or image of the product can attract while the messaging engages further as a consumer picks up the package and decides whether to put it in the basket.”
Scott Young, president of Perception Research Services, Teaneck, NewJersey, agrees that most new products must have both standout packaging and a compelling messageto get purchased. In some low-ticket and lowrisk categories, such as candy, gum and soda, a new look — something that looks cool, fun and different — may be sufficient to drive trial. But in more efficacy-driven categories, such as over-the-counter products, a strong claim or message is needed to close a sale. Shoppers often spend only five seconds looking at a new product. In that time, the package needs to convey a compelling reason to change from their previous behaviour. That’s not easy to do, Young says.
“What we emphasise is clear, concise messaging – really standing for something and having one strong claim come across,” he says. “If you put more messages on pack, they just fi ght each other for attention, and you end up with less clarity of communication. Less is more, so to speak.”
Today, if a company wants a consumer to invest any amount of money in an untested brand, value must be communicated and some drama created, says Marcus Hewitt, chief creative officer at design agency Product Ventures, Fairfield, Connecticut. “Innovation helps attract consumers whether it’s a graphic that upsets the status quo, a claim that can’t be denied or a new structure,” he says.
Effective messaging and imaging on a new product’s packaging, then, not only communicates the benefits, but shines through with personality and makes the consumer want to partake in the dialogue,” Hewitt explains.
Operative Images
Visual imagery can be valuable in differentiating new products from the rest of the category. Perception Research Services’ Young offers the example of U by Kotex, which differentiates by using a black-coloured package, along with a visual language and look that is unlike the rest of the category. “A ‘me too’ visual that looks like the category leader almost inevitably makes it difficult to differentiate and establish an identity for a new product,” Young says. “The best new product packaging creates an ‘ownable’ look or visual identity that’s unique in the category.”
Capsule’s Keller agrees that the best images are not what you’d expect in the category. For instance, Jones Soda used crowd-sourcing and a consumer-driven contest to encourage fans of the brand to submit their personal photos. The winning shots appeared on bottle labels, which created a dynamic visual block on shelf.
When images are used, they need to be direct and straight to the point rather than “here is an image of how to use the product” or “here is how you’ll feel after consuming this product,” Keller says. “Images that start to tell a story and visually engage someone fi rst have a better chance of making a contribution to the brand and package,” he explains.
With the explosion of the “visual web” with brands like Pinterest, Fancy and others, companies should consider the photography of their package and the photography on that package appearing in that new competitive field, Keller says.
“Does it live up to this new visual landscape?” he says to ask. “Is it compelling and engaging or is it more stock image in style and thinking? By placing your images in this new landscape, it compels brand owners to make improvements in order to not look like the slew of stock images out on the shelves.”
Most consumers want to see what’s inside the package as well. Terri Goldstein, chief executive officer of the Goldstein Group, a New York-based brand strategy and brand design group, cautions that what’s inside the pack must be portrayed as delicious and healthy. To this, digital renderings often are more effective than photography, she says. For example, in the restaging of Moon Pies, graphic Moon Pies translated as a better image on the package than actual photography did, Goldstein says.
“One of the best ways images also are being used for impact on new products is to cue the consumer to new packaging,” Product Ventures’ Hewitt says. The new Dr. Scholl’s Active Series, which targets the committed athlete, uses a stylized black and white image of a person running at the top of the pack to add drama and visual identity, and to cue the sports enthusiast.
The best packages integrate form and graphics. “When companies fully realise the benefit of an integrated approach to structure and graphics, we’ll see some amazing new packages,” Hewitt says.
Effective Messages
“The best messaging is layered for the audience to consume,” Keller says. “Thinking about how people consume messaging makes for innovative messaging.”
Effective messaging is key, but may only be truly seen and understood when the messaging is put into a shape, which serves as a mnemonic to hold the information, Goldstein says. Consumers are more inclined to look inside shapes to see what the manufacturer has to say.
“It is not just words,” she explains. “Yes, these are developed first. The best way is to develop a matrix of what the competitive set is saying and then say things differently with a twist, but be sure to have them developed into shapes, seals and strong copy systems that are housed in shapes if you want them to be read. It is innovative design and structures that signal innovation, for words by themselves are never enough. Why? Many are not reading while shopping. We are on autopilot and responding to the colours, shapes and symbols, and trying to find the cash register as we fall prey to supermarket seduction.”
For the past few years, value-related messaging has been particularly captivating to consumers. Messages that speak to value in terms of quantity or savings often resonate with consumers, Young says. “For example, messaging such as “30 percent more free” is compelling, along with packaging features such as resealability, which saves money by limiting waste.”
“Packaging systems that link closely to the way people use products can break through and be compelling,” Young says. “On-the-go packs and party packs make intuitive sense to shoppers.” “One of the most effective and innovative messages which attracts the consumer to new products is an engaging story,” Hewitt adds. “It can be a product-based story, a benefit story or a completely fabricated story, as long as it’s engaging.”  Instructional, whether on the back of the package or inside the pack, is one area where new product messaging is lacking, and could make an impact. “Just look at Apple,”
Keller says. “They design their products to be so very intuitive in order to reduce the need for instructions. Simplification and designing instructions to be more intuitiveor designing the product to be more intuitive, is a tremendous opportunity for most packaged products.”
Another mistake companies make is trying to say too much on-pack, instead of highlighting one strong claim, Young says. With new products, it is also important to avoid familiar claims and instead identify unique claims, perhaps by appealing to new usage occasions, features or benefits, Young
This year, Young hopes to see companies be bolder with the packaging of their new products. “New products are the real opportunity for companies to stake out new visual territories,” he says. “Marketers shouldn’t be afraid to break away from category norms in appearance or on-pack messaging.”
More health-oriented imaging and messaging also is expected, Goldstein says. Marketers need to make authentic claims that resonate with healthful-minded Consumers.
Hewitt believes that many established brands will continue along the road to simplifying their packs and using messages that reach for iconic status.
“For example, we have seen over the past year Starbucks moving to the mermaid only on its cups — not even using the brand name,” he says. “This purposeful branding is exciting and confident, and yet you still know who the brand is on the pack. New products are getting wise to this approach, and I think throughout the year they’ll come out of the gate with bolder, simpler statements.”
Contextual marketing will be the big phrase of the next decade, Keller believes. The effort will push marketing efforts right down into the store directly into the moment of purchase. “This means digital methods of engagement impacting this moment and other methods to tailor a brand and message down to each contextual moment,” Keller explains. “While it has always been important to consumers because they make decisions in context, it is just now becoming possible to have a larger impact on the designed moment right in the middle of the decision.”