How to evaluate a design proposal?

What a question! Rationalizing and describing in words a process that ended up being “innate” and “natural” in my years in Marketing Departments is much more difficult than it may seem … Saving the distances (of many kilometers!) Is like asking Rafa Nadal how did he win a specific point in the beaten-earth courts at Roland Garros … What will he tell us? «I looked for a winning backhand! “… But the strength, the rotation of the wrist, the final lift and the “details”… He can hardly explain them … That’s so natural for him … how could it be described? How could he share it? Well, recognizing the difficulty of the exercise here are the conclusions of my reflection on this.

First of all I would say that the success of a good packaging design, lies in a good Briefing. The experience of dozens, perhaps hundreds of cases, is that when it comes to an excellent design is in most cases thanks to a good briefing and also, perhaps, thanks to the design agency. In other words, an excellent briefing usually ends in an excellent design. A bad briefing can end in a good design if you have a great agency in the project, but it can also end in a disaster, even working with the best agency in the world.

First conclusion then … let us make a simple definition of the objectives we have for this new packaging design and, above all, we need to be clear on what we would like to communicate to the shopper who will see us on the supermarket shelf with thousands of references around us . That design should convince in only 3-5 seconds!

Well, if the briefing is up to the task, we will only have to evaluate whether the proposal is “coherent” in respect to those objectives or is far from it. That is, if it “complies” or “does not comply” … as simple (and as difficult) as that!

To “comply” we must take into account something that is often forgotten … The packaging design of a product is not a design! It’s an ad! In fact, our best «advertisement»! And besides … it’s free! With the price of television, radio, posters, internet … sometimes we forget that all our products’ packagings correctly ordered on the shelves of our customers can be our best advertisement ….

So if our packaging is our best ad, we should evaluate a packaging proposal as if it were an advertisement proposal …

And what does a good advertisement communicate? In the first place, the Brand of the product in question! Then, his Consumer Benefit, his Reason Why, his Reason to Believe …

Well … That’s what a good packaging should also communicate.

It is key then that by taking a quick look at our product, an average consumer knows:

  • «Who» speaks to me (brand),
  • «What» does it want to sell me or «how» can it help me (consumer benefit),
  • «Why» should I believe that this brand can provide that benefit (reason to believe)
  • “Why” should I believe that this brand can provide that benefit (reason to believe)

A good example could be the historical packaging of Activia by Danone with that predominant and well visible brand, that “helps regulate your intestinal transit” and that “Active Bifidus” that acts on the intestinal flora …

If a new design proposal responds correctly to these 4 questions, we will have 75% of the work done … What will we lack to reach 100%? Coherence!

This coherence should reach us through “perfecting” that design with the other elements of a good advertisement. And a good ad, will also communicate the Key Visual (or icon of that brand), the Key Audio (slogan) and will usually help us remember what brand we’re speaking using its color or colors (the Color Code of that brand).

In the example of Activia cited above, the arrow that symbolized the intestinal transit and the slogan were always present. The color code (dark green) left no room for doubt and enhanced the visibility of the brand at the points of sale in the same way that the lilac color does today for the brand Milka.

Thus, if we observe these three additional elements in a proposal for a new design, if we are able to identify them quickly and simply … we will have done BINGO! Or better, we could say that we will “almost” have done BINGO! The set should be coherent and not approach the typical “Christmas tree” in which sometimes some designs turn out to resemble in which despite having all these elements, the “coherence” is conspicuous by its absence … In this part is where a good design agency will make the difference between the rest…

By avoiding the “Christmas tree”, we will have a good packaging. An excellent announcement for these complex and confusing shelves currently!

Finally, a reflection that I consider important to share. The evaluation of a new design proposal should be carried out at two levels:

-The first one, of course, by the Marketing professionals who have prepared the project and the briefing, following the guidelines of which we have spoken previously.

-The second one and final evaluation should be done by the final consumer. The “target”. They are the ones who will buy (or not!) our product in the supermarket and, therefore, a final double check before launching a new initiative to the market isn’t unwanted… The «market research» with its different methodologies will help us to give that final validation to a project before it reaches the market, or in its absence it will allow us to understand which is the “fine tuning” necessary to launch and succeed …

About the author: Xavier Mitjavila | Former General Manager JDE France
• Former General Manager JDE France
• Former General Manager JDE Southern Europe
• Former General Manager Danone Italy
June 18th, 2019 | Packaging, Wisdom

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