Consider the Consumer

When designing your package, strive for consumer-friendly packaging--even when making equipment decisions.
Edward Bauer, retired director, global packaging, Bausch & Lomb

How do consumer products companies ensure that their brands are chosen? Part of the solution is to enhance package appeal through using innovative materials for visual differentiation, greater convenience, and product protection. Another critical factor in brand success is having the right packaging machinery to ensure package designs can be produced efficiently in the volumes required.

Edward Bauer believes that consumer needs must be kept in mind during packaging design. Once you’ve arrived at a potential design, cost and efficiency concerns will certainly crop up, but don’t let them take you too far from your target—consumer-friendly packaging. Once the director of global packaging for Bausch & Lomb, Bauer has developed several strategies for success. He is now a member of the Packaging Management Council (PMC), an association of senior packaging managers facilitated by the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute (PMMI). PMMI is holding Pack Expo International 2006 on October 29 through November 2 in Chicago, when it will celebrate the show’s 50th anniversary. In this column, Bauer offers his perspective on package design and material and equipment sourcing.

What steps do you take during package design for a new product introduction or brand refresh?

Identifying what the consumer needs or wants is essential. What aren’t they getting from the existing packaging? Perhaps the product delivery process can be enhanced or the package is difficult to open. Most often, pharmaceutical manufacturers seek to resolve issues with dosing, compliance, and regimens via packaging improvement. The simpler you can keep things for the consumer, the better.

The most critical part of design involves choosing the correct material and format. This is especially true when you’re dealing with pharmaceuticals, as product formulations may have negative reactions to different packaging materials. Based on the physical properties of the product to be packaged and the budget available, certain materials may be eliminated from the start, or it may become clear that a hybrid is the best solution.

Material choice also points the way to the type of packaging equipment required to produce the new or modified package, which plays an equally important role in its success.

Where does market testing fit into the design process?

Launching a new product or a package redesign is a large undertaking, both in terms of effort and expense, so conducting market research is critical. This is particularly important when over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are involved, given the intense competition in the marketplace.

Once design concepts have been narrowed to two or three prototypes, take the appropriate time to begin market testing. Options include—but are not limited to—small-scale market tests, where the product is actually introduced to carefully selected retail establishments, or focus groups with consumers that represent the target demographic.

It’s important to recognize that consumers don’t always respond well to change, so it’s very likely you’ll receive some negative feedback no matter how much you improve product packaging.

Are there any other elements to package design that need to be considered early?

Package graphics and artwork are just as important as the structural design of the package. This is especially true when dealing with pharmaceutical products, which operate under strict guidelines. Graphics and instructions supplied with a product are often the primary source of information for a consumer, after doctor instructions. And with OTC products, it may be the only method of communicating with a consumer.

What factors need to be considered on the equipment side of the process?

It’s extremely important to consider packaging machinery early in the package design process. As soon as you’ve determined the ideal material and format for the primary package—such as glass bottle, plastic container, tube or pouch—audit your existing packaging machinery and identify any technical hurdles that may arise. If you’re switching to a completely new format, be sure to evaluate all ancillary equipment as well.

One of the first factors to take into account is the leadtime needed for new packaging machinery. Launching a product that requires an entirely new packaging line will take an average of one to two years, given the time needed to construct, ship, set up, and validate a system.

To speed time to market, try to leverage as much of your existing equipment as possible. Upgrades are an effective alternative when your budget and time are tight.

Another way to keep new product launches cost-efficient is to consider the services of a contract packager. Once you determine that the demand for the product is strong, you can look at moving to internal production.

With tighter travel budgets, how can end-users make the most of attending a trade show to source new materials and machinery?

More and more consumer products companies are discovering that implementing a strategy of “total quality buying” through an integrated team approach can speed project completion and maximize the return on investment from purchases.

Buying teams consist of professionals from a variety of disciplines, such as plant managers, packaging engineers, R&D specialists, production supervisors, package designers, brand marketers, and purchasing agents. Though the exact mix will vary from company to company, these teams can thoroughly evaluate all of the variables involved with a product or machine—from potential application challenges to system integration—and make sound purchasing decisions.

Prior to the show, buying teams should establish expectations, set priorities, and outline goals, both for individuals and the team as a whole. Teams should prequalify potential suppliers and develop a must-see list.


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