Package Redesign Gone Wild

The NYT has an article today about the terrifying rate of package redesign, a phenomenon the industry blames on, what else—the internet. Oh, and Tivo.

From the NYT:

Consumer goods companies, which once saw packages largely as containers for shipping their products, are now using them more as 3-D ads to grab shoppers’ attention.

The shift is mostly because of the rise of the Internet and hundreds of television channels, which mean marketers can no longer count on people seeing their commercials.

So they are using their bottles, cans, boxes and plastic packs to improve sales by attracting the eyes of consumers, who often make most of their shopping decisions at the last minute while standing in front of store shelves.

“The media is fragmented, and we can’t find people — we can’t get them to sit down and listen to our argument on a television spot,” said Jerry Kathman, chief executive of LPK, a brand agency based in Cincinnati. “The package can convey that argument.”

As recently as the 1990s, most package designs were retained for seven or more years. Now marketing executives say they are constantly planning package overhauls. The average life of a package before its next makeover is down to two years, they add.

What do you think? Are you always looking for “refreshing” packaging? If we had to admit a bias it would be in favor of simple packaging that doesn’t change much. We recently tried to find the conditioner we like to use on our hair and found that they’d changed the name of it…again. By the time we finish this bottle, it’ll be called “magical hair special fortifying happy butter hair creme latte rinse botanical awesome with vitamins” So annoying. You?

Product Packages Now Shout to Get Your Attention [NYT] (Thanks, Molly!)
(Photo:Lars Klove)


Edit Your Comment

  1. MalcoveMagnesia says:

    Those Mountain Dew bottles seem to be screaming “drink me, I’m poison!”

  2. Buran says:

    Uh, whose “fault” is it but your own if you decide to do something? No one held a gun to your head and said “do this”.

  3. Cowboys_fan says:

    Flashy will not catch my attention, at least at the grocery store. I am looking for products I am familiar with. I have predisposed images to look for so if its not there, I look right past it. If coke changes their bottles, I’ll be screwed.

  4. mermaidshoes says:

    i can be kind of a sucker for cool packaging, but it depends what product the packaging is for, and whether i’ll actually be looking at it with any frequency. the pretty kleenex boxes are kind of nice–if you’re going to have a kleenex box out, it might as well look cool. but for cleaning supplies or anything else that’s just going to sit in a cabinet most of the time, there’s not much point. same for a soda bottle that i’ll just recycle anyway. there is something to be said for consistent packaging, too–if i were looking for mountain dew, i might have a really hard time finding it in those crazy new bottles.

  5. cabinaero says:

    I work in packaging and, as such, can’t give any specific examples. But for a general run of of the mill example: The boxes you see on the shelf for one of our major clients are at least two design revisions behind what we’re sending to printers now. One of the revisions only had a shelf-life of about 6-8 weeks depending on the individual product.

  6. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Wait…blaming the internet and tivo? Didn’t Pepsi have a bunch of can redesigns in the late 80s/ early 90s? A bunch of “extreme” cans? Whats to blame then? Hulkamania and new fangled CDs?

  7. says:

    now a person can walk down the aisle and have a seizure because of all the colors and flashing lights (the flashing lights on the cans to get your attention are the next thing to happen)

    i think they’re pretty. im sure plenty of hipsters can use them as decor

  8. Steel_Pelican says:

    I’m a big fan of this. Not because I’m enamored with the idea of zany packages, but because it makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside to see that manufacturers and marketers are finally starting to move away from TV ads.

    Maybe, just maybe, they’ll realize that if the best way to sell more products is to increase quality and customer service. Any step away from the current model (Stage 1: Advertise. Stage 2: ????, Stage 3: PROFITS!!!) is a step in the right direction.

  9. Pelagius says:

    I suppose if you have no idea what your brand identity is and you want to confuse anyone hapless enough that they actually want to buy your product, then fucking around with your product packaging every fortnight is a GREAT idea.

  10. salviati says:

    Does anyone else notice how the CEO keeps referring to the image and ads as ‘arguments’.

    “…We can’t get them to sit down and listen to our argument on a television spot…The package can convey that argument…”

    In what way does making your packages flashier or have them being drunk
    by models and actors make an ‘argument’. Does he really think that an
    ad featuring a hang-gliding while drinking your soda, or gulping it
    down while surrounded by pretty girls conveys a logical transfer of
    information to the buyer? Of course not, it’s all about image – Deal
    with it.

  11. I would think the larger, established, and more popular companies would only need to jazz up their design when sales slump and even then not drastically. You want people to be able to find your product, especially if we’re not watching the TV ads touting your new design.

    Besides, is a new design good enough to replace a TV ad as far as convincing people to buy the product? Does this really work?

  12. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    I have an appreciation for nice package design, but that’s not the deciding factor in making a purchase. I guess this applies to younger demographics where “cool factor” is more important.

  13. beyond says:

    So “cool” is a splattering of paint? Those bottles are so busy I can’t even find the name. It looks like a Pollock.

  14. MalichiDemonos says:

    Being a collector of weird stuff… I like it. It sort of reminds me of those trippy incense burners you can get from spencers.

  15. SaraAB87 says:

    When I buy a product I look for low price and quality of whats inside the package, not how much they spend on marketing for the outside of their package.

  16. rafdesign says:

    Please mister Pepsi, check my website, I want to design one too, I am a great designer! …As a customer, I would rather see Pepsi coming up with some new, healthier products, environmental friendly packaging, creating new products. Come on, you guys already missed the train about pomegranate, white tea. Am I becoming a hippy?

  17. RandomHookup says:

    The talking packages should be interesting. Can’t wait to hear what the Trojans and KY have to say for themselves.

    “Hey, dude! I know you have sex all the time. Why not get a bigger box, Mr. Stud Man?”

  18. MalichiDemonos says:

    @RandomHookup: lol what about the diet pills… “Hay fatty. I think you need to buy me.”

  19. welsey says:

    I kind of like the new product designs, I would probably be inclined to buy oval tissues or weird looking Mountain Dew cans. Even though I’d like to say it’s stupid.

    I agree that there should be some consistency in brand image, but I see nothing wrong with cool new designs, as long as they’re as or more functional than before.

  20. theblackdog says:

    A new package is nice and all, but will it blend?

  21. What I like is when they put:

    “New look – same great taste/formula/etc!”

    Like changing the ink on the outside magically tranforms what’s on the inside. If you’re really worried about customers fearing a change in the product, why change the packaging?


  22. etinterrapax says:

    @davelawrence8: I especially love when they do that and have really made the container smaller. Because we’re too dumb to notice something that sneaky, right? We’re just thinking. “Wow, the lid to this ice cream seems sturdier! That will make this a better value and also more delicious!” ::headdesk::

    I’m so fucking bored with these marketing efforts. Add value, morons. And recognize that people facing rising costs of living, rising taxes, a dead housing market, and an ailing economy have limitations and can’t really care whether your profits increase this year.

  23. Anitra says:

    Unless the product is something designed to sit out in public (tissue boxes, air fresheners, etc.), I just want clear, consistent labeling. What is your product? What does it do? How is it different from the product sitting next to it on the shelf?

    Example: I need to buy fragrance-free detergent because my husband is allergic. But since every brand labels it differently, I spend a lot of time looking at the shelf before I find the one I want. One brand may use a white bottle for the “Free” type, but another uses a white label of “hypoallergenic”, and a third uses white bottles for ALL its varieties. I assume it’s only going to get worse when I need HE detergent for my new washer.

  24. andrewsmash says:

    Ah…this is what happens when you let marketing people make decisions. Since they starting gaining corporate power in the seventies, it seems like image and design have over-taken function and quality in product-producing companies. You supposed to make a product people want to but, not a package.

  25. hoo_foot says:

    It looks like i’m the only one who thinks the new packages look pretty cool. However, the new packaging won’t make me anymore inclined to buy the product.

    Case in point: Coors. I really like the idea of a label changing color at the right temperature–very useful and a bit quirky. But that nifty label is still not enough to get me to choke down that horse piss.

  26. peggynature says:

    “The media is fragmented, and we can’t find people — we can’t get them to sit down and listen to our argument on a television spot”

    Translation: The monkeys are no longer complying with the brainwashing! Now what?

    I also find it confusing when packages change so often. But I’m sure a lot of these companies don’t care about old fuddy-duddies like me who use packaging as a mnemonic device. They’re looking to attract the attention of younger shoppers who they can build a “relationship” with and keep on the hook for many years after I’m dead.

  27. superlayne says:

    I buy what’s cheap and what’s organic.

    Personally, my favorite packaging is just cute or pretty. To be honest, I’ll admire packaging, but I don’t base my purchases on how intricate the 6 headed chluto beast illustration on my soda can is.

  28. @MalichiDemonos: Oh no…feminine hygiene products.

    “Hey, tired of doubling up on your pads? I’m designed for plus size gals, buy me!”

  29. arachnophilia says:

    dear coca cola and pepsi-co.

    please stop now. i do not know why you seem to think that you need to advertise anymore. you don’t. you’ve won, the game’s over. your products are very much in the minds of the american people, and probably the world, whether or not you are advertising on tv.

    cola decisions are not especially difficult. pepsi, you own half the market. coke, you own the other half. if i go to a restaurant, the “coke or pepsi” choice isn’t made by me. it’s made by you. which one of you owns the business? that’s who i’m drinking. no coke, pepsi? no big deal. the only time a choice even comes into play is when both are available, like in a grocery store. and then, well, people just buy the one that’s on sale.

    your marketting has officially snowballed. it no longer requires input on your part. the momentum of your financial gigantism will carry it from here. now, please take all that extra money you’re saving from not having to advertise, and put it into charity donation to something like obesity or diabetes research.

  30. thedreamingtree says:

    @ Rectilinear Propagation: Should I be offended that you think that plus sized gals have to double up on protection? Do we have bigger crotches, or just bleed more? Geesh.

  31. acambras says:

    Maybe he meant “Super Plus Gals.”

  32. Stevek1 says:

    I`m a former educator and educational toy store owner. I recently submitted a patent pending idea that turns previously discarded water bottles into an entertaining and educational experience for children. For consumers and educational institutions, this added value beyond refreshment could motivate them to purchase a product packaged in reusable containers that provide ongoing fun and creative inspiration. With 38 billion water bottles ending up in landfills, a better, additional choice for the environment is reuse.

  33. synergy says:

    Annoying. I want to be able to find what I want to buy as quickly as possible without trying to figure out if they’ve gone and done more than changed the outside label. As far as picking a NEW product, I turn it around to look at the ingredients, not at the “ooo shiny!”

  34. Marce says:

    What, no poll?

  35. nlatimer says:

    How about simple packaging that constantly changes.

    Not only do I love Jones Soda, I love the pictures, they’ve always conveyed a sense of community.