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Consumer feedback defines beverage packaging design

Consumer feedback defines beverage packaging design
Corby learned consumers like to freeze their vodka and acted upon it with a color-changing ink label.

Corby Spirit and Wine Ltd. mines AskingCanadians’ research program for actionable insights about packaging for its alcohol beverages from 25,000 consumers, using methods including “heat maps” and shelf mockups

Corby Spirit and Wine Ltd., a Canadian marketer of spirits and imported wines, and AskingCanadians, a Canadian online data collection company, were jointly awarded a 2015 Confirmit ACE (Achievement in Customer Excellence) as an outstanding achievement in Voice of the Customer (VOC) programs. The awards recognize companies that have established outstanding initiatives to measure customer feedback and to act upon those insights to increase satisfaction, improve operational efficiencies, and to enhance revenue growth.

The award was for The Corby Panel, a customer feedback survey tool within the AskingCanadians platform. Corby has used the panel to pretest new products, packaging changes, campaigns, taglines and more for a portfolio that includes J.P. Wiser's Canadian whisky, Lamb's rum, Polar Ice vodka and McGuinness liqueurs. Corby also represents leading international brands such as Absolut vodka and Chivas Regal through its affiliation with Pernod Ricard S.A.

Packaging Digest reached out to Corby’s Keeshan Selvakumar, manager, consumer research, about the company’s involvement in this program and how it relates to packaging.

What’s the background to Corby’s involvement?

Selvakumar: We’ve partnered with AskingCanadians since January 2013 after identifying a gap in the way we talk to our consumers. Frankly, we needed a platform that allowed us to vet ideas with real people very quickly and cost efficiently. While we addressed some of the larger business issues through traditional market research (and still do), there were too many smaller “one-off” decisions made in the boardroom because of time and budgetary constraints.

What can you tell us about the makeup of the panel?

Selvakumar: We have about 25,000 panelists across Canada that enjoy spirits and wine on at least a monthly basis. For each person recruited, we ask them a few questions about where they live, what specifically they drink, and which bars and restaurants they go to. We also have a proprietary segmentation model based on answers to lifestyle and values questions which every panelist is “tagged” for.

Depending on the needs of the organization, we will select a small portion of these people based on location, drink preferences, bar and restaurant preferences, or which consumer segment they fall under. All of the panel studies are run through the Corby research team based on requests from a wide variety of teams, including product innovation, brand management, trade marketing, sales and public relations.

What are the costs for participation?

Selvakumar: It’s about 10% to 15% of our annual research budget. In terms of value, our panel has played a part in at least 50 different product launches and marketing campaigns, and has even helped our partners, including liquor boards and restaurant chains, better understand consumers. All of this information is invaluable.

How often is packaging part of these panels?

Selvakumar: In terms of packaging research, we do quite a bit. This can either be an evolution of an existing product label, a new bottle for a brand extension or a completely new brand that we want to bring to the market.

We use a mix of traditional methods like scale question items to assess items such as purchase intent and uniqueness, but we also leverage AskingCanadians’ technology capabilities to get even richer feedback.

For example, we usually use a “heat-map” exercise where participants can point and click on areas of the package that they like and dislike, and then tell us why. This gives us really great commentary to take back to our design agencies, and is fun for the panelists as well.

We’ve also done mock-up shelves to simulate a purchasing scenario where the product would have to be evaluated in the context of others.

What kinds of packaging aspects are discussed?

Selvakumar:  We look at a lot of different things but it all comes back to the business question at hand. Sometimes there may be questions about the optimal copy so we’ll probe more on that, other times we’ll want to see the impact of color so we’ll test a few different options. I think what’s great about our panel is that it’s fairly dynamic in the sense that we can pivot as needed.

What’s the nature of the feedback and how do you decide which is actionable?

Selvakumar: The feedback will always depend which modules we choose to use in the survey, but almost always includes a data file and an online reporting tool for things like heat maps.

In terms of action, we listen to the consumer. Since we’ve done a lot of studies now, we have internal norms to provide direction on whether a package is strong as is, needs a bit more work or needs to be completely discarded.

What’s an exemplary example from the panel?

Selvakumar: Polar Ice 90 Degrees North premium vodka is a great example of a packaging innovation led through our consumer panel. We learned that our target consumer tends to freeze their vodka before enjoying it, so we created a few different concepts featuring a label with thermochromic ink. Our panelists then showed us which concepts were the best to move forward with, and also gave us optimization feedback to make the top performers even better.

This premium expression of the Polar Ice vodka brand is available across the country and is posting strong early growth rates.

What’s next?

Selvakumar: We’re continuously looking at innovation when it comes to market research, partnering with AskingCanadians to find new ways to get people’s opinions and use those insights to deliver products that they’ll really enjoy. When it comes to packaging research, we want to keep it engaging for our panelists; we will continue to leverage new technologies in survey development to deliver on this front.

Meeting consumers’ needs and desires through packaging is a major topic at next week’s Global Food & Beverage Packaging Summit in Chicago. You can view the conference lineup here.

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