Avoid the million dollar packaging mistake

October 13, 2016

4 Min Read
Avoid the million dollar packaging mistake
Prevent costly mistakes by knowing what your consumer wants to see on your primary and secondary packaging before hitting ‘go.’

Denise Herich

The importance of packaging to any brand is well-known, but unfortunately, that doesn’t always prevent million dollar mistakes with primary and secondary units. To avoid these costly packaging missteps, it’s critical for brands to know what packaging elements consumers value before designs are submitted and bottles are filled. Here, a detailed look at the elements that really matter, straight from the one who matters—your consumer.

This article highlights data from original research by The Benchmarking Co. on beauty product packaging and beauty consumers in February and May 2016, with more than 1,000 U.S. female beauty buyers.

For secondary packaging…

Because secondary packaging (such as a folding carton) is typically the first thing a consumer sees when out shopping, the most important elements are those that make the product easy to find on the shelf, easy to use, and that include consumer claims and benefit statements:

  • 83%: the name is easy to read on the box;

  • 77%: the box is easy to see on the shelf;

  • 74%: usage instructions are on the box;

  • 57%: the box has independent test results/consumer claims (from women with skin concerns that the product addresses);

  • 55%: the box has beautiful colors.

Aesthetics are important—and clearly consumers enjoy the look of beautiful packaging—but looks aren’t moving the needle as much as concrete, functional information that she can then use to determine if your product is right for someone like her.

Make the most of the limited real estate you have available on your box or unit carton to answer her questions (How do I use this product? What benefits/results will I see?). Are you putting yourself ahead of the competition?

For primary packaging…

Because the bottles, jars and tubes are what consumers interact with the most and are likely to use on a daily basis, the most important elements of primary packaging are more functional, those that ensure she can actually get to the bulk product, and that make the product easy to use:

  • 90%: you can get every last drop out of the bottle/jar/tube;

  • 81%: name is easy to read on the bottle/jar/tube;

  • 78%: bottle/jar/tube is durable, and has usage instructions;

  • 77%: bottle/jar/tube is easy to open;

  • 56%: the bottle/jar/tube is beautifully designed.

Interestingly, of all major beauty categories (skincare, color cosmetics, fragrance, hair and personal care/grooming) the look of primary packaging matters most to fragrance consumers, with 85% saying the look of the bottle/tube/jar is one of the most influential factors in their decision to purchase a new product. But for all products, it is absolutely critical that your primary packaging work with—and not against—the consumer. If she can’t get all of the product out of your bottle, jar or tube…she will likely not be back to replenish.

For your brand overall…let your packaging tell the rest of your story

Aside from the picture you paint on your website and social media outlets, your packaging is typically the biggest way your brand will communicate with potential consumers, and it needs to tell your story with the right elements. That story starts with the look and feel of your packaging.

Although we already know that both primary and secondary packaging ultimately must be functional, it also has to be your brand’s “voice.” It’s when consumers are walking down the aisle at their favorite beauty retailer that packaging creativity really stands out: 33% of women say the design of a package is the first thing that captures their eye, followed by the color (24%).

Interestingly, after these two, the next things that matter most to her are less about creativity, and more about concrete features: the benefits promised and the price, which 11% of women agree are stand-out features of your packaging when it’s on the shelf.

In fact, the importance of benefit statements, particularly in the form of consumer claims, can’t be overstated. Seventy-three percent (73%) of consumers say that reading consumer claims (from women like them) are influential in their purchase decision, and 44% would be more inclined to purchase a beauty product that featured consumer testimonials or testing results on the unit carton.

And if we look at products by category, benefit statements matter even more. In the skincare category, 94% of consumers say the benefits promised from using a product is influential in their decision to purchase; 80% of color cosmetics shoppers; and 79% of personal care and grooming consumers.

When it comes to packaging design, it pays to think like your consumer. By giving her the critical information she wants about your product(s) at the very first touchpoint with your brand—your packaging—you are ensuring that she has easy, unfettered access to the information that influences her the most: what your brand does, who it works for and why it will work for her. Kicking off your packaging design with these elements in mind means you can reduce the risk of expensive mistakes that can cost you more than just lost income, but lost consumer loyalty, as well.


Based in San Diego, Denise Herich is co-founder and managing partner at The Benchmarking Co. The company provides marketing and strategy professionals in the beauty and personal care industries with need-to-know information about its customers and prospects through custom consumer research studies, focus groups, its annual PinkReport and consumer beauty product testing for marketing claims.

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