It is irrefutable that packaging has a powerful influence on consumer behavior. An estimated one-third of all consumers’ decision-making is based on packaging. In a saturated market, brands have a tight window of opportunity. This window can be opened or clamped firmly shut based on the type of claims being made on the package. When it comes to product claims, there are many things that brands must get right:
• The claim must represent the product in the best possible way.
• The claim as a “call to action” must be aligned with the brand’s objectives.
• The claim should inspire retailers to put the product on their shelves.
Making the wrong product claims carries substantial risk. A vague or uninspiring claim could hinder sales. Your reputation could also be damaged if you make a false product claim, inadvertently or otherwise. To help brands choose the best product claims for their packaging, here is a summary of the different types of claims, as well as ways to test the efficacy of a product claim.
Understand product claims.
Simply speaking, a product claim should state why consumers should purchase a product. It should be a succinct and tangible statement that distinguishes the product from its competitors. Jeremy Benhammou, the associate director of global insights at The Clorox Co. categorizes product claims into three main types:
1. Category driver: This claim outlines the purpose of the product, and exactly why consumers need it. These are used either by industry leaders or products with a unique offering.
2. Differentiation: This claim specifies exactly what marks a product from its competitors. Brands must ask themselves how their product can solve a particular consumer need.
3. Context: These claims relate to current events and issues which are specific to a certain audience. They are opportunistic and temporary in nature. The claims are usually distinct to the specific environment where the product is being sold.
Identify Your Most Successful Selling Points.
A product claim needs to be tangible — and grounded in a real-life consumer need. Therefore, the ideal place to start is to research your existing customer base. Is there a particular part of your product that resonated with your customers? Alternatively, is there an opportunity to address a common misconception about your product?
It is fundamental that you understand exactly why people buy your product. Take the baked goods market for instance. Nanno Palte, group marketing intelligence manager at Puratos, compares bread with luxury patisserie products. Bread is a daily staple, so consumers are more likely to respond to health-related claims. Therefore, the packaging should clarify it's free from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or preservatives. Comparatively, a pain au chocolat is more of a “treat.” Therefore, your claim should focus more on the “taste experience.”
Now it’s time to cast the net a little wider and carry out some research into your target audience. Once you start digging, you’re likely to find a wealth of secondary data on your ideal demographic. This could be quantitative purchase data or qualitative data about customers' attitudes to certain brands. Both will give you an idea about how to ensure your packaging appeals to your target market.
Once you have your raw data, you should begin conducting competitor analysis. This is so you have some benchmarks for your product claims. Can you see any core similarities between competitor packaging designs? If so, this could identify a tried-and-tested method for creating product claims. That being said, if you can compare these claims to your research and find an unfulfilled consumer need, you’ve struck gold.
Narrow Down Your Product Claims.
Once you have finished your research, you are likely to have a range of potential product claims. Every consumer will have different priorities when choosing a particular product.
It’s tempting to try and appeal to as many different consumer needs as possible. However, attempting to cover all your bases will lead to your claim being vague and confused. Remember, this isn’t a claim for an ad, where you’ll have at least a few seconds to pique your audience’s interest. For packaging, a claim is often the deciding factor for someone intending to make a purchase.
The challenge lies in creating something that’s specific yet has a universal appeal. Another important rule is not to assume “logical jumps” on behalf of your audience. Your audience may need help connecting the dots between your product and their needs. Of course, you don’t need to spell out something blatantly obvious. Ensure your claim doesn’t veer into either esoteric or patronizing territory. The last thing you’ll want from your packaging is to alienate your audience.
Using this critical lens, you should be able to refine your ideas into a selection of viable claims. Your claims will likely highlight different selling points, all holding equal merit. However, your packaging needs to make one clear and defining statement. To help decide which claim best suits your packaging, start by asking these questions:
• Does your claim satisfy a specific customer need?
• Is the ‘action’ it prompts customers to take aligned with your objectives?
• Can your product team verify the claim as absolute truth?
• Will the claim make retailers want to sell your product?
This then leads to the most important question: Can your claim be condensed into a succinct, compelling statement that will stand out? If you can confidently answer “yes” to these questions, you are ready to create, refine, and test your product claims.
Find the Right Language for Your Product Claims.
You could have a valid claim that encapsulates why your product is worthy of purchase. However, if you do not use the right language for your claim, your unique selling points could be lost.
It’s vital to be concise, especially when it comes to packaging. This is for practical constraints for the most part. After all, packaging does offer limited space for you to “sell” your product. But it’s also well-established that consumers have a short attention span. This means they are not obligated to try to understand your message. Instead, they’ll simply opt for another product.
For your claim to be engaging, you must channel the way customers speak about your product. Do they wax lyrical about how much they relate to your brand? Or is it a simple case of your product fulfilling one particular need? A product claim should set consistent expectations, especially if you’re an established brand.
Test Your Product Claims.
You should now have a handful of product claims that represent your product, brand, and customers. Testing your product claims will help you make the final decision as to which will make it onto your packaging.
The two most effective ways to test your product claims are online surveys and focus groups. We advise carrying out both tests, cross-referencing the results to ensure your findings are valid. However, you may only have the resources for one method. In this case, it depends on whether you are prioritizing breadth or depth. Do you want your packaging to have a mass-market appeal, or fulfil the needs of a specific group of consumers?
We highly recommend carrying out A/B testing, with the claim being the only difference between the two packaging concepts. This means that you can directly attribute the change in response to your new product claim.
Many brands know the frustration of developing a new packaging design, only to learn that consumer information has revealed an inherent flaw in the concept or messaging. Therefore, you should conduct your testing iteratively. This will ensure that you don’t veer off from your findings in certain development stages. Presenting regular results from consumer testing will also help keep key stakeholders engaged.
To conclude, packaging provides limited space to prove your product is worthy of purchase. With such minimal space to make a statement, it is important to concentrate your goals and selling points into a compelling product claim that you are confident will engage your audience and drive sales.