Creating an effective packaging transition strategy

by Guest Contributors Tara Prabhakar and David Lansanah | April 10, 2019

Author: Tara Prabhakar

Tara Prabhakar
Global Director, Qualitative, Client Impact
Insights Division, Kantar

Author: David Lansanah

David Lansanah
Global Head of Innovation
Insights Division, Kantar

Packaging changes are an integral part of every brand’s lifecycle. Many changes are routine, but some are more radical; driven by changing consumer trends, the need to modernise, or signalling a more premium offer. However, even slight changes can dramatically impact sales, making it critical to get your packaging transition strategy right. 

Whether online, or in-store, the choices we make in the moment are dominated by context, heuristics and mental shortcuts. An updated packaging colour may make your product harder to pick out. Worse, people may reject the changes you’ve made to ‘their’ brand. Celestial Tea’s uncluttered packaging redesign simply failed to connect with people’s idea of for what their brand stood and resulted in a backlash


While brands must innovate, they must also play to the heuristics that help people recognise them. A robust packaging transition strategy ensures you connect with your customer in the moment, not just during the market research.

The most important elements of a packaging transition strategy are:

Take people on a journey: start talking about what changes will be made, and why, well before the new packaging hits the shelves. Build awareness across channels, ensuring people look for your newly-packaged brand. The transition journey is also about helping people embrace the reason for the change. If packaging is being updated for environmental reasons, this is a great opportunity to tell your customers about the benefits, and how they are contributing when they purchase your brand.

Work with consumer heuristics: people rely on visual cues to make brand selection quick and easy. Size, shape and colour are key identifiers which allow people to quickly select their favourite brands. Most packaging changes will be minor, but those considering major change should try to identify and keep the signifiers that help people recognise and connect with the brand. This might be colours, logos, or a distinctive brand mascot. Cornelius the Rooster has graced Kelloggs' Corn Flakes since 1957. His distinctive green and red plumage is recognisable around the world, so when the firm modernises the packaging they make sure the new-look rooster is prominent to aid easy recognition.

Deliver the desired experience: packaging can also be an important part of consuming a product. Understanding customer needs in the moment is key for designing packaging that delivers the desired experience. Lucozade Sport redesigned its bottles to feature a textured grip and 'waist', making it easier to hold for runners seeking hydration on the move. The brand matched ergonomic design with eye-catching colours and clear communication about calorie count to appeal to fitness enthusiasts. 

Packaging changes need not be daunting, provided they are backed by a strong, customer-centric strategy. Brands that bring their customers with them and concentrate on connecting with people in specific moments will succeed. Given the potential downside of fumbling a packaging change do you think companies are paying enough attention to developing an effective transition strategy? Please share your thoughts. 

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  1. Carol Udell, Canadian Viewpoint, April 10, 2019
    I expect packaging changes will become more and more extreme as companies respond to consumer demands for more environmentally friendly, sustainable, and socially responsible options. These will drastically change the packaging of many, perhaps most, products. Companies needs to ensure through consumer research that people understand why all of these changes are happening and that the changes are done as well as possible.

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