28 March 2019

5 top tips for packaging design research

As a brand design agency, we spend a lot of time watching and listening to the feedback from qualitative packaging design research. And contrary to the belief that all agencies hate research, we actually find it incredibly useful to get the perspective of real (non-marketing…) folk on potential design concepts!

Whilst we don’t profess to be experts on the best practice in packaging design research, we do work with some fabulous research practitioners who have some great principles and techniques to ensure the research doesn’t just turn into a beauty context.

So here are our favourite top 5 packaging design research tips…

1. Keep it Short & Sweet

In our experience, shorter smaller groups (45mins-1hr) mean people aren’t spending too long looking and thinking about each route which can lead to over-rationalisation which isn’t helpful or realistic. It simply isn’t how they behave at a fixture for the 3 seconds in which they are making a selection decision.

2. Context is King

We’ve seen far too many people share dry written brand positioning concepts and 2D packaging design concepts on flat boards with lots of lovely white space around them. Mocking up a competitor shelf and creating physical packaging mock-ups that people can hold, and share gets much more realistic responses.

3. Focus on Feelings

With creative stimulus it really helps to focus on what people see, think and importantly feel. It can be pretty difficult for respondents to articulately express ‘why’ they feel like they do but a strong moderator can usually unpick this in their questioning using projective techniques. Watching the body language of people and sensing the energy around concepts is also in our opinion a strong gauge. If people are leaning forward into the idea to learn more and getting excited then so should you.

4. The Creative Stimulus Makes or Breaks It

This may seem blindingly obvious but it is often the quality of stimulus that can make or break the success of the research and this can be the bit where not enough time is dedicated.

We believe there are two types of creative stimulus. The first is where you keep the concepts very loose and sketched out so as people responding to the ideas don’t get hung up on the detail. The other end of the spectrum is where you need the packaging concept to be as polished as it would be if it was on the shelf. Anything in the middle and you’ll see a lot of vacant faces in the room.

5. Get the drawing pens out!

Established brands have clear memory structures and iconic brand assets. One great warm up exercise is to get participants to draw the current brand packaging. As an exercise it helps to not only get them to think back at their memory of the brands and what it means in their world, but it points to the iconic brand assets that we should look to retain and evolve. Along with often pointing to those that have no meaning as people don’t even recall them. The iconic assets might be logos, colours, font styles, shapes, illustrations or imagers. It is critical that you don’t throw the baby (AKA brand assets) out with the bathwater and lose the memory structure that people know and love.

We would love to hear about your experiences of qualitative research for packaging design and any further tips and techniques you have seen. Feel free to get in touch if you would like to discuss what agencies we would recommend for this type of research.