The common hand soap dispenser can fill an entire aisle with variety. How does the consumer choose one? It is rare that a consumer has any loyalty to a brand of soap or that he/she uses brand recognition to decide between Softsoap and Germ-X.

The answer is packaging. Color, shape, novelty, and scent are all factors that help us to choose a product, such as hand soap, that suffers from product parity. In this article, we will explore various hand soap packages and evaluate the strategies used to grab the consumer’s eye and ultimately increase sales. In a larger sense, we will gain better understanding of the consumer’s thought process when choosing a brand with many competitors (but little difference in the actual product) and subsequently, how marketers can design their packages to influence the consumers’ decisions.

The story of Method Hand Soap is an excellent place to begin. Before 2001, all handsoaps looked the same. They all had the same pump and bottle design, and typically only varied in color or labels. When Method enlisted the help of designer Karim Rashid, and sold their products to 70 Target retail locations, the soap aisle would forever change.

Method U.S.A. is a company that prides itself on green innovation within the household product industry. As the chart from the Method website reveals, every aspect of the soap and its packaging is extremely environmentally friendly. What’s more important, however, is the unique shape of the original Method dish soap package because this is the tool used to grab the consumer’s attention and get him/her to read about the company. Within seven months of its release, the dish soap was distributed in Target stores nationwide. In the years that followed, Method introduced a hand soap in yet another remarkable package, began to distribute in Canada and the United Kingdom, and was named the seventh fastest growing private company in America by Inc. 500.

Essentially, Method contributed to the assertion that the package is everything. If the original product looked like any other dish soap of its time, it would have been treated like its competitors: solely purchased because of price or an attractive scent. With a package that demanded attention because of its novelty, the brand was able to spread its message and dramatically increase brand recognition. It is very likely that consumers will continue to purchase this brand, as well, because of its leadership in sustainable energy, a quality that appeals to many consumers today.

Kleenex also used attention-grabbing techniques to allow its brand to stand out among competitors. In the summer of 2010, Kleenex released tissue boxes in the shapes of watermelons, limes, and oranges in hopes of increasing sales during the slowest sales season. Kleenex brand director, Craig Smith, explained to the The New York Times that the package would keep tissues relevant during the summer. He added that even “people who were not engaged by the facial tissue category were pulled in,” due to the product’s uniqueness. Smith also provided insight into the Kimberly-Clark team’s design process. According to the article, the team first decided on a watermelon pattern because it represents the fun and happiness that people experience during the summer, and “the idea for the wedged-shaped box, and for other fruits, followed.” Brilliantly designed, this concept fulfills the consumer’s desire for removal of unnecessary information about the tissue’s material and allows the consumer to use a Kleenex box as home decor.

On a more serious note, these same attention-grabbing techniques can also be used to promote dangerous, or even unethical, products. For example, Australia passed legislation in 2010 to prohibit the use of brand names, logos, and the use of color on cigarette boxes to attract consumers. The Australian government believes that this will eliminate “one of the last remaining frontiers for cigarette advertising.” The New York Times explains that, if passed by the Australian Parliament, only health warnings and pictures of possible diseases caused by tobacco will be allowed on cigarette packs. If an entire government believes that packaging design is so powerful that increased rules and regulations will make a negative impact on the tobacco industry, than maybe Australia will be able to set a precedent for the rest of the world. These laws will take effect in 2012, and only time will tell if the government’s hypotheses are accurate. If this tactic works, we might be able to decrease sales of other harmful products that are currently marketed to children in the future.

 

Method Firsts. (2010). Method. Retrieved from method website: http://www.methodhome.com/methodology/our-story/method-firsts

Lowry, A. (2010). Behind the Bottle. In Method. Retrieved from Method website:
http://www.methodhome.com/behind-the-bottle

Newman, A. (2010, July 8). A Sharp Focus on Design When the Package Is Part of the Product. The NewYork Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/09/business/media/09adco.html?_r=1

Wassener, B. (2010, April 30). Australia Fights Tobacco With Taxes and Plain Packs. The New York Times, p. B9. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/30/business/global30tobacco.html?_r=1&scp=6&sq=packaging&st=cse

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