Package Testing

The single hardest working element in a marketing bundle is the packaging. This is the mental image that is recalled when a customer hears or thinks about your Brand; yet packaging tends to get short shrift in the testing budget. The same people who would never choose a concept or a taste profile without consumer input, will often blithely look at what the package designers come up with and choose what appeals to them most.

 And yet there are success stories that depend on having gotten the packaging right. I remember many years ago when Kraft (then General Foods) wanted to introduce an iced version of their successful General Foods International Coffee. Imagine back in the day when Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts had not yet made cold coffee drinks so popular. Iced coffee remained a relatively small regional business concentrated in the Northeast.

The Brand team asked us to help them figure out what this new product would look like. We conducted a Building Blocks(sm) test looking at formulas, taste profiles, flavor varieties, benefits, positioning, etc. Almost as a throw-away, a packaging engineer brought samples of an individual tube container (lots of sweetener products now come in this form). The target audience really liked the idea of having their favorite beverage available in a new form. And they LOVED the packaging. That one element got them more excited and they told us how much more acceptable the new form was once it was so easily portable.

The company went on to celebrate the packaging form by using a see-through outer box that showcased the new form very well. Luckily our testing methodologies make it easy to incorporate packaging for gathering customer feedback.

War Stories

One of the privileges of having had a long career in marketing research is the wealth of stories we can tell about past projects gone dreadfully wrong. Some of the images I will never forget come from my first job as a field director for the Gene Reilly Group in New York in the early 1970’s. They include:

  • Having consumers use a camp sink in front of a one way mirror to brush their teeth while we videotaped them – without disclosing that they were being observed!

  • Trying to place chocolate bars in a NY suburb in July and having most of the samples melt before interviewers could complete the interviews.

  • Having a client bring his cello to the facility because he had a rehearsal for his community orchestra right after the groups.

  • Trying to herd a crowd of 20 year olds into limousines after watching the Broadway production of Hair so they could participate in discussions about the viability of turning this into a movie. Not hard to recruit this job, just hard to enforce participation.

  • Paying women $7.50 to come to the city for a 2 hour group and never having a problem finding willing participants. Particularly for Wednesday groups when they could also enjoy a matinee.

  • Having to refill the moderator’s “coffee” cup without letting the ice cubes clink.

Moving on to a client side job, I vowed never to be one of those clients – but I’m sure I was!