The recent E-Cigarette phenomenon has brought with it some new thinking with retailing.
I was recently wandering and window watching in Shibuya this week and came upon something rather curious, which invited a second look.
Now I’ve worked in the field of tobacco retailing for a while, and like many of my design peers, we’ve tried to bring some innovation into it. Some twentieth century merchandising techniques to start with. So when I discovered JTI’s pop up space in Shibuya I was pleasantly surprised.
At first sight, I was challenged to understand what this space was all about. You could mistaken into thinking it was a private launch event for a fashion label. Noting that it was nestled amongst some brand new flagship stores with queues akin to people lining up at a nightclub.
However, after a second take, I noted the no smoking signs. Curious I approached the staff member who then handed me a brochure, to learn it was a JTI space promoting E cigarettes.
So, being a smoker myself, I was even more curious to look inside, where I found smokers relaxing with their new device. There was even a counter with some pretty cool accessories.
So that was that and we walked on our way. But then it got me thinking….
Why did the space need to be so secretive about the nature of the product and activity, when after all it is a smokeless product that’s harmless to surrounding public and be more acceptable? 30 seconds further along the road and the real smokers could be found along a side street out in full open view. This appears to be a little ironic.
Now it was only recently in the news that Heathrow Airport has created a zone specifically for users of E-Cigarettes, which in itself is curious. Again for the same reasons.
So I have come to the conclusion that the issue is more about the ‘habit’. About people being seen smoking. Now if combustible tobacco products were outlawed tomorrow I would ask if the governing gods would if they would dismantle the smoking booths in airports or keep them for e-cigarette users? Yes we know they deliver nicotine, but they don’t omit dangerous harmful smoke. So there’s no need.
And now we can categorise e-cigarettes as a ‘delivery mechanism’ I must compare it with other similar products, e.g. high hit carbonated caffeine drinks etc……
The tobacco industry are as ever ahead of the curve, with direct sales of E-cigarettes online bringing an altogether new distribution channel.
It’s going to be interesting watching the future debates and trends in this category.
In my last article, you may remember I promised to show you a better design for Gillette’s Pro-Glide Razor packaging. You may also remember that I found a lot of problems with all of the packaging in the category which ended in frustration in the shop, and disappointment after unpacking it at home.
I’m interested in helping clients develop packaging that is a commercially optimised. I believe in this instance that if the team responsible for this packaging had gone on a similar shopping trip as I had, and I always do beforehand, they might have arrived at the same conclusion, and achieved better.
1) We found the packaging graphics designed to grab the shopper’s attention, prevented the shopper from appraising the full product.
2) We couldn’t see if spare razors were included, because of the recycled formed board had no window. Neither was it obvious from the copy there were no spare blades.
In the process of improving the design I started to understand why. Simply, P&G’s intention was to highlight the ‘power on/off’ button associated turning on/off the vibrating razor. Nice, but I wanted to see the razor head design, as is a fundamental requirement of a safety razor. The problem is that the on/off button appears on the wrong side of the razor handle. It should appear so that both the button and the razor head can be viewed together.
Additionally, spare razors, could easily be incorporated to be visible from the front. If not, then excuse my Japanese here, but the written copy isn’t very obvious. More prominence of it would have been the simplest solution.
Here’s the new design..
The design omits some of the feature illustrations, allowing the full product to be celebrated and appraised. The ‘power button’ is now further highlighted by a star-flash on the clear plastic cover. The button appears the same side as the bladed razor head. The blue/yellow card insert is cut away to reveal the plastic case (we’ve featured it with spare blades)
We believe the design is far more honest, more effective in merchandising the product in it’s packaging and we haven’t destroyed the original idea. We’ve just applied a little more thinking to the design with some insights garnered from a store trip.
For the majority of us who go grocery shopping, upon entering the store, our minds go into autopilot. When I go grocery shopping, however, I tend to post-rationalise my trip as I trawl the aisles and ask why I put something in the trolley. Yes I think to much. That said, I’m a designer and an ideas person who’s quest is to design packaging and displays that will have more appeal and result in more sales. To get better and better I need answers, to understand what influenced me to buy a particular product, which I did not and why. I examine how the brand, product, or marketing on the package most influenced my decision. Which was most influential, the verbal or visual communication?
So yesterday I had to buy a new razor kit, having learned from a previous shopping trip that replacement blades for my existing razor are no longer available. So I thought it would present an opportunity to document and share the findings. The idea is to decode my shopping journey and understand what impact the packaging design had on it.
I decided to go a supermarket to buy this item. I know the supermarket well. I know the layout, though I’ve not been in the personal care section of the store. On arrival, in the personal care section I want to locate the men’s grooming category. I know that I subconsciously, and that I actually do recall from visual memory, colours, shapes, brands associated with a category. That, over time I’ve built a mental picture of it’s visual language. In my case, it’s a language of greys, blacks, metallics, blister packs, cylinder shapes associated. All typically masculine.
After a few gondolas of walking, I see these masculine codes which match my mental picture, so I continue to approach. So far so good, but the mental picture wasn’t entirely accurate, in fact blues seem to feature dominantly. Nevertheless I’m here.
Tip: Shopper’s associate visual languages with retailer’s categories. A learned behaviour. So if you’ve got a designer proposing a concept that radically challenges these conventions, it’s colours, shapes etc… you ought to carry out some in-store testing to validate it’s effectiveness.
Now I believe I’m around 3m from the gondola at this point. I’m certain given the visual cues I’m in the right place. What’s not clear is which brands they have and what types of razors are there. So I have to walk closer.
Now less than a meter from the razor products I see the Gillette and Schick branding, and I then start to appraise the types on offer. I’m scanning in each product in less than a second looking at the design of the razors. The graphics on the front obscured my view of the product, when my simple need I just to see the razor head and it’s features. Because who want’s to rip their face apart, my need for safety.
Tip: Notice that the graphics overwhelm the presentation of the product. A lot of visual noise.To achieve more shelf presence, it would be a smart idea for a package design with a simple yet sophisticated look & feel, celebrating the razor inside. Furthermore, it is well known that men have little patience for shopping or finding things. As my wife will attest when I loose my keys.
Now the first product I take off the display is a Gillette product since it’s a brand I’ve bought before and I trust it. With product in hand I’m still perusing the other products and it looks as though they’re all more or less the same. Some even vibrate. Yet it has also just occurred to me that I want one that has some spare blades inside. I can’t see any indication on the front, so I take a look at the back. Problem is I can’t see through the back of the package! There’s a hole in the bottom, but I still can’t see anything. And it’s the same with all of the products on offer. Now I should say that I can read the Japanese Katakana and Hiragana, but I am not familiar with the Kanji yet, so benefit of the doubt might go to Gillette. However, ‘5+1’ doesn’t adequately inform me of anything and there’s no window in the back of the packaging. Cue….Is this the best a man can get?!
Tip: The packaging has to manage shopper’s expectations, by disclosing all the details! Additionally, how tactile is the packaging? How does it feel in your hand? Is weight an important cue for quality?
As a last ditch attempt I compare pricing because it just might be that the price might denote that there are some spare blades inside. But it’s hopeless, I’m buying blind, I have to take a chance and commit.
I return home, I unpack it and learn that there are no spare blades included. I am disappointed and feel I didn’t get good value. A moment of truth for me and P&G!
It’s not all bad. The razor worked superbly. I understand some parts of the packaging. For example, it’s use of the colour orange, it’s youthful cue which also helps to make the package standout from a display full of blues and blacks.
Now I should say that I know quite a bit about P&G and their design team. A team I have held in high regard for some time. Simply they have managed to do what other FMCG’s haven’t, which is to integrate ‘design thinking’ and designers into the fabric of their company. However, In my opinion and on this experience, the quality of thinking behind the design of their razor packaging is suboptimal. Could be a lot better.
How could this have been done better? I’m going to show you and propose a better design in my next post.
Since 2010 I have been living in Japan. I don’t think I’ve experienced a more different culture when compared other Asian countries. It is a wonderful society and culture which is full of contradictions. Contradictions because, there are times when everything appears to follow rational thought, and then after some more enquiry something will contradict your previous experience.Food and beverage is a great example. During an average lunchtime or dinner excursion you’ll find food which is freshly prepared and staggeringly good to take away. I remember my first Japanese chicken curry. It was so good, that I had it every day for a week. I bought it from a local grocery store. Japanese consumers are known for expectations for high quality and demand for exceptional freshness. By this standard I believed all food and drink would be the same. However, it isn’t true for all food and beverage as my weekly grocery shop revealed. If the children’s confectionary and snacks category in Japan were the creation of Ferran Adria I would happily make it a destination. But this category makes Uncle Toby’s Roll Ups look more organic than a tree. Simply the packaging and the products are more processed and artificial looking than a scripted Discovery Channel documentary series.
However, this category aside, I am continually staggered by the effort and consideration Japanese manufacturers pay to their packaging. While it is ever so slightly over packaged most of the time, there is no length a Japanese manufacturer will not go to in order to appeal on the shelf. Customised shapes? Naturally. Product and package are given equal consideration in this country. It is very natural for a food and beverage manufacturer in Japan to investment beyond the graphics on the packaging. Structural packaging design is considered as an important part of the project. Additionally, the product in it’s package is presented like a diamond at Tiffanys. Chocolate coated macadamia nuts by Meiji are packaged in a sleeved box with plastic formed tray. It makes each macadamia (though there aren’t many in the box) more special. This is not an isolated case, it seems most products are revered by the packaging. Even apples are wrapped in Styrofoam netting to prevent them from being bruised.
By comparison, Nestle, the last company I worked for, would only ever consider redesigning the label, because of the need for the packaging machinery to pay itself off ASAP. As a result, most brands and products used the packaging. If Japan’s food and beverage industry finally model themselves on the Toyota business model, I believe their Australian and Asian counterparts will face a formidable competitor and a more progressive attitude towards packaging design will be needed.
What else is different….local flavour, taste preferences and attitudes towards nutrition. Every meal is also considered according its calorie loading and nutrition value. Japanese people believe that the road to a long life is partially dependent on eating what you need. Not over eating what your body doesn’t. As a result Japanese consumers don’t need % daily intake guidance on the front of their packaging, as is required in Australia.
If you decide to export your products to Japan, or if you are a Japanese manufacturer looking to expand into Australia, you will need to have the information on the package label changed to meet local regulatory requirements. So if there are going to be some expenses involved, it’s a great opportunity to have the packaging designed tailored to stand out amongst the local competition, appeal more to local tastes and consumption behaviour to name a few areas. Doing some homework on the export country, it’s people, retailing….will pay dividends if you apply the knowledge to the design of your packaging. It will give your company a better chance and you some piece of mind.
British American Tobacco Japan asked us to help their trade marketing team explore the opportunities for improving sales and making the present tobacconist area in Ito-Yokado a destination shop.
To better assess, we performed an initial site survey and made some shopper observations. Our findings revealed that the location of the tobacco zone made for poor visibility. Additionally, the retail fixtures employed were more suited to a convenience store, and made navigating the range of available products very challenging. Needless to say that sales could be improved.
Our concept proposed new visual merchandising techniques typical of the cosmetic category. Using graphics and product in combination to generate better visibility and interest, and an illuminated product range display that halo’s the products. Similar to the jewelery retailing. Lastly, the fixtures were designed to accommodate magazines, newspapers and mints to provide incremental sales.