Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Product Management: Manipulating Your Product Through Packaging

I was in the shower the other day when I had one of those ah-ha moments -- about product packaging and manipulating customer experience. As it happens, I've been using this Pantene Pro-V Restoratives Time Renewal shampoo. It seems like it's a very concentrated product designed for "specialized, limited use", and so one of the things that I like about it is that it doesn't take much shampoo to wash your hair. While the shampoo was priced higher than some of the others in their product line, it required so little product that it still seemed like a good value. Needless to say, I went from sample pack to tube to second tube.

It was my experience with the second tube that sent me into this ah-ha moment. As I opened the cap and started to squeeze out shampoo, I noticed that the product seemed to flood my hand. Since I had just finished the previous tube, I did a quick comparison. Sure enough, the dispenser hole on the new cap was 1 or 2 mm larger in diameter, enabling the product do dispense faster, increase shampoo consumption, and make the customer (me) purchase more frequently.

We're all familiar with this tactic. We learn early in our youth comparing the large diameter straws at MacDonalds with other fast food restaurants (I think that this experience is at the heart of the great "they're trying to fill me up on bread" conspiracy).

But don't underestimate the awesomeness of this tactic. As a consumer, while I might be frustrated for a brief moment when the light bulb goes on, it's probably not going make such a negative impression that I will jump ship and change brands. And while you can argue that it's designed to increase consumption, the branding devil's advocate could easily argue that it doesn't necessarily increase consumption -- you the consumer still have control over that -- it simply makes it easier for you to dispense the product which may lead to an increase in consumption.

What's more, compare increasing the diameter of the hole to doing something like diluting the product. By diluting the product, you're potentially introducing change into the performance of the product, the look and feel, etc. All of these factors are far more likely to spur your customer to jump ship.

Unfortunately, we don't all get to work with products with usage models that enable us to increase the diameter of the hole. But remember, creativity means that we're working with analogies -- can you find a way to increase the diameter of the dispenser hole on your product?

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