Tuesday, March 17th, 2009
The other day, my mom sent me to the store to purchase a new skincare product made by Oil of Olay. I set out on my errand and procured a small tube of mysterious serum, sleekly packaged in distinctive, sculptural, plastic packaging. When I returned home with the goods, however, we made an amusing and shocking discovery:
We couldn’t get the package open.
Mom tried. I tried. No dice. Pliers were used. Even larger pliers were used. Finally, with a mighty tug, I yanked off the package’s lid—and in the process firmly socked myself in the eye.
So, what’s going on here? I wondered. This particular incident stayed with me because I remember how immediately I noticed the product’s packaging, and how it instantly made an impression on me. But I didn’t notice any obvious indicators of the inherent difficulty—or the black eye—that the packaging held in store.
What I did notice was that Oil of Olay stood out clearly on the store’s shelves. Amidst a sea of products, this new packaging was a success. An obvious “eye-catcher,” the clear material, bold, graphic colors, and sculptural design imparted feelings of a premium, luxury product, elite enough to appeal to older customers, edgy enough to attract younger customers. That’s pretty powerful stuff: if package design has the potential to assure and attract a wide age range as well as 1st- and Nth-time users, it has achieved success.
I reviewed Oil of Olay’s package design. In doing so, I identified four factors that are essential to successful packaging:
1. Messaging: The content, point of view, and/or brand message to be presented.
2. Presentation: How messaging and content are formatted, stylized, and presented.
3. Structure: The framework that supports and organizes the messaging and presentation.
4. Brand Artifacts: Any tangible or intangible brand impressions that last beyond the initial interaction with the packaging and product.
Put together, all four of these factors comprise the vehicle by which to deliver a product to its intended audience. Or, more simply put, that’s the box that my Oil of Olay stuff came in.
But it’s more than a box! This is the point of entry through which a customer will engage with a particular brand, experience their product, and ultimately decide whether to purchase and (hopefully) return to the brand again faithfully.
And herein lies my key complaint: Oil of Olay may have designed what appears to be successful packaging, but it is in fact a huge barrier to entry.
I may like what I see, but I literally can’t get at what I really want—and that’s the product lurking behind all this damn packaging! The method of presentation has created an obstruction that impedes the fulfillment of my original goal. And, in turn, what type of “brand artifact” does this experience create? What is my lasting impression of my experience with the brand? It’s not a positive one, I’m afraid: I’m left thinking, “I’ve had enough of this, let’s go check out the other brand at the end of the shelf.”
This physical experience easily translates into the online realm. The four factors that comprise the elements of packaging design also serve as key principles that must be considered when designing an interactive experience.
Tomorrow, we’ll present Part 2 of this article and discuss how the factors of good packaging design are translated into principles for interaction design…check back then!