On a shopper’s journey around the aisles, they may pass up to 300 brands per minute, meaning a single product has only a fraction of a second to grab attention.

So how do brands ensure that their product is the one chosen from the masses? The answer, according to tdg (The Design Group) – a pan-European FMCG shopper marketing and packaging design creative consultancy – is to build value through emotionally engaging with consumers along the path to purchase.


“As consumers we decide with our hearts and then rationalise with our minds. Brands need to understand the emotional profile of their consumer and then use design to invoke emotions and related behavioural responses,” explains Michael Pagan, tdg’s associate director of planning and research.

“For tdg it comes down to inducing a mood or feeling in someone which, in that moment, compels them to act or behave in a particular way,” continues Pagan. “This is primarily done in-store, as that is where the majority of purchasing decisions are still made, by appealing to the shopper’s emotional triggers, which are often irrational or subconscious.”

As Pagan explains, the average person makes around 35 000 decisions every day, a small proportion of which are rational, with up to 90 per cent driven by subconscious triggers. This ultimately means that brands have to use distinctive packaging and well-targeted shopper marketing activity in order to ‘trigger’ the subconscious decision to buy in a consumer’s mind.

According to Pagan, there are three dynamics at play that design can tap into in order to influence consumer choice. The first is getting noticed. Put simply, if a consumer does not notice a brand’s physical existence on the shelf then the brand is not mentally available to them. One way to get noticed is through salience or prominence. What is it about your product or offer that makes it noticeable, distinctive and appealing?

“In a crowded category, salience defines how much a design stands out from neighbouring packs. tdg are strong advocates of the ‘stop, hold, close’ principle, the first step of which is to grab a shopper’s attention and ensure they take a closer look,” says Pagan. “This could be achieved through unusual shape or format, but more often than not it is graphic equities such as colours and design detail that must deliver that salient aspect to your brand.”

The second is being desirable. Holding shopper attention is key and according to Pagan people increasingly seek experiences from the FMCG brands they buy. “Through visual communications which are lifestyle-relevant you can help shoppers instinctively relate to the brand, product or usage occasion. Walking through any supermarket shows you just how important this has become for both brands and retailers – we describe it as ‘visual consonance’ because when done successfully, the interaction between shopper and brand at the decisive moment just feels right – and they buy the product,” he says.

“The design of packaging and in-store communications should aim to amplify the implicit associations and subconscious norms shoppers make around products before they come to the point of purchase. These factors often influence purchase decisions, explaining why we tend to buy the same brand of laundry product as our parents or why we gravitate towards brands we’ve grown up with.”

The third is being chosen – again and again. In a cut-throat market packaging has to provide consumers with the right cues and clues. “It is about obtaining customer’s attention, communicating the benefits of the offer and then closing the sale,” says Pagan.

An award-winning tdg project that has delivered genuine, tangible results for the client by emotionally engaging with the consumer was the redesign of Chicago Town’s frozen pizza range – The Deep Dish. Launched in 1992, Chicago Town is one of the flagship brands of Dr. Oetker, an internationally operating branded food company based in Bielefeld, Germany. Its Deep Dish range, which consists of five varieties of 13 cm individual pizzas, had experienced many years of growth that saw it reach the number-three spot in the UK’s favourite frozen pizza brands, but by the end of 2008 sales were down.

Dr. Oetker realised that it was critical for the business that something be done, especially as the pizza market was growing. “The packaging equities consisted of a distinctive red panel on the left, the noticeable ‘Chicago Town’ blue towers and a photograph of the pizza. Several design evolutions had taken the pack to this point without any measurable gain. tdg was asked to address this,” says Grant Marshall, group creative director at tdg.

The brief highlighted a requirement to portray this pizza as a meal in its own right, instead of a kids’ snack, as was the current perception. “The brand needed to update and improve its relevance to an extended target audience and drive deeper penetration in order to compete with other strong brands,” says Marshall.

The resulting redesign addressed all the key issues: communicating clearly the unique proposition to more people and driving brand reassessment. This was done by retaining the black background – a salient colour within this category, according to Marshall. The photography of the pizza itself was also enhanced by altering the angle of the shot and elevating its reality cues through features such as the ‘cheese stretch’. Then, to clearly communicate the core product proposition of ‘full of taste from brim to base’, the red panel on the left was replaced with a ‘brand smile’ device, which doubled as a pointer to the pizza itself, re-emphasising the depth of filling. Lastly, the brand name – The Deep Dish – was redrawn to improve prominence, placing more emphasis on the prefix ‘The’, communicating that this is the only such product shoppers should be purchasing within this category.

When the redesign was launched, and despite having the same level of marketing support and promotional activity as the previous year, it outstripped both sales and consumer penetration targets significantly.

“In the space of 12 months the brand moved from the number-three position to number one, securing leadership of the frozen pizza category – a position that it still holds to this day. It also resulted in 17 per cent growth in market share, which continues to rise, yielding significant revenue for what is now a £60 million brand,” says Marshall.

The design itself caused the change of fortune to the brand and this is largely down to the pack appealing to people on a more emotional level. “Design solutions such as this, which deliver audience engagement and commercial effectiveness, are the benchmark for any creative consultancy,” says Pagan. “In a hugely price sensitive category, this brief demonstrates how design can truly build brand value by impacting on perception and influencing purchase choice.

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Sizing up the competition

Belinda Stening, Curve editor, spoke to three awards-program directors - Brandon Gien, Chelsea Sutula and Ralph Weigmann about their design award programs.

Share, Work

Flexible furniture

Docks is a modular furniture system that can be combined in a variety of ways to create different office islands. Created by German designers Till Grosch and Bjorn Meier for ophelis, Docks can be used as both a meeting place in the office environment, as well as a retreat for relaxation and concentration.

Milky way

Milky way

A ‘pint a day’ milk addict who wants all children and adults to drink more milk has devised a healthy, cost-effective way of adding flavour to their drink.

Head First

Head First

Roberto Ziliani loves talking about his lighting company, Slamp. But forget about the typical president and business owner’s approach to the press – about the careful consideration about each word that is pronounced, about the continuous effort to pass on the proper message and about the reiteration of core business values.

Rest, Share, Work