The Power of Packaging

By Christine Esposito | August 9, 2005

Coatings manufacturers are realizing the benefits new packaging can have on existing products.

In a crowded marketplace, paint companies are realizing the benefits new packaging can have on existing products. By updating graphics, focusing on a product's winning attributes, providing bilingual directions and making containers more user-friendly, a redesign can help revitalize sales and draw the attention of customers scanning the shelves.

"Paint itself is about style in the home, and the outside of the packaging needs style to sell the product," said Barbara Reed, director of design and marketing at Hirschhorn & Young Inc., a New York design company that has worked on packaging redesigns in a number of consumer product industries.

Ms. Reed noted that as more women are buying paint, a package needs to "talk to women on their level." According to Ms. Reed, a label that appears "stodgy won't appeal" to a woman who is walking the aisles at Home Depot or the local paint retailer for a product to spiff-up her drab living room.

Companies invest a lot of money into advertising their brands. But some would argue that it is the package that needs to perform when a customer is standing in front of a display. "The package is your billboard," said Adam Chafe, category director, Krylon product group. "It has to do 80-90% of the work communicating the message."


Answering Needs Several paint manufacturers have relaunched existing brands and products with new packaging, among them Krylon, Muralo and Plasti-Kote.

Almost everyone has struggled with a spray can at one time or another-prying the cap off with a screwdriver while being careful not to puncture the can. Many times what results is a cracked plastic cap and lost tip, and of course, a frustrated customer.

"We talk to consumers regularly and opening the product is the single most frustrating experience, whether you are a 300-pound man or a 100-pound woman, 70 years old or 30," said Mr. Chafe. "We thought there has to be an easier way," According to Mr. Chafe it was a thought echoed by consumers too, based on the "shear volume of calls on our 800 number."

Krylon and its cap supplier, Berry Plastics, worked on a new design for more than a year before developing the Pinch 'n Pull cap. Tops now pop off the can when consumers press two tabs on the side of the cap. The new design "takes the fear element away" and allows consumers to open the cap without destroying it, according to Mr. Chafe.

The Pinch 'n Pull caps-which will be unique to Krylon since the company signed an exclusivity accord with Berry Plastics-will make their debut on store shelves this year.

The consumer-friendly cap is not the only change made to the Krylon packaging. In addition to the cap, Krylon overhauled the can's graphics including the well-known Krylon "five-ball" symbol.

"The five balls of Krylon has a lot of equity. Because of our leadership position, we had to proceed with caution," Mr. Chafe said about the redesign process. The company needed to develop a new look that would convey Krylon's premium position, but not alienate consumers already familiar with the 50-year old product.

Krylon worked with a New York City-based design firm on the redesign, tested it with various consumers and even used high-tech consumer-research devices such as electronic eye tracking before settling on the new design which debuts this year. Like Krylon, Muralo decided that the packaging of its 563 all-purpose primer could benefit from a fresher look. "Although 563 is one of the top selling primers in the northeastern U.S. market, we want it to remain there and decided it was in need of a face lift," said Lee Flemming, vice president.

The new packaging has a brighter, more contemporary image and eye catching visuals demonstrating examples of where 563 can be used. "We replaced the 563 label with a clearer, more defined message that highlights all the superior qualities and increases visual awareness on the shelf," Mr. Flemming said.


Communicating with Consumers Other firms have embarked on redesigns. PPG has repackaged and reformulated its Manor Hall line, while Pachin, an Egyptian company, revamped the packaging for Dyroton to coincide with the brand's relaunch. "The packaging has a new label that suits the taste of the target customer," said Pachin's Ehawkat Tawfik.

Plasti-Kote, part Valspar Corp., focused on the cap for its redesigned Fleck Stone packaging. The new cap illustrates the exact color that can be achieved by the faux granite finish product, eliminating the guesswork for consumers who are new to the product. In addition to the new Fleck Stone packaging, Plasti-Kote also revamped the package designs for its Cracklin' Finish line.

ORD Products, a Salem, OR-based maker of weatherproofing products, launched new packaging for its entire Thoro and Snow Roof lines, which include elastomer roofing products, primer and patching products, coatings, paint and cement products. The newly redesigned packaging was introduced at the 1999 National Hardware Show.

ORD opted to give its products a facelift when it was acquired by SKW/MBT, a large construction chemical company. According to Michael Normandeau, director of marketing at ORD Products, the company used the opportunity to evaluate ORD Products' position in the marketplace. "The marketing group was challenged with the job of bringing the Snow Roof Systems brand and the Thoro brand into a unified look, so that consumers would recognize the product mix in multiple retail categories. In our case this included the building materials department and the paint department at home centers and hardware stores."

ORD goal was to unite lines with different reputations in the marketplace. The company's Snow Roof Systems brand had been positioned as a premium roof coatings line and was known for more recent "technological advances in elastomerics," according to Mr. Normandeau. "We recognized the need to update the packaging to maintain that position. Most of our competition had completed more recent package updates and we felt it was time to do the same."

ORD's Thoro brand had strong name recognition with consumers and contractors, but it needed a facelift, according to the company. "By associating Thoro with Snow Roof, we felt it provided positive exposure for both lines. Bringing together a technologically advanced brand with a long standing traditional brand is believed to be the best strategy for moving both products forward. Retailers are demanding products that are 'new' in technology, simple enough to use by the consumer but also appeal to the contractor," he said.

Like Krylon, ORD consulted with employees, representatives and customers during the design process. According to Mr. Normandeau, doing so eased the transition. "ORD employees, reps and customers became owners of the initial concept which has made the whole package transition project much easier to implement."

ORD spent a year redesigning both brands, which included 45 packages and two new product introductions. The company developed a color strategy for each segment of the product line: blue for roof coatings, yellow for primers and patches, orange for concrete repair and restoration and grey for specialty paints.

"We put emphasis on brand, product name and description and application photography on the front of the can. Additional space was given to product features on the front of the product to help differentiate each product from each other and the competition," Mr. Normandeau added.

ORD also made room for future changes. A common black band was incorporated into all of the packages where the company can add warnings, logos and any other icons. "This was one way we tried to design a little bit of the future into each package. We wanted to stay away from cluttering up the front of the can or the copy as much as possible, but still provide a space for additional information as it becomes needed-such as state of California warnings," Mr. Normandeau said.


Bilingual is a Bonus Another aspect of ORD's redesign focused on language. "The overall direction in the U.S. retail and commercial marketplace is to give greater emphasis to Spanish copy," Mr. Normandeau said. ORD's products feature Spanish in a "continental" dialect so the same packaging can be used throughout North and Central America. "Home Depot is an especially strong proponent of Spanish/English packaging in their stores-most of the other retailers are as well," Mr. Normandeau added.

Bilingual copy also helps applicators, according to Mr. Normandeau. "In the commercial segment, especially in the southwest U.S., there is a large Hispanic contingent applying roof coatings. We wanted to make the product as simple to understand as we possibly could without putting too much emphasis or giving up too much space to Spanish copy."

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