Using Color Psychology to Differentiate Packaging
Color is a differentiator on the retail shelf, but the absence of it can sometimes be a better choice. A white bottle can serve as a neutral backdrop for color-coded labels and closures. It can send a subliminal message of purity, wholesomeness and cleanliness. It can stand out amid a sea of brightly colored competitors and convey a premium image that instantly separates a brand from everything else in the category.
One company that has discovered the might of white is household cleaning products manufacturer Weiman Products. In the first 12 months after switching its floor cleaning SKUs from lime-green PET tapered bottles to a curvy custom 27oz white HDPE package — and simultaneously expanding the number of SKUs from two to five — Weiman tripled sales of the line and secured new placements in major chains like Walmart.
The new bottle was designed, engineered and sourced by the Studio One Eleven design division of Berlin Packaging. All design services were supplied at no charge in exchange for Weiman’s purchase of all containers and closures from Berlin Packaging.
The Studio One Eleven team recommended the use of a white bottle for Weiman’s floor care line after category analysis and requests by the client for a new pack with more room for artwork and product positioning. Designers also proposed a benefit-driven communication architecture that worked in conjunction with the white motif to transform the original pedestrian-looking bottle into an elegant, upscale package that shines on the shelf while communicating key product qualities.
Founded in 1941, Weiman Products sells products such as bathroom, furniture and stainless steel cleaners to some of the top mass market retailers, supermarkets, hardware stores and home improvement centers in North America. The company expanded into the floor cleaner category in 2008 with vibrant green bottles selected to send a “green” message about the products’ eco-friendly formula.
By 2011, however, it became clear that the Weiman Floor Cleaner and Floor Polish products were underperforming. The company decided to replace those two all-purpose products with five SKUs segmented for use with hardwood, carpet and laminate/stone floors. They also elected to simultaneously relaunch the line with a completely new packaging aesthetic.
“Our product formulation was better than that of our competitors, but our market share wasn’t growing at the rate we wanted,” says Prachi Junnarkar, program director, Weiman. “We did a lot of internal marketing analysis and consumer surveys, and we determined that one of the stumbling blocks was our packaging and labeling. We weren’t communicating our brand quality, telling our product story clearly or differentiating ourselves from the competition. We needed a total package makeover to accomplish those goals.”
The Studio One Eleven team began by visiting stores to examine competitive products’ packaging, document merchandising standards and interview store employees about their perceptions of the Weiman product. After analyzing its findings, the team concluded that the bottle structure needed to be both modernized and feminized to pump up the shelf appeal. It also needed a communication architecture that focused less on cleaning power and more on the non-toxic formula that it is safe to use around children and pets.
The Studio then developed initial package concepts that used white bottles and aligned with the white bottle/black closure brand structure used with most other Weiman products.
The final design features an offset shoulder, curves and a tapered base that contribute to the softened profile. The narrow neck also enables ergonomic handling.
The shape of the shoulder was moderated during the prototype stage to allow the same bottle to be manufactured with both 28/400 and 28mm ratchet neck finishes for use with different SKUs requiring flip tops and trigger sprayers, respectively, saving Weiman the cost of building two different bottle molds. The shoulder modifications also ensured that the trigger would not cause trouble on the filling line by overhanging the base. Stock black trigger sprayers are used on the trigger bottles, and off-the-shelf flip-top caps color-coded to match product labels are used on the squeeze bottles.
The label panel covers most of the real estate on both the front and back of the package, accommodating pressure-sensitive labels that are die-cut to mirror the panel shape. The visual architecture, inspired by the Studio’s branding strategy and developed by Weiman Art Director Rhonda Fonk, is dominated by images of kids and pets on the floor surface corresponding to the relevant SKU.
Shortly before all design components were finalized, Weiman faced a critical deadline to present the relaunched line to Walmart. Berlin Packaging consultant Ann Fisher arranged to expedite production of starch models for the meeting, picked up the finished models and hand delivered them to Weiman in time for the presentation. Weiman managers walked away from the meeting with an order and barely two months to ship product — even though the production molds had not yet been built.
Still, six weeks later, Weiman had the finished bottles in hand and met Walmart’s timeline.
“Our bottle is our No. 1 salesman, and our old package wasn’t doing the job. The growth in our floor cleaner line proves that the new bottle is sending the right message to shoppers,” says Junnarkar. “People may think of white as being a conservative package choice, but in our case, it really raised the bar. With a green package, consumers didn’t seem to take us seriously or even notice us on the shelf. Now we turn heads, and that drives sales.”