The 5 Pitfalls of Packaging Research

FEBRUARY 27, 2015

The 5 Pitfalls of Packaging Research

Interest and focus on packaging design has increased in recent years, and with it so has the number of packaging research studies.  Consumer research is a critical practice for any package design initiative, and it is imperative that no part of the process is compromised.  Unfortunately, when research is fielded by entities that are not experts in the nuances of package design, the findings can lack the direction necessary to drive a successful packaging execution to market.

From minor and seemingly unavoidable oversights like condensing steps due to budget and timing, to major hindrances that result from employing the wrong expertise – it is too often that a research initiative will fail to reach its full potential.

Inevitably, the question arises: how can a research team avoid succumbing to these common setbacks of packaging research?  Product Ventures, a brand strategy, research, and packaging innovation consultancy, sought to answer that question.  Their multidisciplinary team of experts identified and compiled five classic packaging research pitfalls that can ensnare a design initiative along with effective recommendations on how to avoid them.  With these valuable tips, packaging research can be properly leveraged as a crucial asset in the design process. 


1. work arm-in-arm with designers and engineers

Obvious insights result when researchers lack sufficient understanding of packaging to effectively probe, uncover and obtain actionable insights. However, researchers working arm-in-arm with designers and engineers ensure the right questions are asked, and the appropriate tools are leveraged, based on realistic packaging possibilities. This results in more meaningful insights that unlock design potential to produce a compelling, cost-effective and manufacturable solution.

2. put the brand in hand

One must avoid the enticing convenience of leveraging online research for the screening of new packaging ideas. When designing a tangible item, it is critical to enable consumer interaction with 3D packaging prototypes so that viable options aren’t prematurely eliminated based on misperception or strict visual impression. Packaging is a physical object; its size, feel and functionality can be just as important as its visual communication. Put the brand in hand by leveraging design knowledge, ergonomic expertise, and prototyping.

3. understand purchase through disposal

Packaging is often evaluated solely from an “at shelf” perspective. However, packaging has a life-cycle that goes beyond the shelf. The package’s ability to win at shelf may lead to “trial” but “repeat” is derived by the package’s ability to perform in use. There isn’t one tool that tells all, so it is important to conduct research across pertinent package moments within the consumer package experience to ensure a successful outcome.

4. leverage rapid prototyping

Typically packaging research does not accommodate for the modification of designs on-the-spot to confirm consumers’ needs are being met. Because consumers are reactive and not creative, they cannot envision and confirm their packaging desires until they see them realized. Real-time iterative prototyping enables the team to “get it right” within the same research session, avoiding the additional time and cost of redundant rounds of design refinement and validation.

5. bridge the gap between quant and qual

Budget and timing restrictions often lead to too few, or inappropriate, consumer steps within the package development process. Qualitative research is best used to understand but often misused to measure. Quantitative research is best used to measure but lacks depth of understanding. When cost-constrained initiatives necessitate one consumer touch point, the right step is a hybrid of quantitative and qualitative research. This enables consumers to quantitatively choose and qualitatively offer feedback.


In today’s fast-moving and competitive marketplace, failure is not an option. When it comes to researching the packaging design possibilities, it is best to go to experts who can effectively address all aspects of your packaging challenge. Employing the expertise that can effectively navigate through the packaging innovation frontier, avoid pitfalls, surmount challenges and elicit meaningful and actionable insights can be the game-changer you need to deliver a consumer-preferred package solution to market.

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