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Nielsen Underscores the Business Value of Package Design

When it comes to marketing your product, your packaging reaches buyers at one of the most critical points in their path to purchase—while they are standing at the shelf. In today’s fragmented media environment, this fact alone should encourage marketers to rethink the potential of package design.

Last week, we celebrated the inaugural launch of the Nielsen Design Impact Awards, the first U.S. package design awards that leverage retail performance data to recognize some of the most powerful fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) package redesigns over the last two years. The awards underscore the very real and measurable business value of outstanding package design.

We partnered with The Dieline, a globally renowned online packaging publication, to collect hundreds of submissions for package redesigns from FMCG brands and their design agencies. As a complement to our retail sales measurement data, we surveyed thousands of consumers to assess how well each redesign addressed the entrants’ core communication objective and whether consumers were more likely to purchase the new package versus the old one.

“Package design often doesn’t get the attention or respect it deserves compared to other marketing tactics. One of the root causes for this oversight is that it’s difficult to attribute sales impact to package design,” said Steve Lamoureux, senior vice president of product development for Nielsen’s Design Solutions. “Given Nielsen’s vast data assets, we are in a unique position to demonstrate the power of effective package redesign and celebrate the brands who are really embracing its potential.”

The good news is that the right redesign can help brands in a wide range of situations. This year’s award winners, which we announced on stage at the HOW Design Live Conference in Chicago, included  a category giant in rapid decline, a timeless brand whose packaging had run out of time, an iconic favorite that embraced the upside, a niche brand that managed to win over the masses and more. The winners—ranging from Lean Cuisine Marketplace (Nestlé) to Buchanan’s Scotch Whisky (Diageo) to California Olive Ranch Olive Oil—each saw significant sales jumps in the year following the redesign.

In addition to the on-stage awards ceremony at HOW Design Live, Lamoureux led a panel discussion with Amanda Bach, head of visual identity and design at Nestlé Foods, and Hamish Campbell, creative director at Pearlfisher, Nestlé’s design agency that played a front-and-center role in the redesign of the Lean Cuisine Marketplace brand. In the panel, they addressed package design’s position as one of the hardest-working marketing assets for brands, despite its often limited resources.

Among the audience of designers and brand marketers, Lamoureux shared Nielsen design research that package redesigns following best practices average forecasted sales lifts of 5.5%, a huge opportunity for brands that are considering giving their products a visual makeover. In the case of the Nielsen Design Impact Award winners, however, the sales improvement were even more dramatic. For example, dollar sales for Black Ink Red Wine, a small brand, grew 13-fold in the year following its redesign, while Lean Cuisine’s Marketplace line generated $58 million more in retail sales, reversing a sharp downward trend for the brand and the frozen nutritional meals category overall.

While many brands may feel hesitant to change products that may have had the same look and feel for years (or decades), the right redesign can have major benefits for products—including significant sales lifts and greater consumer engagement.