Makeover Challenge

Hot Spots in Research Firm's Analyses Confirm Makeover Challenge Winner's Premium Appeal

Posted: May 2, 2014 by
Ron Romanik and HotSpex

Package Design Magazine's sixth annual Makeover Challenge is now complete. The popular vote winner, Estudio Ray, is the subject of this issue's Cover Story. The popular vote was also confirmed by a full-service research firm, Hotspex Inc., that specializes in testing and optimizing brand strategies, new product concepts, and packaging.

The four participating design teams this year were Beach Packaging Design (Staten Island, NY), Estudio Ray (Phoenix, AZ), Queue Marketing Communications Group (Chicago, IL), and Rex Design (São Paulo, Brasil). The Casa Visco brand produces traditional style pasta sauces using only natural ingredients—and the fewest ingredients necessary. The company operates out of a plant in Schenectady, NY, and cooks batches of each product with great care, one product at a time.

The Hotspex research was conducted online between September 29 and October 20. The sample comprised of 2,111 men and women regionally balanced across the U.S., ages 18 to 64. The research subjects were primary grocery shoppers (or shared responsibility) who purchased pasta or pasta sauce within the previous four weeks. Each of them was exposed to only one design to guarantee a monadic, "clean read." The designs were tested without prices indicated. In reality, a tradeoff exists between price and all the other dimensions of design execution and buying motivation. Without bringing price into the equation, this study was principally a beauty contest (a test of the appeal and propriety of the designs) as opposed to an evaluation of the perfect life-time partner.

Grabbing attention
In the Attention test, for instance, the shelf contained 55 total facings with the Casa Visco having three facings, representing a 5.45% share of total facings. Competitive brands had between two and nine facings. The Estudio design equaled or outperformed all other concepts in all on-shelf measures. Interestingly, though, Estudio performed poorly on brand recall from a one-second exposure.

Online eye-tracking on the shelf indicated that the breakthrough Casa Visco concepts were Estudio Ray and Queue, but category buyers found Estudio Ray to be the most proprietary design. While all four new designs generated significantly more consumer pickups in the simulated shopping exercise (to take a closer look) than the current design, the Rex and Estudio designs tested the best at 36% and 37% respectively. The competitive packages that grabbed attention consistently well were Newman's Own, Prego, and Ragu. While for Ragu and Prego this is attributable to large, bold, red brand names or logos, for Newman's Own it was Paul Newman's face that attracts attention. Interestingly for the test designs, consumers notice the image of the fork on the Queue design and the image of the spoon on the Beach design. "Consumers look for a point of reference, something familiar when faced with a sea of designs on shelf," says Gera Nevolovich at Hotspex.

The Estudio concept, though, achieved the highest top-box rating on package uniqueness with 87%, indicating proprietary identifiability. "Packaging is the outward expression of the brand's inner self; much like the clothing we wear is an outward expression of our individual personality," says Nevolovich.

Opportunities to improve
The takeaways from this research indicate that there are huge opportunities for classical brand building in this category. Two-thirds of consumers, by their own admission, do not look for a preferred brand. They shop the category spontaneously and most decisions are being made at the point of sale based on aesthetics or appetite appeal, the gestalt of the packaging, and presumably by price.

The only measure on which the winning Estudio design failed against the other designs tested was branding. This should not be difficult to improve upon, especially given the unique, easily found shape of the Estudio design. It looks like the jar itself, though, is the key tipping point of this study, as opposed to the branding on the label or the label itself. From a sustainable competitive advantage perspective, this shapely jar with the metal clamp could cause a stir in the category at the premium level, but if the existing competition with higher awareness and usage copied it, what would happen to the Casa Visco brand?

It is obvious that the category itself is in need of refreshing, and the research would indicate that it would be the main players who would catch on pretty quickly, and then Casa Visco would be out of the running again (especially since it is unlikely to get the best spot on the shelf). So it is not only the packaging structure that is important; it is the branding, logo, and the visual portrayal of the quality of this brand.

Persuading consumers to buy
While other designs created significantly higher levels of claimed purchase interest among consumers, it was the Estudio design that stood out in simulated shopping and overall appeal. In Hotspex's experience, simulated shopping and overall appeal provide a measure of packaging effectiveness that is closer to reality than simply claimed purchase intent, especially when testing designs without indicating price. There is often a gap between what people say they will do and what they actually do. "We focus heavily on measuring consumers' subconscious response by allowing them simply to react instead of asking them to articulate," says Nevolovich.

While all the Makeover Challenge designs were seen as more appealing than the current, the Estudio design convincingly drives the highest levels of design liking with nearly 60% of consumers awarding this design top marks on overall package appeal. The packaging itself was seen as functionally easy to use but also stylish, unique, and even collectible. Although the brand was not highly visible, the sauce flavor was prominently displayed. The label was also very well designed, giving the package an authentically Italian and premium look.

Cracking the code of emotions
Hotspex has invested four years and thousands of surveys toward developing a comprehensive online measurement approach that effectively captures how people feel about and react emotionally to brands, new product concepts, and package designs. This methodology is based on a comprehensive list of 85 emotions and 182 personalities. The relationship between these attributes has been mapped and interrelated in great detail with advanced multivariate analytics and proves that, on average, emotional and brand personality drivers account for half of all buying behavior.

The Hotspex tool PersonaSphere™ plots brand personality attributes to understand how the personality projected by a package design impacts consumer behavior. This tool provides insight into how consumers feel by asking them simply to indicate which personalities they associate with a package, allowing marketers and designers to understand what a package is conveying and how well this projection fits with the brand essence and design objectives.

In the brand owner's opinion, the Casa Visco brand is down-to-earth, homemade, and natural. In Hotspex terms, this would position them in the green (familiar), grey (trustworthy), blue (nurturing) zones of a PersonaSphere map. The current package is indeed more strongly associated with these attributes than with the attributes on the opposite sides of the map. Unfortunately, the above-mentioned attributes are not what drives buying behavior in this category.

The winning Estudio and the runner-up Queue designs scored well on the more important attributes, such as interesting, attractive, and leader. Estudio completely eliminates the negative characteristics that detract consumers from the current package and creates strong associations with the high-impact attributes that drive appeal and purchase intent in the pasta category.

Estudio's only weakness seems to be that consumers are not completely convinced of the brand's reliability, partly due to low brand awareness. Under the assumption that the pasta sauce itself delivers on the quality that Casa Visco proclaims, the research suggests that it should be relatively easy to get higher associations on reliability in the future. Consistent with the overall likeability, uniqueness, and rational attributes, the Estudio design has the most desirable and compelling personality profile.


Five Measures of Potential Success

HotSpex takes the results of the varied studies and summarizes the findings based on five areas of packaging effectiveness:

Criteria: Breakthrough on shelf.

Measures: Online eye-tracking on shelf; Simulated shopping products picked up; Claimed uniqueness.

Results: The Estudio design equaled or outperformed all other concepts in on-shelf measures. Category buyers also found Estudio Ray to be a unique design.

Criteria: Brand recall; Timed finding; and Brand name noticeability.

Measures: Ease of identifying Casa Visco brand; Ease of identifying flavor variety; Online eye-tracking on package.

Results: Queue and Beach achieved higher levels of brand recall than Rex and Estudio Ray. The unique shape of the Rex and Estudio designs, however, made them easily findable or identifiable on-shelf. When looking closer at the package the brand name was noticed by the same number of consumers in total across all designs tested.

Criteria: Positive attributes about product in old and new packages.

Measures: Full battery of product attribute ratings; Perceived advantage over competitors; Likes and dislikes of individual design elements.

Results: The Estudio design equals or edges out the other designs on all measures of communication. It was specifically superior on quality and perceived package advantage over competitors.

Criteria: Overall liking; Purchase intent; and Potential sales lift.

Measures: Claimed package appeal and purchase intent; Simulated shopping products purchased.

Results: While the Rex, Estudio, and Queue designs were equally strong on claimed purchase intent, it was the Estudio design that stood out in simulated shopping and overall appeal. All things being equal, Estudio would drive at least double the volume compared to the other designs tested.

Criteria: Brand personalities that correspond to the key rational attributes.

Measures: Full battery of brand personality ratings and heat maps.

Results: The brand personality maps show greater "heat" for the Estudio package. Consistent with the package appeal, uniqueness, and rational attributes, the Estudio design has the most desirable personality profile with consumers seeing it as an interesting, attractive leader.