Living in the packaging design business for over 15 years and currently being the CMO of Flagship NA, the one thing I have had to accept and also appreciate is a design project that fall into the “Designed by Committee” process. Don’t get confused, I appreciate the opportunity to create a package without everyone and their brother in the mix. However, that seldom happens in a CPG company. While at first glance the designed by committee packaging process appears to be a nightmare, if managed correctly it can produce great results.

These day’s I work mostly on food packaging and, as you might expect, everyone has an opinion. The key to having a final product that “jumps off the shelf” is to do your homework up front and have the respect of all input providers that you understand what works and what does not.

Keys to creating packaging that “works” when designed by a committee”…

#1. Being true to your brand…

What is your brand all about? What does it mean? What does it promise consumers? Understanding these key questions will go a long way to defining your brand and help your packaging remain true. The message here is that you need to spell your brand message out, get buy-in from the “committee” and use it as a guide in your design. In fact, you will need most likely need to use it as a weapon to stop things that don’t work from being mandated into the design by the “committee”.

#2. Understanding your customer…

When designing a new package, you obviously need to understand your target customer. And don’t forget, there are multiple targets — from the person making the actual purchase to the person(s) consuming the product. One of the easiest ways to determine “the target” is to understand what eating occasion the product will replace. When is it consumed? How is it eaten — as a meal, a snack, on-the-go? Then determine the consumers’ purchasing patterns, pricing thresholds, storage and more. These key factors will help in selecting the right package size, shape and physical elements.

#3. Doing your homework on your competition…

This is the make or break step in the designed by committee process. If you don’t do your homework and understand your competition, you won’t be able to create a great package. In the retail grocery business, there are millions of examples right on the shelf of how other brands construct their packaging. Bag or box, vertical or horizontal, # of callouts, size of logo, use of photo, colors and more. Look closely at your competition and document their packaging, evaluate what is working and what is not. Then use it to analyze your design and ensure it is better at attracting consumers’ attention. Remember, you only have 5 seconds to get their attention.

#4. Final design…

In the final design process with your new design and competitive examples in hand, it’s time to present to the committee. Hopefully, you have a reasonable team that will provide input and will be open to discussion. You will find that they can add great value, share purchasing behaviors and find new reasons for consumers to use your product. The key here is to be open and listen to their suggestions. Get them to give you a compelling reason to make changes — to add more callouts, remove elements, change colors, etc. The real key is to get them to provide input using descriptive meaningful, actionable words. “Needs more, make it pop,” are not those kind of words.

Finally, it is your job to use your best judgement in managing their input. There will be suggestions (hopefully not mandates) that conflict, recommendations that don’t allow the packaging to stand out from competitors, even demands that break good design principles. Good packaging “Designed by Committee” takes a quarterback that knows the rules, listens to the coach and has a good eye to execute a plan.

Food for thought!

R. J. Gadd

Note: I have a whole other discussion for another time about a brand’s name. The one fact to understand is that if you don’t have a lot of money, please, please, please make sure your brand name is descriptive.