Little Things Mean A Lot

April 1, 2006
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Little Things Mean A Lot
By Robert McMath
Sometimes it’s the most minor detail of your packaging that, when overlooked, has the potential to turn consumers off.
Consider Tide Detergent in a 100-fluid-ounce container. Procter & Gamble’s leading brand of laundry detergent is familiar to most consumers by its iconic bright orange container and large, blue plastic screw top.
A thoughtful aspect of the top is the “portion control” ring molded inside that’s intended to make the product more convenient to use; directions on the bottle instruct consumers to use that feature as a measuring device.
But the cap is blue, and so is the detergent inside. So unless you have exceptionally good vision and are standing in a well-lit laundry room, there’s a fair chance you will have trouble seeing the measuring mark inside the cap.
There may be a way to injection mold a clear strip into the cap so that, as the consumer pours, he can see the liquid detergent rise to the desired level. There are smaller plastic packages that have such an added convenience designed into their bottles. Or, the brand might consider a cap that includes an insert of contrasting colored plastic.
It’s a subtle point. But with Tide’s current design, the consumer risks using more (or less) detergent than he otherwise might require. And despite satisfaction with the performance of the product itself, the frustration of using the package or the cost of having to replenish the product more quickly might be enough to prompt the purchase of another brand next time around.
Another instance of packaging oversight occurred when Unilever distributed samples of its Degree for Men deodorant stick. The down-sized sample package featured a semi-transparent grey overcap that complemented a rich silver stick pack. The stick pack featured a small flange on the top edge where the overcap was supposed to snugly fit. But in this case, the cap was such a tight fit that it required a Herculean effort to remove.
Add to that the fact that the cap’s plastic finish was so slick that it couldn’t be firmly grasped without a great deal of squeezing, wiggling or pulling. It took several difficult cycles of removing and replacing the cap to establish enough ease to make the sample convenient to use.
Minor as it may seem, a usability problem like this hardly makes the consumer want to run out and buy the new product. Even a small problem can translate into the potential loss of sales. And when an issue occurs in a sample distribution, it can even hinder the overall success of the new product launch.
When eight out of 10 new products ultimately don’t make it, it’s critical to peruse every detail and dig just a little deeper when we ask ourselves, “Why?” BP
The author, Robert McMath, has been a marketing consultant for more than 30 years. Through  NewProductWorks, he has advised major companies. He is the author of What Were They Thinking, a book chronicling the whys of product successes and failures. Contact him at 607.582.6125 or Visit

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