Innovation is Great — When it Works

February 1, 2005
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Innovation is Great — When it Works
by Robert Mcmath
Inventing something on a package, especially when the intention is to offer more convenience, can be great for what might be considered “me-too” packaging or what otherwise might be deemed a “commodity product package.” But manufacturers have to be certain that what is developed as “innovative”—and, in particular, more convenient—is truly so. They must ensure that it works simply and easily for consumers. And that it doesn’t disappoint them when they try to use it after making the purchase.
Regrettably, such is not the case with a new feature on a package of mixed salad greens that intends to make the zipper more accessible and easier to open.  On many reclosable packages, in order to protect the contents from tampering, the opening and closing strip is hidden by an enclosure film that must first be opened in order to access the reclosable feature.  Normally this requires something sharp, like a pair of scissors. But in an attempt to make the package more convenient to open, this brand presented a packaging innovation with the claim that there is “no need for scissors” to gain access to the strip.
The illustration on the package shows consumers how the end of the enclosure film can be lifted like a tab and pulled across the package, exposing the zipper inside.  But, try as both my wife and I could, we could not lift the tab to pull it across the package. No amount of twisting or fingernail picking would lift the tab to allow us entry to the zipper inside. We simply could not get into the package that way. We had to resort to cutting it with scissors, despite the prominent icon on the packaging that indicated that no scissors were necessary.
In marketing, that’s a strong “no-no.” You don’t offer a “convenience” feature that isn’t easy-to-use, especially when it is promoted as a benefit that sets that particular brand apart from packages of similar products. Competition is considered so strong in the pre-packaged salad category, that when you disappoint your customers, you risk losing them. It is a generally accepted marketing principle that it takes seven times as much effort to get a customer to return to your brand as it took to get them to try or buy it in the first place.
In offering innovative packaging, make sure your innovation works—every time. There is no room for error – especially when your graphics tell consumers that your innovation will make things easier.  Convenience is a principal motivator for consumers to buy and re-buy your products.  But mistakes can prove costly in the ultimate success of your brand.  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 rmcmath@cs.com. Visit www.NewProductWorks.com

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