Brand Packaging

What's the "Down" Side to Upside-Down Packaging

May 1, 2005

What’s the “Down” Side to Upside-Down Packaging
By Robert Mcmath
Since the late 1990s, when both Heinz and Hunt’s ketchups were introduced to the U.S. market in upside-down plastic squeeze bottles, there has been an increasing number of adaptations of such inverted packaging.
Now I understand that the concept behind the upside-down sitting-on-the-cap container is convenience, with the idea being that the contents can be dispensed more readily and with less squeezing. But for the life of me, I have never understood the fascination with these packages. They leak, they don’t empty easily and they are tippy. I have yet to see an upside-down bottle that is as stable as its upright counterpart.  
Gillette and several others have tried to package shampoo and liquid soaps in various forms of upside-down containers over the years, but those packages have failed to achieve consumer acceptance. Too often, they leaked because the consumer had not snapped the top on securely or screwed the cap back on tightly. And, invariably, some of the contents of these bottles were left inside; they couldn’t be squeezed out!
Another consumer complaint over the years is that upside-down ketchup bottles, when stored in the refrigerator door, are more prone to fall out as the door swings open or closed.
Procter & Gamble recently adopted the inverted package for its new Zest liquid soap, designed primarily for use in the shower. The bottle, which sits on an oversized, round screw top with a snap closure, curves gracefully to the right and creates a corresponding indent on the left so the package nests neatly with its brethren on the retail shelf.
But, looking at the new Zest package, my first reaction was that the inverted bottle is top heavy: the top of the bottle is wider than the cap at the base, although it is about as deep as the cap is round. An upright version of this bottle would be steadier than this inverted rendition.
Another concern is the size of the bottle (too big for women with small hands to easily grasp and squeeze) as well as its less-than-stable stance when it is placed in its proper upside-down position.
There is no question that adopting this upside-down approach to the package of Zest—especially with a distinctive blue and gold swirl design on the front panel—helps the brand stand out on the shelf among other liquid soaps and body washes. And the visual appeal of a given package, especially a new one, is always important as shoppers roam store aisles. Zest has strong brand recognition and the eye-catching graphics on a wrap-around shrink label will attract attention.
But package usability—the convenience and ease of handling by the consumer—is often what determines success. You might make the first sale with a package that consumers don’t find particularly stable or convenient in use. But repeat sales are the key to long-term success.  
The negative experience many people have had—or new users may have—with the upside-down container could make for some unhappy customers for your brand and could jeopardize repeat sales. Let’s just hope that my observations about this package and my concerns over its adaptation prove “baseless”!  BP