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Moving an 'industrial' brand into home décor

Chapin achieves double-digit sales increase by restaging lawn and garden sprayers as gender-neutral and calling attention to product benefits that consumers care about.
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Can the right package bring a double-digit sales increase for lawn and garden sprayers? Chapin International Inc. found that the answer is “yes.” The Batavia NY marketer succeeded by following these steps:

• Taking a holistic approach in which the product is the package and vice-versa.

• Creating brand communications that work in two dimensions through both product and package: They give the perception of a gender-neutral brand while focusing attention on benefits that consumers care most about when using the product.

By taking a “big-picture” view of its brand Chapin was able to spike sales in a staid lawn and garden products category which traditionally appeals to male consumers. Females now account for 40% of the brand’s sales up from 10% several years ago.

The major products that Chapin markets are its 1-gal Spray It™ compact everyday multipurpose sprayer and its 1- and 2-gal Spray ’n Go™ ergonomic sprayers. Although Chapin competes in a category largely viewed as industry-oriented the company identified an opportunity to grow sales by introducing a consumer side to the market.

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This approach to packaging is a major shift for Chapin International a family-owned company in business since 1884. For years it has emphasized industrial-use products and competed on the shelf with packaging that hadn’t been updated for decades. Packaging across the category featured a utilitarian appearance and the packaging obstructed views of the product and prevented consumers from inspecting product features. Chapin’s own product line lacked color unification.

Desire for value-added features

Chapin effectively created a subcategory by restaging its sprayers as a lifestyle brand in which the package works at a higher emotional level and helps to create a brand that symbolizes what’s important in their lifestyle rather than serving as merely a functional container that sprays weed killer or fertilizer.

Chapin enlisted LPK a Cincinnati brand design agency designer and brand consultancy to conduct observational product research in consumers’ homes and ask them about their product preferences in sprayers. Those consumers said sprayers in general are sometimes difficult to handle and operate. Packaging across the category makes visual inspection of the product and product features difficult. In addition the packaging communication fails to clearly convey product differences.

Those consumers said they wanted a more ergonomic sprayer container design with a nozzle that resists clogging. They also wanted features that prevent chemicals from coming into contact with their skin as they operate the sprayer. Finally they indicated a visual preference for a package design that evokes home décor.

During its research Chapin discovered that a more gender-neutral package could increase sales. “Males accounted for 90% of our customers” says Chuck Mattes Chapin’s vice president sales and marketing. “We felt there might be an opportunity to pick up some business with females. We weren’t getting them to pick up our product.”

In the package design phase the first of the two bold initiatives that Chapin took was to discard the existing packaging except for the brand’s distinctive red logo and then to create two distinct containers with features that signal its “everyday” sprayer and its trade-up sprayer. LPK created a “template of brand communication which was incorporated into the visuals across the packaging” explains LPK’s Ares Marasligiller director of product design innovation. The cornerstone was a soft curvilinear container shape that incorporates patented features and a tactile surface. Chapin wouldn’t specify the resin used to make the containers but says the sprayer components are injection-molded polypropylene. LPK working with Integrated Technologies Engineering (ITE) designed and produced both the containers and the components.

Consumer and retailer benefits

The entry-level Spray-It 1-gal sprayer’s design provides both consumer and retailer benefits. For consumers the foam polypropylene handle makes carrying the containers easier. The wider 3’’ opening makes mixing and pouring easier.

Ergonomic considerations drove the container’s design. The shape makes the container easier to carry and store.

From a retailer perspective both the container and the parts maximize sales per square foot. The sprayer’s square base enables nine units to fit the same shelf “footprint” that held just four of the old containers. In addition the handle is collapsible. When closed the unit meets Wal-Mart’s 14’ shelf height maximum.

The square-base design extends to Chapin’s trade-up Spray ’n Go sprayers offering an additional retailer benefit. It provides for example the stability to guard against individually packaged units tipping over in a six-pack paperboard display tray for club stores.

Chapin’s Spray ’n Go sprayers feature a rounder body and neck atop the square base than on the basic model. The distinctive shape scored high in consumer testing as modern looking without being overtly feminine in appearance. “It’s not a known shape so people stop and look at it and pick it up” Marasligiller says.

One value-added component on the Spray ’n Go sprayers is a plastic shield. It attaches to the wand to prevent skin contact with chemicals in the product. When not in use the shield snaps onto a hook at the neck of the container; it is molded to mirror the container’s shape. The Spray ’n Go container offers the additional value-added feature of a 4” wide opening.

Shift to shrink labels

The second major initiative in the design was a decision to use clear full-body shrink labels a departure from the category’s windowed paperboard cartons. Chapin’s new labels are a single-layer extrusion of either 2 mil polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or oriented polystyrene (OPS). Packstar Amherst NY prints the labels using the rotogravure process.

Visually the film labels mirror the containers’ soft curves which contrast the square cartons prominent in the category. Functionally Mattes says the labels “protect the parts and prevent theft at retail which is a problem with open cartons or clamshells used in our industry.”

The move into shrink labels helps consumers understand product uses and differences in household sprayers within seven seconds after looking at a package Mattes explains. The front of the label contains the “environmental” product photo. Three icons to the left of the photo call out product improvements that eliminate three major frustrations that consumers identified in the research: an anti-clog filter a larger opening for pouring and the fin that provides a controlled spray.

Back-panel icons identify other product features such as a two-position nozzle a reinforced hose and a lock-in wand holder.

Mattes says product testing showed that consumers can identify the new Chapin packaging from up to 100 feet away—a significant plus in the wider aisles of dimly lit club stores and lawn and garden centers.

See sidebar to this article: How color is used

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