Interacting with consumers is key to successful package design

Scott Carpenter, Senior Associate Director–Innovation and Development at Bayer HealthCare, talks design, disruption, and Coppertone Whipped Lotion.

Scott Carpenter, Senior Associate Director–Innovation and Development, Bayer HealthCare
Scott Carpenter, Senior Associate Director–Innovation and Development, Bayer HealthCare

Packaging World:
What is most fundamental when it comes to successful package design?

Scott Carpenter:
Near the top of my list is interacting with end-users/consumers for the purpose of designing for the ideal consumer experience. Sometimes this involves traditional approaches like focus groups and surveys. But sometimes we stretch out a little and “co-create” with consumers, where we bring them in and interact directly with them to solve a problem while looking through their eyes. Coppertone, of course, is one of our well known brands, so once we even went to a lacrosse tournament to talk with people about their use of sun block products. We wanted to learn how they prepare for a day in the sun, what products are in their bags, how did they prepare their children for the day?

Did this bit of ethnographic research lead to a package of one kind or another?
It certainly played a role in our development of Coppertone Whipped Lotion, which uses a completely new patent-pending bag-on-valve format and proprietary filling technology. Our external technology partner infuses compressed gas into the formula inside of the bag. When it’s dispensed, the user gets a delightfully whipped product that is both light and easy to spread. We had to work very closely with our actuator supplier to create a semi customized component that’s easy to use but also has a locking mechanism to prevent accidental activation in the beach bag. We also had to spend time on the shape and geometry of the container to communicate that it’s not a traditional sunscreen spray. This also involved working with consumers on form, function, iconography, and heuristics. Not to mention the investment we had to make to the packaging line to ensure that our actuators were always oriented facing forward on shelf so consumers would understand that this is not a spray but a whipped lotion.

So many details to take into account.
There were others, too, including the sound it made. Initially consumers told us it sounded too much like a whipped cream being dispensed from an aerosol can and not a high-end personal care product. So we dialed down the sound to the point where it was actually missing from the container altogether. But then consumers told us we’d gone too far, that they wanted some sound component to more or less represent that the product was being whipped. So we eventually arrived at a sound they found appealing.

Do you emphasize functionality or aesthetics when it comes to package design?
It’s best to have functionality covered in the same conversation where the artistic vision is being talked about. You need both at the table. Ideally each of the two camps should be pushing the other, so that you have creative guys stretching the thinking of the technical guys at the same time that the technical guys are stretching the creative types. We had some element of this in the Whipped Lotion project. I think it helped us reach a design that’s very appealing. It’s disruptive enough to stand out on the shelf yet it isn’t so disruptive that it wanders away from core brand equities.

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