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Packaging as storyteller

Joe McDonnell is the Founder and CEO of For Life Products, a line of home restoration products widely available at retail. He shares his key thoughts on package design.

Joe McDonnell
Joe McDonnell

Packaging World:
How would you describe your approach to packaging?

Joe McDonnell:
It’s always about the total package. By that I mean best-in-class product combined with great packaging and imagery. Also, it’s important that the imagery lets the consumer know exactly what the experience of using the product will be like. You have to tell a story with the package, and everything from type face to color schemes to photos has to help tell that story. It’s also important that packaging be allowed to evolve with the passage of time. When we launched our Rejuvenate floor cleaning product we went with stock plastic bottles. But as the brand picked up momentum and we wanted to take it to the next level, we knew it was time for our own custom mold and a refreshed design.

How often do you consider a refresh necessary?
Every year we tweak something. You have to take your cue from the consumer. What are they looking for? What is the messaging they want to see on the package? For example, a few years ago we added the GREENGUARD Certification, which is issued by UL Environment, a business unit of Underwriters Laboratories. Consumers today respond to that kind of environmental messaging.

Where does cost enter the picture?
Of course cost is important, but you have to always ask yourself if you are sacrificing shelf impact and consumer awareness by attempting to economize. For example, take the “marine blue” that is a consistent element across all the flexible packages in our new Rejuvenate Marine line. Adding that special color comes with an added plate cost in the printing process. But rich, vibrant colors are what tell the story. What good does it do you to sacrifice consumer awareness by being limited in your approach to colors?

You just launched a line of products in a pouch that costs you more than the rigid containers more typically used in the category. How do you justify that upcharge you have to absorb?

First, think about how this standup pouch differentiates us in a market where rigid containers are everywhere. Second, the target consumer is a boat owner, and space is always a precious commodity on a boat. This package will take up less space as product gets used, a big advantage over conventional rigid containers. Third, and this takes us back to what I said earlier about taking your cue from the consumer, this flexible package scores some serious sustainability points compared to rigid containers because it occupies less space in the landfill compared to a rigid container. Consumers want to know that the products they buy will have minimal impact on the environment. Finally, don’t forget the value of getting this new format out there in the marketplace and analyzing how it performs. Who’s to say we don’t adopt it for other products we make once we have solid data on how it performs in this marine category?

Any concluding thoughts on package design?
I think it’s important to stay true to the spirit of the product. Focus on how it is to be used and how will the consumer handle it.

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