How to replace an icon

At mid-June conference on packaging design, package engineer Jim MacDonald of Sherwin-Williams described what it was like to design the Twist ’n Pour, a plastic package that is an alternative to the 110-year-old steel paint can. He also delivered a short list of things to do when such a daunting project is tackled.

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  • Know Your Customer

    Study the habits of the precise demographic target. In this particular case, the target was women who don’t mind buying and using paint, but do mind the dripping and overall inconvenience involved with a steel can.

  • Start at the Top

    Have the committed backing of the CEO.

  • Assemble a ‘Dream Team’

    Marketing, R&D, sales, legal, operations, plant engineering, outside partners—all must contribute.

  • Change is Painful and Expensive

    You don’t change a 110-year-old icon without encountering some hurdles. Be ready for them.

  • Have a Legal Strategy

    Protect intellectual property, secure confidentiality agreements, and clarify licensing arrangements.

  • Don’t Forget the Market Test

    The first Twist ’n Pour can to reach store shelves was black, not white like the container seen today. The Sherwin-Williams team believed the black container was eye-catching and elegant, sure to attract the consumer in the store. But when the container was tested in stores, the portion of the retailer’s plannogram that held the black containers looked like a black hole. “It was a valuable lesson to learn,” said MacDonald.

    The conference on The Universal Package: Designing Packaging for Everyone was held June 16-17, 2004, at The School of Packaging, Lansing, MI.

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