Picture the life of a brand marketer. It is that time in the business cycle when they are putting together plans for product marketing and the next step involves developing a packaging strategy and pack design solutions.

The brand team puts out a brief to their top design agency and declares a design sprint. 

The agency and the brand team set up an Innovation Ideation Workshop. Insights teams are present and fully invested. However, something is missing: the consumer input. It would be helpful, but it is too time-consuming. 

The brand team and the agency meet with lots of sticky notes, flip chart pads and markers. There are warm-ups and brainstorming exercises. An illustrator comes along to draw sketches of the product as the ideas flow. 

Lunch is served.

In the afternoon, further refinements are developed to the initial sketches and the design team then goes off to develop prototypes.

Drafts are circulated and senior stakeholders are shown iterations as they come back from the agency. So begins the editing process to perfect the design. But there is still no time for the voice of the consumer. 

Iteration. Stakeholder feedback. Iteration. Let’s try a different font. How could we make the benefits messaging pop? More iterations over days or even all in a single day. 

Finally, a finished prototype is provided to the insights team to test and validate in a simulated shopping environment.

Sadly, the pack design fails in testing. Maybe it wasn’t findable, or the functional messages were not breaking through to the consumer at shelf. Maybe the design elements were not laddering up to support the brand promise. None the less, precious time has been lost, and the brand and design team must go back to the drawing board. 

Imagine if you could test and iterate, simulating what a consumer would see in a pack instantly during the design development process!

This is a hypothetical scenario but when it resonates, it highlights a pain point that technology has yet to fix. Technology has given us all manners of rapid prototyping and, even in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, ways of facilitating virtual ideation sessions. (We buy our own lunch these days and ideate from our home offices using virtual sticky notes!)

Technology has reduced turnaround time for online research and validation of final designs down from weeks to sometimes days. But at the pace of iteration in the design development process as we have described it, understanding how consumers will behave based on what they see in on the pack at shelf has not been possible.

But maybe there is a technology solution that can be seamlessly integrated into the design development process, so final pack will reflect the optimal circumstances for consumer choice.

Leveraging a Data Trove for Agile Visual Insight

In a world in which the only constant is change, it is actually a strength to be able to leverage the past as a foundation. Often the raw material from experience is exactly what is needed to synthesize data into insight. While Behaviorally is relentlessly focused on the future, we definitely have a distinct advantage because of our legacy as Perception Research Services (PRS). We have nearly 50 years of experience observing and quantifying what more than 18 million consumers have seen in pack designs in context, defining those elements in packaging that influence behavior along shopper journeys. This has translated to a robust database of pack and shelf designs that can be parsed to the category level for KPIs that predict pack performance at the time of shopper selection.

But how do you leverage this data intelligence at scale to deliver on iterative test and learn results at the speed of the design process?

We have applied advanced AI image recognition analytics to mine our database for equivalencies that can be applied to packaging design for NPD, restages and even comparisons to competitors packs. Using the power of computer vision allows us to achieve tremendous speed in iterative design analysis. In simple terms, through image recognition in our Flash.AI™ solution, we are teaching machines to “see” the way humans see. The results map to decades of norms, representing what actual humans have seen in pack designs shown to them in research, providing iterative scoring for predictive pack performance. These scores are consistent with our other tools for final pack validation in our “define” suite of services. And AI has made this fast enough to make all the difference in design development, incorporating virtual vision of the consumer metrics as critical decision support instantly in the process. 

We have debated internally on how to articulate, “How fast is fast?” Initially, we said less than a day. Then we said, “in hours.” Our CEO challenged us: “Come on folks, to be effective in the design development process, this has to be done in minutes. So, how many minutes?” In our marketing we are saying 120 minutes. And that is our commitment. Remember that ideation session? Remember how they broke for lunch? Imagine getting initial reads on a design direction in the time that it takes to eat a sandwich and answer some e-mail. That is what we mean by fast. 

We introduced Flash.AI this past week. Previous AI solutions have not been able to leverage image recognition matched to reliable KPIs from a reliable database. So, we see this as a true innovation in terms of enabling virtual vision of the customer early in pack design development. We welcome brands and design agencies to explore what Flash.AI can do, to help you achieve more predictable performance in packs guaranteed to drive growth at shelf. 

The Author

Ruben Nazario is the vice president, innovation project lead at Behaviorally (formerly PRS). He has been responsible for bringing the OmniPath™ and Flash.AI™ solutions to market to help clients decode the complexity of consumer behavior.

If you would like to talk with Ruben about how behavioral design can help your product perform optimally digitally as well as in brick-and-mortar retail, you can reach him at Ruben.Nazario@behaviorally.com. Follow Ruben Nazario on Twitter @RubenDNazario or connect with him on LinkedIn.