By offering packaging that delivers beyond the first moment of truth, brands can build devotion and loyalty, turning consumers into brand evangelists.

By Ted Mininni
Consumer culture is in transition. Today, consumers are less interested in purchasing products to meet their basic needs. They are much more interested in engaging with brands whose values satisfy them on an emotional level.
Brand managers are beginning to understand that and they are positioning and packaging their products to meet this new consumer mandate. While many are successful at meeting consumers at the retail shelf in the first moment of truth-FMOT-as evidenced by their ability to move them to make initial purchases, they haven’t always thought it through to meet the second moment of truth, or SMOT.
To be fair, the first order of business for marketers and design consultants is to get shoppers to pick up their product in the scant few seconds they’re scanning the many choices on the retail shelf. But what happens after that?
Forget that we’re marketers, packaging designers and retail experts. Let’s put ourselves in the consumer’s place. Faced with a plethora of choices in virtually every product category, to the point of saturation, what’s compelling? What’s engaging or exciting?
The reality is that consumers are bored now. They aren’t responding to marketing in the conventional sense. Why? They don’t want to be spoken to; they want to be spoken with and engaged.
At the retail shelf, a structurally unique package looks interesting to a shopper. A signature color, brand mark and unique characteristics denote that this is a product from a recognized, trusted brand-so far, so good. Even better, the packaging evokes a response on an emotional level. It promises enjoyment, or fulfills another emotional desire. Perhaps it offers a bit of pampering. Or some kind of security. Maybe it pledges to be a healthier, more natural choice. Why not take it home and try the product? Great.
Then what? Have we given the consumer the potential for any “aah” moments now that they are actually interacting with the package, opening it up to reveal its contents? Here is the best and greatest opportunity to engage the consumer. Have we succeeded in doing that? Have we, in this second moment of truth, delivered the brand in such a way as to engage the consumer completely?
If not, we have just squandered what could have been the single most satisfying interaction between consumer and brand. By delivering the ultimate experience with attributes to excite the senses-touch, smell, sound or taste-as well as the intangibles of wellbeing, luxury or pampering, fun or enjoyment in that moment, we can cement the relationship between consumer and brand in the most meaningful way.
Heightening the consumer’s anticipation in an exciting manner as they are opening well-conceptualized packaging to reach the object of their desire-the product-will deliver the most memorable of experiences. If we are all intent on delivering a great brand experience, shouldn’t packaging be the centerpiece of our efforts? This is the touchpoint that makes our products tangible to consumers. It should deliver the ultimate experience.
When Apple packages its products, it does so with great deliberateness. Unwrapping the packaging reveals the product and its components in stages, increasing the consumer’s excitement every step of the way. This creates such an impact that many Apple devotees keep the packaging, and even integrate it into their home or work space décor. It is obvious that Apple uses every opportunity to create brand ambassadors, not mere consumers of its products.
A new frozen dessert line in the U.K., from The Filthy Food Company, plays up the sinfulness of indulging in decadent chocolate desserts. The “Filthy” hand-scrawled brand identity in chocolate brown on white packaging features a sensuous, tactile “skin” that is strikingly unique. The tagline: “Obsessed by Pleasure” hangs from the logo. Rich chocolates are photographed on the packaging, oozing forbidden goodness. Don’t these elements motivate consumers to buy? Don’t these elements promise pure enjoyment?
In a stroke of pure genius, structural packaging opens to reveal a love letter to the chocoholic. The packaging folds back to form a bowl, inviting the consumer to dive in. Indulgence and forbidden pleasure is a story as old as mankind, and here it’s being delivered via the packaging in a memorable way.
Even seemingly mundane, commodity products can be packaged with great SMOT assets that are memorable and exciting to consumers. And the packaging doesn’t have to be over the top to accomplish this, either.
For example, the new Bird’s Eye frozen vegetable packaging is excellent. Strong, fresh graphics on bags that allow consumers to perfectly, evenly steam their vegetables in the microwave-sans mess-make this packaging so pleasurable, consumers will quickly become adherents of these products.
P&G’s Tide Simple Pleasures and sister brand Downy Simple Pleasures tout four long-lasting aromatherapy fragrance combinations that are delighting consumers in color-coded packaging. It’s a veritable guarantee that consumers will take the caps off to take a whiff of these products in the laundry care sections of supermarkets. Touting the tagline “Clean never smelled so good”, the products use naturally derived essential oils to promise the consumer a sensuous, delicious experience.
And then there’s the new packaging for the Campbell Soup Company’s Soup at Hand line, marketed as “a great way to eat right when you’re on the run”. The sides of the packaging have been slimmed down to fit the consumer’s hand more comfortably. And, for ease of use, Campbell’s has added a plastic over-cap that pops off easily and features holes for sipping. Under the lid, a peel-able foil is easily removed, and the plastic over-cap goes back on after the soup is heated, so consumers can enjoy sipping it on the go. Online graphics feature these simple instructions: “1. Pop the top. 2. Microwave. 3. Grab n’ go”.
By reorienting our thinking about packaging to move beyond design that merely meets consumers’ FMOT and by stretching the brand’s emotive and lifestyle assets further, into a SMOT, we will have accomplished more than a sale. We will have engaged consumers in a more meaningful way that begins to build enduring relationships.
Research has divulged 80 percent of consumers are satisfied with the products they buy, but that those 80 percent are not fanatically devoted to the brands they purchase. That data demonstrably points to the fact that consumers are not engaged enough by the brands they are satisfied with, to the point of loyalty and devotion. It wouldn’t take much to get those consumers to purchase another brand, in that case.
By designing packaging that leads to a Second Moment of Truth, we will have decidedly given the consumer a much deeper experience with our brands-one that will make them loyal, but also turn them into brand evangelists. BP
Ted Mininni is president of Design Force Inc., a metro New York area consultancy that specializes in brand identity, package design and consumer promotion design. Reach him at 856.810.2277 or visit