NEW YORK -- A new study shows that packaging for national brands gives them a decided advantage over upstart premium private labels.
"Quality of packaging plays a very important role in consumers' perception and consumers' purchase of a new product," said Jonathan Prinz, president of Schechter Group, a corporate and brand identity consultant company here. Survey results convinced Prinz store brands will never achieve the wide exposure of national brands and, thus, will never overtake them in the market.
"I am not in any way underestimating store brands, but we are not seeing anything that says name brands are dead," he said.
Schechter commissioned the PackageValue Survey from an independent research company to determine the effects of packaging on a product's image. Leading brands in seven categories -- analgesics, antacids, carbonated beverages, chocolate chip cookies, coffee, frozen dinners and laundry detergents -- were compared against one another in tests involving 251 consumers in seven U.S. cities.
Consumers were asked to rate the products in two different categories -- quality and purchase intent -- based on first simply hearing the name and then seeing full-color pictures of the package.
Chips Ahoy cookies were the overwhelming favorite among consumers. A total of 60% of those surveyed indicated it was a quality product after hearing the product's name; 10% said President's Choice chocolate chip cookies were a quality product and 9% said the same of Master Choice chocolate cookies.
Consumers' reactions increased when they were shown pictures of the packages. Twenty-five percent more people said Chips Ahoy was a quality product; 50% more voted for President's Choice and 33% more for Master Choice.
"We were actually quite astounded at the results of that. If you look back at the last 18 months, you see many, many stories about the huge success of store brands, particularly the astounding success of President's Choice," Prinz said.
He determined that eye-catching packaging can be most helpful to unknown market brands yet, at the same time, packaging did not make them attractive enough to win out over well-recognized national brands.
Prinz found that, in some cases, packaging could detract from customers' perceptions. In the case of frozen dinners, 21% of consumers said Healthy Choice and Lean Cuisine were quality products; however, when consumers were shown pictures of the products' packages, Healthy Choice's rating grew by 10% but Lean Cuisine's score dropped by 11%.
Prinz said the appetite appeal of the pictures on the packages may have had something to do with that. "With Healthy Choice, the rich green color may not be helping, while the whiteness of Lean Cuisine may be helping," he said.
Package art plays an important role in buying decisions, according to Prinz. The larger the package is, the higher rating it usually has among consumers. "The more you have to work with, the more you can embellish it. That's the advantage of larger packages -- you can put appealing art on it," he said.
He said the powerful graphic used by Tide laundry detergent has helped it become No. 1 in that category. Tide's orange and white artwork is more memorable than Wisk's container.
In cases where the national brand and its logo are already known to consumers, the packaging does not have a significant effect. "In general, what we've seen is that huge blockbuster brands like Coke and Pepsi don't move it [the scale of consumers' perceptions] very much because people already have a picture in their minds of the package," Prinz said.
"Whatever the stores do, however they present themselves, they will always be deficient. Store brands just don't have the appeal of national brands and unless something happens to make them more national, they will not be," he continued.
"In an environment that continues to be very competitive, the challenge for brands remains other brands," Prinz said.