For many years, cans of beverages were sold in cardboard packaging designed to be easy to carry. However, it wasn’t until relatively recently that this packaging took on a second purpose by serving as its own organizational container for inside the refrigerator.
The fridge-friendly shape, angled perforated tear and gravity feed for cans to roll forward all make this the right product packaging for the right job. The consumer profile is someone who buys in bulk, maybe on a weekend restock, and has a refrigerator that fits the form of the package. This consumer has very different habits and needs than, for example, a convenience store consumer, who buys a single can on his or her lunch break.
This is just one of many examples of how innovative product packaging design can enhance a product’s use. Marketers and package designers should always be exploring new, inventive ways to improve function and form within the consumer experience.
When a product’s packaging goes beyond its basic function of making the product easy to transport and enhances the consumer’s experience with the product in some way, it creates an even more positive user experience, which can enhance loyalty and repurchase frequency.
But how does a packaging team come up with the right product packaging innovation for a specific product? Many marketing professionals are turning to the jobs-to-be-done theory.
There’s a Job to Be Done
Most companies approach innovation from the perspective of improving their existing products. Under the jobs-to-be-done theory, developed by Theodore Levitt, people don’t make purchases for the product; they make purchases to fill a need they have — i.e., a job to be done.
When the innovative process focuses on the job rather than the product (e.g., the beverage can fridge-storage innovation), results are more practical for the consumer, which improves company growth over time.
As Levitt is known for saying, “The purpose of a business is to get and keep a customer. Without customers, no amount of engineering wizardry, clever financing or operations expertise can keep a company going.”
3 Questions for Better Packaging
To apply the job-to-be-done theory to a product’s packaging design and enhance innovation, consider these three questions:
- What job does your product fulfill for the consumer? Levitt once said that “people don’t want a quarter-inch drill; they want a quarter-inch hole.” What's the ultimate result consumers are seeking with the product? Understanding this underlying need is the crucial foundation to any innovation.
- How can the packaging assist with this job or help complete it more fully? For example, prescription pill packaging supports the need to take pills in a secure but convenient way. When pills are packaged in a monthly blister pack instead of a bottle, this can enhance functionality for the consumer by making it easier to keep track of doses.
- How can the packaging assist to fulfill more jobs? A product doesn't exist in a vacuum. What processes are involved for the consumer related to the product, and how might the packaging assist? The beverage can packaging for the fridge is an example of this.
Once you start to think about the job a product and its packaging fills in people’s lives, a whole new world of options opens up for iteration of packaging design. The time of day, retailer, e-commerce, lifestyle, and more can all can be data points a good packaging designer can leverage to make better decisions.
A challenge for good packaging innovation is to provide these key data points to packaging designers early in the process. This allows designers to fully explore what's possible instead of relying on standard thinking.
Shifts in Consumer Habits Are Changing the Jobs to Be Done
Retailers continue to look at emerging shopping patterns. For example, some are evolving to split their stores into two sections, one for fast in-and-out shoppers that order online or use the store as a small-scale convenience store, and the second for more leisurely shoppers, with a more experiential environment where consumers and touch and read more about products they may choose to buy.
As these shifts emerge, brands will have to reconsider how to best perform in these retail models. In the convenience area, you might need smaller packaging that holds ready-to-eat, individual-wrapped snacks, and in the experiential area you would need bulk packaging that fits in a cupboard and allows shoppers to see how it could be used to fill their children’s lunch bags. The exact same products could live in two different parts of the store in two very different packages that fit the context of each unique consumer's needs. And this is only one example of how consumers’ engagement with products on the shelf are shifting.
As our world changes, packaging will still be asked to protect product, be cost effective, fill easily, and convey brand messaging. This should be considered a given. Product packaging that can capture an additional use and can fit new shopping patterns and jobs will be key to differentiating products and enhancing customers’ experiences.
Paul Nowak is the senior director of sales strategy and business development at QuadPackaging, a provider of collaborative end-to-end packaging solutions.