When bad design happens
to good products





Jill | 10.10.17





On a summer morning in June, we invited 15 people to our Nium conference room for one purpose: to stare at cheese.

We asked them to imagine they were standing at the deli counter in a grocery store and they needed to pick a cheese to take home to their families. Sitting before them were five options – including our new client’s product, Pearl Valley Cheese.

Within a few minutes, all 15 people chose cheeses other than Pearl Valley. In fact, Pearl Valley ranked dead last.

This was not a taste test, and women were choosing with their eyes, not their tastebuds. (Otherwise, Pearl Valley would have ranked first!)

But it was easy to understand why our cheese was not among the chosen.

While award-winning in taste, the Pearl Valley Cheese had packaging that was unappealing, uninspiring, and lacking good design. Based on the label itself, the perception shoppers had did not match the higher-quality product underneath. Also, the packaging was incongruent to the company brand—this Swiss family cheese was wrapped with an Italian red and green label!

This was unfortunate, and perhaps, costly. In fact, we wondered how many sales opportunities were missed due to lackluster packaging.

Nium went to work redesigning a new label for Pearl Valley. Mindful of their Swiss heritage and focus, we used graphic elements like the Swiss Alps and traditional fonts. We changed the colors. Due to thoughtful print production decisions, only one printing plate change meant the price to reprint labels stayed the same as the original label designs.

In a few short months, the repackaging launched in stores and the results followed. Pearl Valley Cheese was recognized as a Gold Medal Winner. And the company now had the confidence to implement a price increase without consumer push back.

If you represent a food brand that can’t (or won’t) invest substantially in advertising or awareness marketing, your packaging must carry all the weight of your consumer advertising.

Initially, Pearl Valley’s packaging was utilitarian. It had a job. It was simple and followed the necessary food regulations. The labels clearly stated the name of the product as CHEESE. There was nothing inherently wrong with the labeling. But this laser focus on the practical meant disregarding the meaningful – the power of design to change minds.

We assumed Pearl Valley was losing opportunities to tell its story and to create the perception of an amazing cheese. So with a few simple low-cost changes, we helped to create all new impressions and new buyers.

So, what can YOU do to improve your own packaging?

First, think about your own experience shopping for a bottle of wine. That experience most likely starts by you scanning hundreds of bottles on the shelf and noticing similar price points. That didn’t help to make the choice easier, so then you look at wine labels. Which ones portray class? Which ones exude beauty? Do I get a sense of Italian vineyards? If I’m gifting the wine, which label makes this wine look more expensive than the $9.99 you paid for it?

The same judgments used when looking at wine labels are used when looking at your food packaging. Does your packaging hurt or help your product?

Invest in your package design by tapping the expertise of a team like Nium who can (1) assess the current perceptions of your product package design (2) counsel and lead changes to creative design to improve this perception, and (3) ensure your new look is coordinated among all of the pieces and places that identify your brand.