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Incorporating rituals, transitional objects, and social signifiers

It's no secret that the retail shelf represents an extremely competitive environment. Most package design professionals understand the rational features and benefits their brand offers.

Hp 21407 Alli

But what about tapping into deeper "emotional" issues that can win the consumer's heart on a different level? Donna Sturgess, Global Head of Innovation at GSK, revealed some of her team's strategic thinking that shaped the package design of its over-the-counter weight loss product, alli. Her remarks came during Pharmapack in Paris, France, this past February. Here, she sheds light on 'emotional strategies' for building a brand.

"When we think about the consumer-and for most of our brands the customer is primarily female-we look to truly stand in her shoes," says Sturgess.

She says marketers at GSK use a number of techniques to gain insight into what the consumer is really seeking and that they don't limit their consideration to just rational features. "Claims are important to us in that they relate to the way our product performs, but we go beyond the rational strategy," she continues, "and place an equal focus on the emotional strategies for our brands."


"One of the ways to consider emotional strategies is to think about rituals," she says, "or what drives people's motivations and behavior."

Sturgess cites brushing teeth as an example. "You would be amazed at the different ways that all of us sitting in this room brush our teeth," she offers. "Some people do it at the bathroom sink, some of us in the kitchen or even walking around the house." By understanding this ritual, you can begin to conceive of how to connect with consumers in meaningful ways.

"We research rituals by going into consumers' homes and observing what goes on there," she explains. "It is a very rich, fertile, and creative place for gaining insight into our business."

Eating is a ritual, too. We all do it three to four times a day. "But inside that space-the home," says Sturgess, "you can find an extremely rich environment for truly understanding the consumer's relationship with eating." This is especially relevant as it relates to the female consumer who needs help losing weight.

The insights gained through this process are evident in the application of one of GSK's basic techniques for attracting consumer interest-reaching out to the consumer through the package at shelf.

"In developing alli, we placed a lot of consideration to the outer package, which we eventually decided to produce as a hard plastic case. We had a lot of internal conversations about using paper," Sturgess explains, "but we then began to consider how women store things. They tend to organize bits and pieces into containers. Everything from jewelry to wrapping paper, clothes, shoes, office supplies-and even recipes! The realization helped us to see that to have a container for the brand in their home is important."

GSK used test groups to discover that only 5 percent of women would throw out the plastic container of the starter package. That's 95 percent who would now welcome alli with a storage place in the home, unlike "cardboard," which is traditionally thrown away. Through the use of the hard plastic case, the consumer now has a place for the brand in their home, allowing them to store alli along with educational materials, recipes, etc.

GSK's consumer research also discovered that when women want to lose weight, they look to family and friends for support. In fact, some women feel their spouses sabotage their efforts. So, GSK truly wanted to be an "alli" in their battle to lose weight.

To meet this need, a major component of the alli package is not only the literature and recipes that are included, but also a strong connection to a Web site where the alli teams can further engage the consumer, and serve as an on-line support group. The package and its contents are the gateway to this community.

Shuttle: transitional object and social signifier

Extra special attention was also paid to the 'Shuttle," the blue pill case in the alli pack that women can take with them in their purse every day. That helps provide discreet, convenient compliance.

"When you touch the Shuttle," says Sturgess, a smooth, blue case in the shape of a hand grip, "it almost feels like a worry stone. This Shuttle serves as a transitional object," she continues. "The Shuttle literally provides something to hold on to as you are letting go of past eating behaviors. Transitional objects such as this are psychologically effective for people, especially when they are struggling with the behavioral changes involved in eating well.

"When somebody holds that Shuttle in their hand," explains Sturgess, "they actually feel like they are holding the hand of a friend. While the Shuttle provides comfort, one thing you won't see on it is the alli name, and that was deliberate. We know that when you put a logo on something, people immediately recognize you are selling them something. We didn't need to put a commercial on the brand," says Sturgess. "The distinctive shape of the Shuttle is an icon of the brand-it doesn't need a logo.

"Somebody said to me it looks like a contact lens case," she says. "That's great! It's incredibly discreet. But if I'm out in a restaurant at lunch and I take out my Shuttle and I see another woman across the room with hers, we recognize each other," Sturgess explains. "We just nod across the restaurant, silently signifying, 'you know I take that, too!'"

She adds, "It's another way to think about how you can build a community of people who are involved in your brand."

Marketers will always seek novel ways to differentiate. It is a truism that brands do not just sell products, but they also sell expectations. In a sense, a brand is a reasonable hypothesis about future benefits-both functional and emotional. In the case of alli, the brand is activated by the sensory sight and touch.

Not every package/product launch can enlist the resources of a GSK. But digging into the emotional needs of the consumer-such as their desire for safety, purity, organics, or sustainability-can offer cues for the design team to reach the consumer at a deeper level. Perhaps a level where brand loyalty transcends low price!

Innovation hubs

GlaxoSmithKline is making a commitment to innovation and enhancing its speed to market with the development of innovation hubs. "If your work touches one of our global assets, says Sturgess, "you are moved into the innovation hub."

In the hub you find people from marketing sitting right next to R&D, packaging, regulatory, etc. GSK has found that by placing people in this manner in a creative space they can make significant gains in the way they innovate.

"If you are seminal to the operation of the brand, you are seated in the hub," says Sturgess. "E-mails have gone down and the speed of decision-making has increased by 45 percent. The R&D people says things to me like 'we actually know what's going on around the project. The use of all players to inform decisions is up 18 percent since we moved to the model.'"

Sturgess explains, "This has been extremely powerful to us in terms of driving our innovation agenda and I think you can imagine how quickly it begins to change your speed to innovate because you are without this stricture of all these formal meetings and tons of e-mails."

How does this affect the role of packaging? "Packaging is at the very inception of the innovation," Sturgess explains. "It's not an afterthought.

"It isn't that marketing turns up and says, 'we want you to create a package for this' and the packaging person says 'a year-and-a-half-ago I could have given you many more options, but now your options are very limited.' With this structure, we can now operate teams in a way that everybody is there at the beginning of the innovation process. And everybody can make a positive contribution to the innovation," says Sturgess

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