min read

Living together: What happens when you invite a product home

by Bill Rodi , 14.06.2016

The difference between buying a product and then actually living with it is a bit like choosing a roommate. Your first choice might automatically be the person you have most fun with: the one who makes you laugh and who’s always up for an adventure. But is that always the right decision?

When it comes to co-existing seven days a week, wouldn’t you be better off with somebody a little quieter – someone who’s happy to share the chores and understands the occasional need for a night in front of the TV?

Similarly, do you want to live with the product whose packaging is designed for one thing only – to silently shout at you from a crowded supermarket shelf, ‘buy me, buy me, take me home’?

From salesman to companion: A product’s transformation

The reality is that packaging only operates as the ‘silent salesman’ it’s designed to be for 1% of your relationship. Then it morphs into the ‘silent companion’ you have to live with.

The toothpaste you see every morning and evening. The shampoo in your shower, sharing intimate moments with you. The coffee in your cupboard.

These and countless other touchpoints have at least as much influence on brand equity and esteem as the few seconds we tend to spend with a product in an aisle. Far more, in all probability, as they are there to share the minutiae of our lives (often in ways that you wouldn’t dream of sharing with your roommate…).

The first moment of truth: A dangerous obsession?

The reality is, however, that many marketers remain obsessed with that fleeting but still vitally important first moment of truth (FMOT). As a result, they remain oblivious to packaging’s potential for enriching and deepening the brand-relationship, and enhancing the value that people get out of the product.

Thought and investment: Adding brand personality

It’s an occasion to savor when we do see products that clearly have benefited from some proper thought and investment. Package shapes that amuse - think children’s drink cartons that waddle like penguins.


Packaging designed by Mats Ottdal. See more innovative package designs.



Even bar codes can add to the brand personality – a notable example we’ve seen is a panda’s head peering out from behind a bar code ‘fence’. In another, a couple of stickmen are helping each other up a barcode ‘cliff’.

Very clever stuff.  It takes quite a lot to make me want to share a barcode with a friend, but both of these did. In doing so, not only has the brand reached a new customer but the experience they had was one endorsed with a personal touch.

Not stuck on the shelf: Differentiation from competitors

These examples represent part of a genuinely new and powerful way of looking at packaging beyond the in-store shelf. Packaging that creates and supports a consistent, potent user experience that does everything good brand communication can ever do. It properly conveys positioning and personality. It builds good will. And it creates clear and meaningful differentiation from its competitors.

Much like the perfect roommate, it might even understand if you just want to watch TV. But don’t expect it to help with the washing up.

Bill Rodi is the Vice President of Consulting at GfK. Please email bill.rodi@gfk.com to share your thoughts.