A Behavioural Guide to Winning with Holiday Packaging

November 30, 2018

Cue the crowds, we are now officially in the final run-up to the holidays. Stores are filling fast and the retail rush is tangible. CPG brands we see throughout the year are dressing up in their holiday packaging finery.

In the madness of the busiest shopping month of the year, the holidays can pose challenges to brands used by consumers all year round.  With such a short sales window, brands must hit the mark flawlessly, engaging shoppers with seasonal and limited edition holiday packaging.

How can behavioural science help brands to influence the holiday shopper choice?

At PRS IN VIVO, we use our Drivers of Influence, a collection of 21 heuristics from behavioural sciences, that we’ve developed as a guide to help our clients to make better decisions on packaging, shopper marketing and shelf placement.  Using these as directional guides we help clients influence shopper behaviour.

In the chaos of Christmas, there is no better time to use a behavioural lens to ensure your packaging is cutting through the clutter and influencing shopper choice. Toblerone saw a 400% increase in sales during the first year it debuted holiday packaging in which the traditional brand name was replaced with the words “Ho Ho Ho” (source: Idea Brand Design).

Even “stores own brands” of low-engagement products take part in the festivities – Waitrose now offers its own brand of toilet paper printed with Christmas trees.

Many retailers are unwilling to shelve seasonal products on the main fixture, so temporary displays are required to showcase seasonal packs or products. We see this as an opportunity, as it allows you to possibly play with more touchpoints highlighting your seasonal offer.

So what are some examples of our “Drivers” at work?

Salience is one of the most useful heuristics to keep in mind when thinking about successful packaging in the crowded holiday marketplace. Seasonality alone can drive salience for certain categories. But ensuring salience for seasonal packaging is a balancing act – while the Christmas codes must be considered, you don’t want your brand being lost in the sea of red & green. Additionally, you need to retain some of your brand’s distinctive assets, in order to facilitate shopper choice.

Of course the holidays are an emotional and sentimental time, giving you the opportunity to activate the Emotion driver to your brand’s advantage. Are you a product or brand that stirs the heart? Activate those emotions via familial imagery.  Are you a bit cheekier? Play on the humour of holiday chaos, rush and expectations. Doritos released holiday packaging with a playful spin, changing common Christmas phrases to include their brand name and adding icicles for winter imagery.

Is your brand a category captain? Can you claim to be the nation’s favourite?  By using the Norms driver, you can influence shoppers, showing them your brand is the most commonly chosen ingredient or dish for holiday meals. Lurpak’s clever holiday pack design capitalized on this driver by reminding consumers to reach for their butter with all the Christmas cooking and baking there is to be done.

Or consider the power of Nostalgia, an evocative heuristic that is perfect for employing at the holidays. Parents and grandparents want to create special moments for their families that include traditions from their own childhood. Are you a brand that has a history that can tug at shoppers’ heartstrings at the holidays? Does your product remind consumers of holiday meals or sharing? Bringing this to life through packaging and in-store communication and evoking those memories can be a strong pull in the heady state of the holidays. Coca-Cola is available all year round, but this old-fashioned packaging and unique bottle shape evoke a more traditional feeling. (Fun fact: Coca-Cola even lays claim for dressing Santa in the familiar brand red color, and giving us the “salient” image we associate with Father Christmas, even today.)

Perhaps one of the most troubling issues facing both product manufacturers and retailers is the fear of overstocking holiday products and then needing to deeply discount them from January 1st. What we know from the behavioural sciences is that Loss Aversion can be quite a strong driver of behaviour that can work to your advantage in terms of making it clear your pack or offer is a limited edition. When it’s gone, it’s gone. This allows you to manage overstocking.  It also puts some gentle pressure on keen shoppers to buy now. This is an approach that Lindor by Lindt does quite well.

Both manufacturers and retailers can capitalize on all holidays throughout the year and create relevant pack designs that influence consumers’ choices.  It doesn’t take holiday magic, just a bit of creativity and behavioural science!

THE AUTHOR
Ted Utoft is a Senior Qualitative Business Director in our London office. Before London, Ted ran our qualitative teams in Singapore & Shanghai and spent 13 years in Asia working as first a journalist and then researcher across the region.

Feeling festive but a bit frustrated by your holiday packaging and shopper marketing challenges? Please reach out to Ted at ted.utoft@prs-invivo.com to learn more about the Drivers of Influence and get some holiday behavioural advice.