Package or shelf

Marketing przy kawie Kwiecień 2012

Patrząc z góry

Marketing activities in retail outlets are increasingly focused on arrangement of categories, allowing customers to find their desired products more quickly. It is a natural consequence of the diversification of the offerings – in other words, giving more choices. A large selection is on one hand a blessing for consumers, but on the other hand it’s a curse for communication. Not surprisingly, the category leaders invest a significant amount of their budgets in category management (CatMan), which eases navigation in the area containing both their own and competitors’ products. They base this on the empirically demonstrated fact that everything which helps customers with purchasing will increase sales, especially for the market leader.

Shelf building

Slightly lower in the hierarchy of shopping communication is an indication of the brand. This is lower because of the obvious reason that a customer looks first for a type of product, and only then for a specific brand. The simplest technique seems to be the usage of POS materials, whether more or less original, but the foundation should always be the packaging. Packaging should not only be considered individually, but as a whole system built up by all of the SKUs in the category. When designing the packaging, we should think about the whole shelf, on which it becomes a block, whether or not we plan for it. From these blocks we build an advertising message which guides the customer. In the physical sense, we thus create a brand block; in the visual sense, we develop the branding.

Brand blocking

Brand blocking is a term used primarily for merchandising and is associated with the creation of planograms and building shelves. Its effectiveness still depends on the packaging. Increasingly, one of the main objectives of a rebranding project is the creation of a brand block. Basically, this involves designing a group of packages with a characteristic and easily noticed element which unifies the group.


Typically, the unifying element is color. Some clear examples are the purple used by Milka in the chocolate sector and the blue used by Lubella in the pasta sector. The color selection is influenced mainly by the competitive environment – brands compete with one other on the shelf, creating color blocks which create their own political map on store shelves. Besides the function of demarcation, so to speak, this also to some degree demonstrates power – you can easily see who really dominates in a given category.


A branding color need not cover the entire package. Often the brand architecture requires additional descriptors to differentiate sub-brands or flavor variants. Then the primary color only appears in the background or in characteristic repeated shapes, and the shapes on the package take on an important role. This could be a characteristic shadow under the logo or simply the logo itself.

Birds eye: The branding color clearly does not dominate in terms of quantity, but the use of an aggressive shape appearing over the varying photos gives the packaging a specific rhythm.

Nuggitz: The only constant is the color of the background color. Other elements change depending on the flavor. The function of the composition is important here: stripes, the shape under the logo, and photograph placement.

Helios: The paint’s packaging is a great example of the need to incorporate additional colors on the package. The only recurring element is the white background under the logo and the characteristic form of the logo.

Billboard on the shelf

An interesting way to create a brand block is a so-called billboard. The impression of the block is created not by the repetition of a motif, but by creating a single large image from the individual packages. The packages are designed so that when arranged correctly, they work together. In this case, a brand block is created not by the different SKUs, but by clever arrangement of the product. The packaging becomes a kind of spatial POS material, capturing customer attention. Of course, this idea is more suitable for exclusive products, which are supervised by the merchants or displayed behind the counter. The conditions in self-service stores usually mean that such compositions would become disrupted.

Package or shelf?

This overview illustrates the complexity of designing packages. The design of a single package or bottle is the result of ideas developed at the earlier stage of conceiving the entire line. A package is part of a whole which includes the brand block, brand architecture and ideas of branding strategy, and at the same time, a single exceptionally well-designed package should attract and charm the customer. A package is thus a member of a team – its individual features are just as important as its ability to work with others, and an exterior is just as important as its communication skills. And maybe we can go farther and consider whether the importance of a package’s „individuality” is in fact equal to its „teamwork”? Maybe the most important thing is in fact building a strong „shelf team” and creating a strong shelf presence? After all, customers are always hurrying and want to buy easier and faster…

Ścibor Szpak – PND Futura
Marketing przy kawie, April 2012



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