What's Your Number?

“What’s your number?”

Yes, it could be some cheesy pick-up line, like asking, “What’s your sign?” – but that’s not the intention.

My number today was 17, and that was just this morning, from waking through breakfast. After that, honestly I lost count.

This “number” is the number of packaged products one interacts with in a given day.

For me, my “17” included toothpaste, floss, mouthwash, shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, leave-in conditioner, lotion, several make-up items, a multi-vitamin, matcha (my favorite tea!), agave, milk, hummus and crackers.

Packaging is a multi-billion dollar industry. Each day, we open, close, carry, use and store then recycle, reuse or discard an extraordinary number of packaged products. Each of these products or brands has the opportunity to either delight or disappoint us with their packaging.

It is through my work as a qualitative research consultant that I have had the opportunity to talk with many consumers over the years about packaging – what they like, what they don’t like, what works and what doesn’t. One thing I learned for sure is that packaging is often overlooked and really only talked about when one is asked to take notice and respond.

So now, I’m asking you, for one day, to count the number of times you interact with packaging and come back and share that number (Yes, your Starbucks cup counts). For you over-achievers, share how many interactions with packaging delighted and how many disappointed. 

Companies and brands spend lots of time and money getting their products just right. That’s important, obviously. But all too often, these great products are packaged with little thought as to how the packaging will communicate at shelf, or even more importantly, how it will perform in the hands of the people who buy and use the products.

Packaging is the one piece of branding that has the honor and privilege of living alongside the consumer, with us in our homes. It can enhance or detract from the brand experience. Perform well, and the brand has a greater chance of being invited back.

For as many (functionally) bad designs that exist, there are those that win through innovation, creativity, and sometimes simplicity – packaging that actually makes our lives easier or that makes us think differently about the products we use. Personally, I’d like to see more of the successes. And it is in recognizing and calling out packaging that falls short and applauding those designs that enhance the value or usefulness of the product, that save us time and effort, or that are just really cool, that we can inspire the packaging industry and the companies that ultimately package and sell our favorite brands to get on board.

Let’s get people thinking and talking. I’ll start by asking, “What’s your number?”