Hello peeps!! It’s been a while and I’ve neglected you. I’m so sorry. Real work got in the way. (Oh to be a full time blogger, now that really would be awesome – but how does it pay the bills?)
So, to get to the point, we’re launching a new series on the MamaTray blog this week:
The title is pretty self–explanatory, so I won’t waste any time going into it. Here we go…
First up: the packaging pump.
I’ve got really dry skin. I use a lot of creams, moisturisers, lotions and potions, in an attempt to tame and thwart the daily, desert–like conditions of my skin. And these products predominately come in what I refer to as ‘the godforsaken pump’. Ah, the pump… A great packaging invention way back when, no doubt introduced with the very best of aspirations and intentions. Except pumps don’t work that well once you get down to the lower dregs of the product inside them and you then have to spend what feels like aeons of your life – that you’ll never get back – trying to manually extract the last few centimetres of the incredibly expensive cream/lotion that you placed all your faith in.
When the pump starts to make that dreaded, spluttering noise, there’s a frustrating sequence of events that follow:
a) unscrew the top of the pump, squint your eye and try to establish how much is left inside;
b) discard the top of the pump, in semi–fury, after pumping it a few times to get the excess out first (traditionally managing to squirt the lotion in a completely different direction to the one you had originally intended);
c) turn pump upside down and aggressively ‘smack’ it down onto the palm of your hand to encourage more lotion to flow out (a bit like the move you would do to not waste the last of the tomato ketchup);
d) resort to standing the pump upside down, on an available, clean surface of your bathroom and leaving it overnight to loosen up the contents;
e) ineffectively clean up said surface, the next day (and incur the wrath of the OCD, other resident/s of the house) as the lotion has now cascaded out around the edges and started to crystalise into a decidedly unappealing ‘splurge’;
f) give up, chuck the damn thing in the bin and reach for a new version of the same product;
g) repeat this process, ad nauseam, in the style of ‘Groundhog Day’.
So, why have I kicked off about all of this, apart from it being a personal bug bear? Well, I think it’s because, in our industry, we spend a lot of time and a lot of (other people’s) money creating, presenting and effectively selling a promise to prospective consumers with products, services and brands in general. This will work brilliantly; it’s what you’ve been waiting for, your whole life; this is a brand you can totally rely on; a brand that understands you, inside out, and fits seamlessly with your lifestyle; and this product/service ultimately represents incredible value for your hard earned dosh.
But in this instance, albeit in the niche of skincare packaging, the consumer experience is not in any way living up to the quality of the product inside. A product which has been developed using a very considered formula of scientific musings and rather specially selected ingredients. This is therefore an example of prioritising some form of aesthetic design convention over basic functionality and user experience. Has the Brand Manager – or better still, the Head of Design & Innovation – ever actually used the product for more than one or two pumps, and gone through these same frustrations, then made the call that this is ‘bang on’ and not a thing should change? I think not.
What’s more, this packaging design is contributing to unnecessary wastage. The once upon a time innovation of the packaging pump isn’t really all that innovative, IMHO. Easier on the eye, perhaps, but somewhat ineffective in the hand, more’s the pity. And, no doubt, I’m paying a premium for the ‘convenience’ of the pump format at a personal cost to myself. I don’t dare tot up the minutes I spend each month on the aforementioned sequence of events, let alone consider the amount of semi–finished products I am personally sending to landfill each month. (I diligently place them in the container recycling bin, each time, but who knows where it ends up afterwards.)
So, what’s the answer? I don’t pretend to know anything about industrial design, but I do have some thoughts for consideration, obv, as follows.
1. Bring on the refill
Aside from the development of a very different, more efficient packaging format in general, one no brainer suggestion would be the mandatory introduction of the simple refill for all FMCG (fast moving consumer goods). Dettol do it with their hand wash and the refill bottles are also made of a lighter, less plasticy, more squeezy (and presumably, more sustainable) bottle than the original pump (aargh), which feels better on the conscience. It goes without saying that the refill should be cheaper than the original (must it really be a) pump version.
2. Consumers usually know best
Let’s take a moment to reconsider the traditional U&A consumer focus group (Usage & Attitude). I used to attend hundreds of these when I worked as an advertising planner on P&G, back in the early noughties. They were boring as bat shit for some, but absolutely fascinated me. Watching, and listening to, people recount their personal battles and humiliations with the new product they were trialing, provided genuine insight into how we could turn the consumer experience from distinctly average, to completely bloody amazing. And, give them their due, the nerdy little P&G bods would always go back to their drawing board and get it sorted.
3. Back to some basics
Bring back the simple tube of cream/lotion, all is forgiven… It works. It didn’t need updating, glitzing or pumping. It’s an innovation that stands the test of time. Some brands still use the humble tube in their product repertoire, albeit traditionally for small amounts of lovely, posh hand cream (wasted on me!) versus vast quantities of body lotion. Regardless, the point is this: you can squeeze, roll and manipulate the bejesus out of the product within a tube and get exactly what you paid for (just like you do with a tube of toothpaste, for example, versus the more contemporary (but irritating) toothpaste pump version). And when you’re done with the last drop, you simply ditch it at a rather satisfying fraction of the original size it came in. Bingo.
So, in summary, it seems to me that innovation in this space doesn’t necessarily equal ‘new’ and ‘different’. It can sometimes be as simple as the old mantra: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
I thank you and goodnight. 🙂
Next up: ‘loyalty’ programs.