GOOD THINGS COME IN CONVENIENT PACKAGES

Dr Pepper/Seven Up is so serious about consumer-friendly packaging that it's using a "breakthrough" approach to the redesign of the five-year-old Hawaiian Punch design: It's letting consumers have the last word.An online competition is letting teens update the look of the brand. Hawaiian Punch will refine four of the designs and post them on bolt.com, a youth-oriented Web site, in February 2002. Teens

Dr Pepper/Seven Up is so serious about consumer-friendly packaging that it's using a "breakthrough" approach to the redesign of the five-year-old Hawaiian Punch design: It's letting consumers have the last word.

An online competition is letting teens update the look of the brand. Hawaiian Punch will refine four of the designs and post them on bolt.com, a youth-oriented Web site, in February 2002. Teens will then select the final package design, which will be officially introduced on the brand's 20-ounce bottle in July 2002.

The new design will eventually be produced on all other Hawaiian Punch packages, including 12-packs, 2-liters and 12-ounce cans. The company will award a $1,000 grand prize and three runner-up prizes of $250.

"Instead of using focus groups or telling a creative agency to cater to teens, we decided to go right to the teens themselves," Matt Smith, brand manager, Hawaiian Punch, told Brand Marketing.

The repackaging is a critical part of Plano, Texas-based Dr Pepper/Seven Up's efforts to reposition the Hawaiian Punch brand, which it purchased from Procter & Gamble Co. in 1998. When P&G owned it, Hawaiian Punch was geared mostly to moms, according to Smith. Dr Pepper/Seven Up, however, is targeting it to teens, with 12- to 15-year-olds as the core group.

By letting teens play a major role in the packaging redesign, Dr Pepper /Seven Up hopes to boost consumer awareness of the brand, Smith said.

"There are so many choices in the soft drink aisle, so [marketers] have to do something to make their brands stand out," said Smith.

Packaging strongly affects brand equity because it communicates product benefits and attracts consumers at the point of sale, according to Cheskin Research, Redwood Shores, Calif., a brand experience research and consulting firm. Packaging makes the final sales pitch, seals the commitment and gets a product placed in the shopping cart, according to Cheskin.

"Today, companies aren't competing for shelf space; they're competing for affinity," noted Dorothy Deasy, strategic director, Cheskin.

Consumers are increasingly looking for packages that are more convenient and flexible, like twist-off closures on juice cartons, personal-size milk bottles, zipper-closures and no-spill (sports-cap) water, according to the Consumer Network, Philadelphia.

Shoppers would also welcome more packages that can be easily opened, prevent spills and are shaped to fit the hand. So, portability and recloseability are among the attributes that can help make their brands more attractive.

StarKist Seafood, an affiliate of the H.J. Heinz Co., Pittsburgh, is doing just that by expanding the use of its Flavor Fresh Pouch, an easy-to-open, vacuum-sealed bag. The Pouch debuted in September 2000 to cater to on-the-go consumers, and is now also being featured in StarKist's newly launched Lunch To-Go, a mobile meal that features StarKist tuna. Replacing the Charlie Lunch Kit, which featured traditional StarKist canned tuna, Lunch To-Go includes crackers, low-calorie mayonnaise, a spoon, a napkin and a mint. The packaging also doubles as a mixing tray for the ingredients.

"I think you'll see the Pouch in upcoming new products, and an arsenal of other packaging innovations from StarKist," Pam Koren, brand manager, new products, StarKist, told Brand Marketing.

The best way for marketers to create such consumer-friendly packaging is to understand what's happening in consumers' lives. Once this is ascertained, packaging should fit into such lifestyles, said Deasy of Cheskin.

Among the do's, according to Deasy:

Look at the core values of the brand and make sure all aspects of the product reflects those values.

View the brand from the eyes of the consumer, rather than the eyes of the corporation. This means asking such questions as: "How will consumers use this?" "What needs will it address?" "What ways will it fit into their lifestyles?"

Since it's important that brands have their own personalities, marketers should steer clear of me-too products. "There's a need for differentiation," Deasy stressed.

Among other don'ts, according to Beth Webert, national account manager, Presentation Packaging, Minneapolis, a specialty packaging firm:

Packaging that's difficult to open.

Packaging that can't be used again once it's opened.

Overpackaging.

As for areas of opportunity, many of the boxed-meal and shelf-stable products can go further in terms of communicating freshness and health, said Deasy.

In specific categories, the majority of respondents to a Consumer Network survey said that packaging improvements are needed in sugar and flour (80%), drugs in pill and tablet form (68%), crackers and cookies (61%), chips (58%), canned soft drinks (58%), cereal (57%), milk (55%) and 2-liter soft drinks (50%).

The research also shows wide interest in packages that can be harmlessly composted or put in the garbage disposal, packages that can be stored in places like fanny packs, and packages that go beyond tamper evidence to indicate whether the product's contents have been damaged or broken.

More and more manufacturers are trying to respond to such consumer demands. For StarKist, accommodating time-starved consumers is key.

"It's very important for Heinz and StarKist to have consumer-friendly packaging," said Koren of StarKist.

Citing that more than 31 million consumers bring their lunch to work two to five times a week and a U.S. Department of Labor statistic showing that about 60% of women are in the workforce, Koren said Lunch To-Go is a solution for consumers with hectic lifestyles.

"Anything that makes their lives easier will help our brand stand in the forefront," she said

In the last few years, StarKist has beefed up interaction between its packaging, engineering and marketing departments, according to Koren. As part of this effort, all parties involved listen to what consumers want.

"If you deliver what consumers want, they'll become more loyal to your brand," Koren said.

That goes for both the young and old. In the case of the former, ConAgra Dairy Foods, a division of ConAgra Foods, just launched Parkay Fun Squeeze, a kid-oriented margarine that comes in two fun colors: "Electric Blue" and "Shocking Pink." Fun Squeeze comes in kid-friendly 10-ounce portable bottles that feature no-slip side grips that "make it easier for small hands to hold and squeeze." There's also a flip-top cap with a smaller spout, designed to control portions and mess.

Inspired by the demand for products that are fun, convenient and easy for kids to use, Fun Squeeze was developed by seeking input from parents -- and kids.

"By giving kids their own foods and incorporating fun and creativity into mealtime, kids are more likely to stay engaged and participate in one of the most important times of the day," said Rich Scalise, president and chief executive officer, ConAgra Dairy.