Product Design vs. CPG Concept Process

Most all good design starts with research for consumer insights followed by benefit realization(s). CPG (consumer packaged goods) and Product Design both share this outset.

Consumers don’t buy products, they buy benefits.

As designers we are constantly keeping this in mind when thinking about creating new product extensions as well as entirely new product lines.

There is one large difference between the two, however— for this we must look deeper into the where the benefit realization occurs.

The majority of CPG investments are tied up in marketing and advertisement, followed by distribution respectively. Innovation within this industry happens with breakthrough benefits and delivery of those benefits by way of emotion-driven purchasing: As we all know, food holds very close emotional ties in people’s lives.

To deliver on these emotional need states in CPG it is conveyed through lower cost sensorial marketing verbiage, flavor profiles, and color theory. Packaging design can oftentimes become ancillary to this, because costs associated with new packaging designs can be undesirable and seen as an unnecessary externality.

Contrary to this thinking, new CPG products are differentiated by concise benefit realization and delivery methods that have close ties with packaging forms and segmentation which drives shelf velocity: Different segments of the population are naturally drawn to different forms that justify new packages, however this benefit is often overlooked due to this added cost.

This misunderstanding means that the vast majority of new CPG products are placed in existing packaging and therefore negates a perceived extraneous cost for testing, retesting and tooling that other product design categories must go through.

While segmentation remains consistent across the two industries, other product categories by in large has much more capital allocated to testing, refining, and retooling.

This is due to the consumer insights and benefit realization being exemplified through advancements in technology, engineering, extended use variables, broad environmental spectrums, materials, and aesthetics.

Where CPG is looking for new ingredient combinations tied with a delivery method as their RTB (reason to believe), new products with much longer lifespans emotional satisfaction is obtained through longer feedback loops and therefore require additional upfront tasks in the concept development phases.

Essentially, the vehicle for carrying emotional need states in Product Design is much more easily differentiated by new technology and engineering, with more capital invested in physical R&D.

When we look at the added steps for product design outside of CPG we see that it is validated by the loops of prototyping, quantifying, and refining until it meets guidelines set by user expectations while differentiating itself in market to serve the RTB.

So, as a researcher or designer consulting in multiple industries it is important to recognize where drivers for benefits originate and tailor your research process to this.

Remember, purchasing power is driven by emotional intent of the user. The required steps to get there, however are different in scope due to the inherent complexities of each industry.

Study insights, understand drivers, and ladder up to the benefit that satisfies the emotional need state.