Package Update: You Only Fail When You Quit

December 6th, 2011

Anyone who has every created or even bought a consumer product knows the power of the package.  Some would go so far as to say that the package matters more than the ingredients. I have even heard it said that it is a matter of life or death for the product. Finding the right package and having a compelling design is no small thing when a potential customer has 43 seconds to decide what they will take home.

I have spent the last several months working to perfect our love oil packaging, which has always lived in cobalt blue glass bottles. Our leap to a sleek aluminum bottle with a sexy little pump top is at once a simple, minimalist,  and beautifully improved  delivery system. I tested this bottle in a variety of intimate positions and was heartened to find it wouldn’t spill even if the little pump top got lost in the sheets. We were making a quantum leap from the orifice reducers and slippery disc caps that fitted in glass.

I have an amazing designer. He teaches me about the rules of color, which I promise to never question and through his sensibilities he turns our simple little love business into something that is  so beautifully compelling that sometimes I think our success is really just about him. So our new beautiful aluminum bottles get fitted with tasteful transparent labels, which were delivered just about a week ago. We are all content, joyful even at how things evolve when you stay with them.

Then the mystery begins. We ship the love oils out to our waiting distributors and customers. They leak on the way there. They return the leaky products. We clean them up, we lay them on their sides, we set them upside down.  They don’t leak.  In fact, they refuse to leak in the most ridiculous of positions. Yet when you send them in a box, the oil refuses to stay in the bottle. Leaking love oil bottles is a small crisis for a small business. Actually, I don’t mind a slippery bottle, but it is not commercially viable. The problem is that it is hard to fix something when you can’t identify where it is broken.

While driving my kids to school I hear an NPR story about a package design flaw that is literally a life and death situation. The Cup of Noodles’ small base and wide top is the easiest and most lethal pushover of a container on the market. Who knew that those slippery noodles were also heat conductors and that with the slightest tip were injuring dozens of small children, giving them scars and even, in some cases, permanent disabilities. How can  a product redesign not be required?  How can a company justify selling millions of Cups of Noodles knowing that a single spill can result in so much damage?

I would like to have a word with the manufacturers of Cup of Noodles and share an oily bottle of love oil with them. Package design is critical and costly,  but safety and functionality, are foremost. When it comes to product design, first do no harm and then make sure they don’t leak.

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