Demographic Segmentation Becomes Common Packaging Strategy

Demographic segmentation, the time-tested tool of mass media advertisers, is becoming a more common packaging strategy as food companies develop line extensions to appeal to every conceivable sliver of the population.

By Kate Bertrand, Packaging Editor

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For kids’ beverages, Tetra Pak (www.tetrapakusa.com), Vernon Hills, Ill., has developed the Tetra Wedge Aseptic Clear package, an aseptic stand-up pouch. The transparent, squeezable package launched initially last May in Mexico with a children’s juice product. The pouch has smooth sides and no sharp edges, and its slim 6.75-ounce design makes it easy for kids to handle.

When children grow into teens and young adults, the packaging strategy must change to suit their developmental stage. Jones Soda Co. (www.jonessoda.com), Seattle, has done a masterful job of using packaging and other marketing tools to attract 12- to 24-year-olds.

Recognizing the importance of interactivity in marketing to this demographic, the company offers a veritable interactive playground for young people at its website. Among other things, visitors can submit their favorite photos for use on Jones Soda labels. New images are rotated in frequently.

Jones Soda CEO Peter van Stolk says there are three keys to appealing to the 12- to 24-year-old demographic: “Stay relevant, be fun and be interactive. Make sure the packaging is fun and exciting — that it captures their attention as well as conveying the brand message.”
Jones Soda CEO Peter van Stolk says there are three keys to appealing to the 12- to 24-year-old demographic: “Stay relevant, be fun and be interactive. Make sure the packaging is fun and exciting — that it captures their attention as well as conveying the brand message.”

To appeal to the 12- to 24-year-old demographic, “The three basic foundations are: Stay relevant, be fun and be interactive. Make sure the packaging is fun and exciting—that it captures their attention as well as conveying the brand message,” advises Jones Soda’s CEO Peter van Stolk.

At the other end of the age continuum, elderly consumers represent an important demographic. To create packaging that attracts these consumers, functional features such as ease of opening are more important than package graphics.

“The Nestlé Country Creamery product was actually designed with older consumers in mind. Since it is easier to open than paperboard cartons, and since it is resealable, it keeps the ice cream fresher longer,” says Datamonitor Naples’ Vierhile.

The Nestlé package, a 1.75-quart, oval plastic tub with an easy-open lid, has molded ribs for ease of gripping. However, the package includes no overt appeal to older consumers.

Another product covertly targeted to older consumers is Hellmann’s Easy Out! Mayonnaise from Unilever (www.unilever.com), Englewood Cliffs, N.J. The Easy Out! Package is a 24-oz. plastic squeeze bottle with rounded shoulders.

“This seems to be designed with arthritis sufferers in mind, since it doesn’t require scraping, digging or shaking to get the last of the contents out of the bottle — difficult acts if you are older and suffer from arthritis,” Vierhile says. The reason for downplaying these packages’ senior-friendly features may not be intuitively obvious, but it does demonstrate the brand owners’ savvy about the senior segment.

When designing packaging to meet the needs of seniors, a population where hand strength, flexibility and other physical debilitation is not uncommon, “You have to make sure you don’t pander to them with design cues that say, ‘This is for people who are debilitated,’” says Ken Miller, managing director at industrial-design firm laga | One80 Design (www.one80design.com), New York. “When you do that, not only do you alienate your target, but you alienate everybody else who thinks it’s for elderly people. It’s a double whammy.”

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