Competition on shelf

I was at a conference last week and someone had this picture in their presentation. I think it truely shows the reality of what your competition looks like and the environment we are up against when merchandising our products. This happens to be a grocery store but I would imagine it is the same in other outlet especially Wal-mart.

Pretty crazy sight!!!

wow, it’s really a jungle in there

that is true, but its a big picture shot right? Most of the time when people are in the store they get focused in to the 4’-8’ area where the (insert food item here) is, right? Its still alot of competition in that area, but not like a box of cookies are competing with the whole store. Although you could argue that they are competing will all snacks throughout the store, apples, yogurt, nuts, etc. But i guess thats the question of how people decide to buy whats in the store. I know personally if i dont want any cookies i dont even really spend any time in the cookie section, i really dont think “do i want cookies or apples for a snack this week?”

Its the same with alot of items, you can look at a huge wall of shoes at a finish line, but the football cleat is not really having to compete with the sandals.

not saying that the image does not have meaning, but i think its a bit of a propaganda slide to prove a point. Not like ive never done that though :sunglasses:

I think it has to do with the personality & intrepidity of the shopper. I’m like you: get in, get what I need, get out, don’t let anything divert me from my task at hand. But we know how the game works, what’s going on, what’s behind the veneer how to navigate the rough waters. Some people aren’t so steadfast. They linger, browse, meander, waver. They’re the most susceptible to the jungle fever & ensuing frenzy.

I agree this shows more of the big picture than just the shelf itself, but it does show all of the categories and product a package is up against when setting on a shelf. When a consumer walks into a store, whether it be for a in and out run or a long list of products to by, they are hit with sensory overload. This does not matter if you are in the produce aisle of if you are in the candy aisle your choices are enormous. Although I also agree that most people go to the grocery store with at least something in mind that they need to buy and many people pass up certain aisles because they either do not need it or just do not want it, but when it does come time for you to find what you need this picture is what you are navigating through. How many times have you been to the grocery store and were looking for one certain item and spent 10-15 min weaving through the aisles only to find it was right underneath your nose? I think this picture show why that happens.

As far as how a shopper shops…They shop much more than 4 feet at a time. they walk down an aisle until visual cues that they recognize grab their eye. If your package does not stand out, you get passed up. Simple as that. Now in a shoe store, I agree not the same. In Wal-Mart with everything anyone could ever need (or not) I think the same shopping behaviors apply.

For sure a product or brand is always going to need to stand out. This is an important thing I think for designers to consider, the “context” a product/packaging exists in, the first time a consumer may see it.

In the past, this meant as bright colors as possible, as many callout bubbles or stars (“new!” “Improved” “50% more!”)… just look at your average package design for a supermarket. There is so much going on with color, drop shadows, crazy swirls and as much visual noise as possible thinking this attracts the consumer and attempting to stand out from the competition with more visual impact than the product beside you. At some point, you have no idea what you are actually buying or what the brand stands for as the package is so littered with junk marketing wants to “stand out”…I’d bet that if some marketing guy could find a way to have flashing LEDs on the box, they would (I hope this doesn’t give anyone an idea…)

New thinking (and better, IMHO) looks at the context and product in a more integrated approach. Cutting through the noise by having less noise, not more. Just look at some of the more minimal packaging designs that have been discussed a while back in other threads. To me I think this approach is preferred, as the product and brand have more true personality and stand out through clarity, not obsfucation.

Another thing to consider is the experience of the consumer when interacting with the product/brand in the midst of all this competition and noise. If you get them to pick your package/product up for some reason, how do you seal the deal and get a purchase? This is as much, if not more important than standing out because ultimately no purchase means no sale. regardless of if they picked it up. Overall design, features, price, etc aside, I think this is about delivering on the promises your product offers from a shelf view, and engaging the consumer through the experience. I like to suggest to all my clients and jr. designers to consider the interaction from a series of levels-

(i consider the following for footwear, but works just as well for packaging or anything else I think).

  1. the product stands out from the shelf. Bold color, unique shape, etc. something on a high level that the consumer can see from 10’ away.

  2. the product is still identifiable from 5’ away and gives the user a reason to pick it up. Ideally there should be another level of detail that you didn’t notice from 10’ away. maybe it’s a more subtle pattern, a special hangtag, material textures, etc.

  3. you pick the product up and turn it around in your hand. again, you notice something new. maybe it’s a surprise bold color on the bottom, maybe it’s the feel or weight of it. something exciting that makes you want to try it on, or buy it.

  4. you try it on, or buy it and immediately there is also another level of experience. it could be the feel inside (the shoe), the way the thing works, or a nice packaging detail when unboxing.

  5. you live with the product for some time. even after a while, there are still details that surprise and things you didn’t notice when you purchased it (good things of course). maybe a tiny inscription someplace. maybe ease of cleaning that first time you need to do so. maybe something hidden under a replaceable part. maybe a consideration of aging and how a patina develops.

If you can design a product that works at all these levels, you score. Apple (as usual) is a great example of following this.


Exactly… but, to a point. If everyone adopted this minimal package design, once again, no one would stand out and we’d be back to putting LEDs flashing in boxes to get attention. (Yes, its already been done in the toy section for years…)

Look at the Method brand.

compared to Dial (which is even pretty restrained for this type of package/brand

Method sells well to a younger demographic. Dial probably still sells well from brand recognition to 50 year old women.

PackageID… you’re going to have to get me the name of that store… my god they could do with a make over.

It looks like a Cub Foods, owned and operated by Supervalu. It represents all that is wrong with grocery stores in my opinion. You can even make out the “Natural and Organic” food section of the shelves (they bow out towards the aisle slightly)

When determining a communication strategy to cut through the clutter, visual or copy, there is an easy tool I use. It’s an inverted triangle divided into 4 horizontal sections (the top section being wide, the bottom section being the tip). This is to convey the focusing of your communication strategy in 3 areas:

Strategic goals (top to bottom) - Impact/Differentiation/Value Proposition/Buy In

Tactical goals (top to bottom) - Attract/Orient/Inform/Confirm

Outcomes (top to bottom) - Awareness/Interest/Desire/Action

The last is obviously the age-old AIDA chart, but I still find it valuable when organizing a communications platform.

good one. might have to borrow that. did you make it up, or is it from somewhere else I can credit?


I agree. Sound like a good tool. Do you have a link showing this or a diagram? This would be a great tool to show marketing.

first off… great discussion here.

To your point packageID, i think this is true in a very general sense, and maybe thats where you meant it to be. But it does not take into account a couple very big factors; Price and History.

There are quite a few products that i buy often because of those factors, and im wont comment on whether everyone does or not, but i know maybe half of what i buy (at the grocery store) has no affiliation to brand, its just the peanut butter/toilet paper/orange juice that is on sale that week, regardless of visual cues. I guess its in fact the local grocers visual cues that are the catalyst to my buying (the little “sale” hangtags that are on the edge of the shelf).
The other would be history, ill pick mission brand tortillas for example, through buying these one week because they were probably on sale or maybe tried they at someone elses house (i really don’t remember) i determined that these are the best tortillas that i find at supermarkets. Regardless of their price and what the package design of them or their competitor are i will buy these every time i run out.

i guess it begs the question that i think we all face sometimes; who is really buying into the (in this case) packaging, is it the client that is looking for a new look and just wants to look better next to competitor A,B, and C or is it really meant for the consumer to make them buy product A over B if all things are equal, which with price and history factored in they usually never are.

all that being said it makes me realize the importance of a brand having owned retail, or being in distribution where its not you and hundreds of other brands slugging it out on the floor.

I would hate to be the new candybar on the block sitting next to Mars, BabyRuth, Butterfingers, etc on the shelf. It would have to be something that really made me trust that I would like the product… or at least want to try something new. Branding and consumer touchpoints are huge parts of buying products, not just the way it looks

Obviously, AIDA and the inverted triangle chart is as old as dirt. I didn’t come up with Attract/Orient/Inform/Confirm, but I don’t know who to credit and I think it too is as old as dirt. I did determine the categories (strategic goals, tactical goals and outcomes) and I did the Impact/Differentiation/Value Proposition/Buy In. As you can tell, that is the weakest of the categories but if I am talking about tactical goals and outcomes, I needed to come up with strategic goals too. It is the best I could do.

Also, when I say I, it was a collaborative process.

Here is a picture of an AIDA chart,