Product identity Shampoo v/s Conditioner which is which?

So this has been a topic that has made me think for quite some time now. So I have noticed that there is no norm or consistency when it comes to shampoo bottles. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but this most common issue that I have come across is that there is no distinction from shampoo and conditioner. There have been designs that have been done where one is a different color that the other or one is upside down and the other is not, but there is not true product language for telling them apart.

An example of my issue: My wife of course has long hair and uses both shampoo and conditioner, I on the other hand have a clipper cut so my hair is extremely short and I only require a small amount of shampoo which is usually what ever my wife buys. Both bottles are Black and the only difference between them other than the writing on one is white and the other is purple. This causes a problem as when I am showering and go to was my hair I reach down and grab the black bottle and have a 50% chance of choosing the right product. This is especially interesting as most people take showers in the morning after they wake up and the shower does not lend itself to examining thing.

My Question for discussion: I know that there are 2 in 1 products out there and each brand has come up with a different way to solve this with different shapes and colors, but what I am putting out there is how do you create that product identity. I think this is a bit different that brand identity, or is it? There are plenty of products out there that have done this. So how can you create that identity that when I go to grab the shampoo bottle, no matter what brand it is I know that it is shampoo not conditioner?

Has this research been done? Are there any P&G designers on here that could give some insight? What other products have done this? What other example of product identity are out there?

I actually like the upside down/rightside up ‘puzzle piece’ design language. It says ‘these go together, but are different.’

Another issue that came to me is that when people take showers they might be half asleep and not wearing any necessary corrective lenses. In such cases it might be really hard to read labels, since most are printed with only 20/20 vision in mind.

Interesting question though, one that I’ve never really thought about, since like you I just grab whatever is in the shower.

Edit: I was just thinking, why don’t more companies embrace the idea of using tactility to “show” product information. Braille seems to work pretty well, and our fingers can provide an amazing amount of feedback.

Another issue that came to me is that when people talk showers they might be half asleep and not wearing any necessary corrective lenses. In such cases it might be really hard to read labels, since most are printed with only 20/20 vision in mind.

This just adds to my point.

on a couple of occassions I have been asked to pick up some shampoo or conditioner for my wife and wow… talk about confusing.
I always have to pick up the bottle and read in small print what it actually is. Someone should design a packge that just says in big bold letts down the side “SHAMPOO” and “CONDITIONER” nothing more, nothing less.
It would be the first thing I’d grab for.

I dont’ want SHAM poo, I want the real thing.

I see what you’re saying though, seems more like an iconic problem, like has been solved with ketchup and mustard, salt and pepper, etc.

This could fall under structural branding. Axe, for example, has a lot of great products with a well thought out form language more akin to tools, but, like you say, no differentiation between shampoo & conditioner.

Depending on the qualities that are most identified with these washing & grooming products that you want to reinforce, you could have a line with different sizes, bottles with different diameters, visual cues, structural mnemonics. Consumers would be more likely to want to buy the whole set.

Shampoo is more basic washing while conditioner is more for finishing, scrubbing & polishing, sanding & honing, foundation & ornament

I think size would do it nicely and if I’m not mistaken sometimes the pairs are different sizes. You probably use more shampoo than conditioner doing the wash/rinse/repeat as necessary process as opposed to the apply/rinse once use of conditioner. The shampoo would most likely be the bigger bottle in the pair.

Buying Dove products, I just do not know that Conditioners come in upside down bottles and visa versa.

Could they not just do something like this…

aesthetics aside it works better when you’re staring at a gondola full of about 500 bottles…
dove new.jpg

I see what you’re driving at loafer, that makes it more legible for sure, but consider how many people mentioned reaching down to pick the bottle up. Labels and graphics face from the sides of a lot of these products to sell from the aisle. Consider they were both up-side-down bottles and “shampoo” and “conditioner” was screened across the top, nice and legible like you showed.

Sales graphics vs. Ergo graphics?

This is Precisely the product identity or product relationship that I am referring to. What is it that says shampoo or conditioner to consumers. When you see the bottles sitting in your shower you refer to them all as shampoo bottles, when in all actuality there could be multiple different products depending on how many bottles.

So what is it that has made the ketchup and mustard have such an iconic product identity no matter what brand it is?

As far as the methods that have been tried… The bottle upside down never works. The cap gets gooped up it turns into a mess and they are always common bottles that they have just changed the label on so you never know which one to put upside down and which one goes up right. The dove bottles that are shown above I have a bit of a problem with the shape. It is shaped like torpedo. It slips out of soapy hands and the cap is extremely difficult to open.

Most women go through conditioner faster than shampoo: longer hair, plus there is a trend of washing hair with conditioner only.

I avoid this problem by buying shampoo/conditioner from different brands. Your hair is not going to fall out if they don’t “match”

eta: clear bottles? there is an expectation that conditioner is opaque and shampoo is frequently clear.

I’m pretty sure that conditioner is also usually “upside down” to prevent air contamination in the product.

I’ve got H&S shampoo right now in my shower - upside down setup bought from a club store. The plug and snap/latch are way too tight, so if I pour the stuff in my hand, I always have problems closing it. Have to try to shut it against my knee or sternum and half end up slipping and breaking an appendage.

Soured me on the entire upside down bottle experience.

The above simple label suggestion is a good idea.

I stayed at a Holiday Inn last night, and they had some nicely designed stuff there. The pillows were labeled soft and firm, and the packaging for all the toiletries had only one word of text on it-the function of that product. “Cleanse,” “Condition,” etc.

Does anyone know how big of a problem this really is? Maybe this hasn’t been solved because there are lots of other problems for the category that businesses need to solve. For instance, differentiation on shelf is a huge issue for beauty products. Solving this usability challenge is in conflict with the retail challenge, because it would make more bottles look the same.

If you can show at a high level that this form of communication and usability would increase sales (and I think you could), then you have the starting point to a solid proposal…

I wish they would make the cleanser (shampoo) container transparent and the finishing solution (conditioner) container opaque. This would make life easier for me, but these are MY perceptions on the function of the products. I’m curious if others would think opposite.

Also, having the conditioner being the “bottoms up” container sucks. When any squeeze dispensed product starts getting towards empty, most people want to store that container topside down for easier delivery. Making the shampoo bottle not capable of this would just tick me off especially since I don’t use conditioner. It could easily be a deciding factor next time I purchase shampoo.

Wow . . . I haven’t posted on here in a few … so bare with me.

I am currently a packaging designer for a big corporate packaging distributor.

This whole idea shampoo vs. conditioner.
First off, not a lot of companies can afford a custom design for both products, most likely the reason for selling 2 in 1 type products.

Second off, the ones that do have money to create custom designs for both categories of products, ussually run the risk of losing all of their brand image, by coming out with a product that does not at least attempt to tie into the rest of their lineup.

So usually some marketing person who has no constructive design input, will usually get scared away from doing anything other than flipping their bottle upside down, that way they can say “Hey this is exactly like our current package, except inverted”. Marketing doesn’t like to “confuse” people, they always throw that into the mix, “well, we love the design, BUT … we don’t want to confuse the customer”. The bigger companies invest so much time and money into their brand image that usually all they want is a plastic bottle with the most label space that you can fit on their, so that their second rate graphic designer can put their lame ass graphics all over the bottle. — okay maybe venting a little their — graphics is a huge help.

The problem I think is companies and their “marketing” depts. always underestimate the consumer, they think that we’re all monkeys that might think "hey this bottle doesn’t look anything like my shampoo, it must be the "generic’ brand ".

Thats another problem, there are so many generic brands out there, including the CVS’s and Walgreens of the world that put our their version on the shelf, that it becomes even more confusing, not for the customer but for the “marketing gurus”.

So this idea to have a universal design, its not a bad one at all, and really it already goes on, on a daily basis, customers have the option to go with standard/stock bottle design that fits the category that they’re in. But some categories are so overstuffed with different brands, that companies don’t want to get lost in the shuffle with the generic bottles, so they spend all this money to put look different, to look unique, to look more valuable or whatever other descriptors you want to throw in.

But look at the some of the simpler stuff thats out there, and is still very successful. Paul Mitch, Suave, Aveda, their bottles look stock and usually are stock. but guess what, that doesn’t equal dollars in our world of custom packaging - the sales peeps always want to make a little more coin, and custom equals coin, so we don’t sell the basic stuff, unless the customer really, really asks for it. We sell what we think will sell, like that hot black dress that your girlfriend always seems to cave in and get.

I once heard a comedian say : “Packaging is like clothing for food, all you want to do is take it all off and have $3x with it” — err something like that.

My point is - packaging has to be appealing and $3xi and sometimes if you can fit it in - functional -

So in “bottle land” function always follows form. And what you’re asking for is a functional feature - to always be able to tell the shamposs from the conditioners - that is the question - much like “to be or not to be”

Did an informal walk thru at Target today and seems graphics that optimize shelf appeal are the main concern. Funny thing was, many of the bottles were in the wrong orientation. Shampoos were sometimes flipped upside down and condtioners right side up. This was either done by the consumer or maybe accidentally stocked this way because it was hard to tell the correct display unless you really studied the bottles. In the shower this gets confusing fast.