Oral Care Consumer Research Insights

Posted: May 2, 2014 by
Ron Romanik

Though they were already the dominant player in its category, Water Pik Inc. felt a thoroughly new Waterpik® consumer oral health package design strategy could reestablish the brand globally across all products. Waterpik products are premium, contemporary, and innovative products, which provide clinically proven health benefits.
The solution developed by Brandimage Degrippes & Laga was to develop a new design strategy and color platform that contained a new product description and reasons to believe that the new product statement is easier and more effective than traditional dental floss. The design and research process contained consumer-naming research that revealed the new description of a “Water Flosser.”

Targeting research
Waterpik Inc. was looking for a more consumer-centric approach to its oral health package design that would be more relevant in today’s retail landscape. “The objective was to dramatically improve relevance," says Don Childs, v.p. executive creative director at Brandimage. Research guided by Brandimage revealed a number of actionable insights that Brandimage and Waterpik applied to the package design strategy.
Dan Cover, senior marketing manager of Water Pik Inc., explains that the research found some new areas of opportunity but also confirmed some beliefs long held by the company about their customers. The redesign project expectation was to target the non-user more directly while retaining the main existing messages of high quality, effectiveness, and proven technology.
The project team interviewed shoppers in the dental care aisle as well as conducted online qualitative and quantitative studies. “We love using research not just to validate, but to inform our design process,” explains Mark Morse, director, client services at Brandimage. In a project like this, Morse says that the more open-ended the questions, the better. Interview questions early in the conversation can tend toward the obtuse to prevent interviewees from second-guessing their own feelings and thoughts.
Childs believes that it is important to empower research subjects to give them confidence in their own opinions. Researchers can successfully turn the tables by treating shoppers like experts who can educate the researchers. “Consumers want to help you,” Childs explains. “They want to be part of the team.”
The research discovered more than a few areas of opportunity. For instance, Brandimage and Water Pik Inc. found that many potential consumers did not have a deep understanding of the benefits of Waterpik products. These consumers were skeptical that the purchase would be a worthy investment. Another perception was that the products were old-fashioned. Many customers who had used the product in their youth had fond memories of the brand and its effectiveness but no longer had a desire to use the product.
However, a segment of modern consumers who place a premium on health and personal hygiene had already believed that Waterpik products were a more effective alternative to flossing. The goal of the package design project was to communicate to all of these consumer segments what the product is, what it does, and why they need it. Brandimage imagined what questions aisle shoppers would need answered to close the deal, such as: Do I use it everyday? Why is it beneficial? Do I need this? Which model is right for me?

Defining the elements
Brandimage likes to break down the package design process into three broad phases. Phase 1 tackles the core essence or idea of the product, and attempts to solve the big problems first. Phase 2 develops primary communication tactics for hitting on the key messages, and Phase 3 takes those tactics to the secondary panels to elucidate functional benefits, make the product more familiar, and cross sell.
The design team wanted to combine several dichotomous messages to achieve a synthesis of technology, effectiveness, beauty, spa therapy, health, performance, and convenience. The team felt a new product name was the keystone for the rest of the design elements. The ideal name would sound appealing at first sight and encourage flossing everyday. The new “water flosser” description captured the product benefit of harnessing the power of water yet still leveraging the equities of the Waterpik brand.
Childs looked at the scope of the design project as an opportunity to create an entirely new visual language—one that is also emotional—based around the key brand messages. “It gave us a window into a fresh way to talk about things,” he explains. The process looks to define strategic verbal and visual "tones of voice" to give meaning to the brand and articulate a vision. Those platforms would inspire, guide, and direct the design. The tones of voice were: 1) Healthy glow; 2) Hydrotherapy; and 3) Technological evolution.

Maximizing the graphics
Infrequent purchases in this category mean that the typical Waterpik consumer is encountering the shelf set as if it were a new product category. The front panel of a such a product must engage but not confuse consumers. Water Pik's old package design was mired in a complicated context that needed to be simplified and energized.
The new packages’ front panel graphics center on the tip of the device, where the “magic” starts to happen. Some Waterpik devotees call the device handle their “wand,” which to them is technical, modern, and magical. The pulsating spa experience emanates from much cleaner and more vibrant Caribbean water blues. Showing a hand holding the wand on each package both personalizes the product and provides a size reference for the shopper. Consumers better understand the product in the box, which is hidden from inspection, and can more easily envision themselves holding the wand at home.
The icon system at the bottom of the package attempts to apply a shorthand way of indicating relative feature differences and number of options to educate consumers at shelf so they get the right model for them. The warranty length, in years, is displayed as a corresponding number of stars, an icon often used to rate movies and restaurants. Trading up is encouraged by indicating the number of tips, water capacity, pressure settings, tip storage, and relative quietness.
Childs explains that icons draw shoppers to the key information. On the side panels, the key information is reinforced with more size references and use occasions. On the back panel, text and graphics continue to reinforce the main brand messages. "The package is a storyteller,” Childs says.

Globalizing production
With both minor and significant package differences in various global markets, another dynamic part of this project was the delivery of the design intent. Part of the solution was creating an information hierarchy on all the panels that could be applied consistently without exception. “Waterpik needed a system that would flex with them and grow,” says Todd Mannira, production director at Brandimage.
Realizing and translating the new colors were imperative for success. Knowing this, Brandimage implemented a global print management and print quality program called Design Integrity Management. It partnered with EskoArtwork and Sun Chemical to utilize real ink color targets and leveraged the in-house Kodak Approval to provide accurate color target proofs to all the printers.
Mannira explains that these tools make it possible to predict accurately what the packages will look like ahead of time, from profile to proof. Waterpik wanted to “own” its vibrant Caribbean blue color and maintain the integrity of its color targets across substrates and across the world. Sun Chemical’s SmartColor Ivue, which predicts how a million colors look on a wide variety of substrates, helped achieve that goal.
“We didn’t design ourselves into a corner,” Mannira explains. The back-end visual management went well because of the precalibrated profiles that were matched across substrates. Brandimage delivered color standards and digital application data sets for printing characterizations and printing processes. All four Chinese printers, for instance, followed the near neutral calibration with all press sheet samples received having a very low Delta ^E color variation measurement (less than 2.0 between all press runs). Additional benefits include shorter make-readies and less waste in the overall runs, not to mention great color execution. “It’s a new era in managing color—color engineering instead of color management,” Mannira says.