LONDON: In an age of social media, it is understandable that marketers devote so much effort to digital channels for the launch of new products, but a new report has shown how important good package design remains to be successful.

Research firm Nielsen analysed 9,900 product launches across Europe for its Breakthrough Innovation Report and concluded that package design, one of the least heralded aspects of marketing, was a major factor behind the most successful product launches over the last two years.

Nielsen identified 11 new products that "truly broke through" with European consumers insofar as they generated at least €7.5m in sales in the first year of launch – or €5m for launches in Eastern Europe – and maintained at least 90% of that figure in the second year.

With consumers making nearly 60% of their product decisions actually at the store shelf, the Nielsen report emphasised how good package design is a key factor that influences their purchasing behaviour.

"Package design is the dark horse of the marketing world. It receives little attention to other marketing decisions, and its impact tends to be vastly underestimated," said Ben Schubert, SVP at Nielsen Innovation Practice.

"Back-to-basics marketing, such as how essential it is to stand out at the shelf, has become slightly lost due to marketers' increasing focus on where to advertise in a media-saturated world," he continued.

"Nearly 60% of product decisions are made at the shelf, and 56% of European consumers say in-store discovery is one of their top information sources for new products, compared to 45% for TV ads."

The 11 brands making it into Nielsen's shortlist included Reckitt Benckiser's Air Wick Pure air freshener; Procter & Gamble's AZ Complete personal care brand; Coca-Cola's Finley soft drink brand; Colgate Défi Zéro Carie toothpaste; the Süt Burger made by Turkish food group, Eti; and FrutoNyanya Na Progulku, the Russian fruit drink.

Recognition also went to Whiskas, the Mars-owned cat food brand, which launched a dry food product in the UK with packaging that made use of more vibrant colours, larger fonts and clearer labelling.

"It may sound simple, but in the split-second when consumers make that decision about which cat food to buy, these things really make a difference and give consumers confidence that their cat is getting the right nutrition," said Gina Head, Senior Brand Manager at Mars Petcare.

Gold Mine Beer Zhivoe, the Russian premium beer brewed by Efes Rus, also emerged as a successful brand that took an innovative approach to its packaging.

As an unpasteurised beer, Zhivoe has a limited shelf life but a fresher taste, so the brand's agency created a bottle that resembled a freshly poured glass of beer.

Nielsen's Schubert said this helped to forge a more visceral connection in consumers' minds about the refreshing taste of draft beer.

"It was so unlike traditional beer packaging that the bottle practically leapt off shelves and retailers actively began requesting to stock the product," he said.

Data sourced from Nielsen; additional content by Warc staff