Ben Mortimer, senior designer, at Nestle, is among a team of designers based around confectionery in York that is starting to use the Kansei methodology.
The Kansei method focuses on how consumers feel about a product idea very early on in the design process, before putting pen to paper, then translating the data into a physical design that satisfies these emotional needs.
The concept originated in Japan and has been used by companies such as Mazda and Toyota.
Mortimer, speaking at a seminar called “Understanding Consumer Insight to Develop Superior Products and Packaging”, at this week’s Pro2Pac food and drink processing and packaging show in London, said the aim was to design emotion into products.
In that way emotional language like ‘stylish’, ‘premium’ or ‘quality’, is reflected in a physical package as, for example, consumers may view certain shapes as more stylish.
He said: “It is important to delight our consumers when they purchase the packaging and we really know the benefit of connecting with our consumer.
“We can see increases in sales, increases in profits and we can really target our markets.”
He added: “It is not just the packaging, it is the product itself that we can mould and shape that can have a better impact on the consumer when they come into contact with the product.”
Mortimer said they were “developing a Nestle version of Kansei that we can execute when we feel we need it on specific brands”.
This means less out-sourcing of design and he said the company already has a network of over 20 designers, predominantly for packaging, placed in a specific R&D location, in a specific brand or market area they are working on.
By studying the consumer early on, the design process becomes less about guess work and is based on something real – which is data, according to Mortimer.
It is also traceable, so you can see where the idea has come from.
And the information can be used time and again for similar brands or certain emotional cues for consumers.
Mortimer said it was early days but the idea was gathering momentum and could be seen in Nestle products such as the recently re-designed Black Magic chocolate box, for which he said that shape, colour, font and texture were all led with key consumer emotions.
He added: “At Nestle we spend a lot of time and effort and money really understanding our consumers.
“The Kansei methodology enables us to go into the mind of the consumer at an early stage and take an objective view of what might be right.”
“It gives everyone in the team a clear idea of what design success would be before we even start on the design process.”