In stores, customers spend just 3 to 10 seconds standing in front of products as they decide whether to buy them. Regardless of the significant time and money put into marketing products in places outside store walls, customers evaluate most products based mainly on their appearance in the store. That means that packaging is tremendously important.

Packaging must sell itself to the customer, over and above any competitors on the shelf. Redesigned packages offer the excitement of exhibiting something new, but they also might alienate customers who find them unfamiliar. Yet increasing the visibility of any package on the shelf helps increase sales—which may be why Pringles keeps packaging its crisps in tubes that differ greatly from the formless bags further down the aisle.

But not all product packaging can, or should, remain the same, the way Pringles has. Doublemint Gum undertook its first packaging redesign in 2006—nearly a century after its 1914 product launch. The move was designed to help the chewing gum appeal to a younger audience, even while it maintained its loyal base of older consumers. Another aging brand, Kraft’s Macaroni & Cheese, similarly redesigned its packaging, which it launched originally in 1937.

For Nonni’s Biscotti, the most recent package resign involved adding a window to the front of the box, so customers could see the texture of the baked treats. The biscotti, stacked vertically instead of horizontally, now help give a grander impression of the product. Furthermore, by adding decorative touches to make the packaging more visually appealing, Nonni’s could encourage customers to leave the box right on their countertops, easily accessible to snackers.

Redesigning packaging creates a Catch-22 for producers. What is it?

Why, after nearly 100 years, would familiar brands change their look?

Christine Birkner, “Thinking Outside of the Box,” Marketing News, March 30, 2011.