Questions to Ask When Hiring a Package Design Firm

In “Key Considerations When Vetting Your Strategic Partner,” we determined how you should vet your strategic design agency by exploring the three tiers of strategic requirements. Design Thinking Strategy, focused primarily on how to link the package design to underlying, unrealized opportunities in the marketplace. Brand Strategy includes a wide range of strategic tools, from positioning, consumer segmentation and persona development, name development, consumer research and the development of strategic imperatives that support how the packaging needs to personify the brand promise. Business Strategy is defined by the business strategy which reflects the greater context of the direction of the organization.

So now what? As you begin your selection process, it is important to ask the right questions. Here are the top six questions you must ask your potential agency:

1. Does the firm have the bench strength reflecting the given tier of project strategic complexity?

Bench strength is defined by the ability of the firm to deliver the design thinking, positioning, and validation as defined by a clear internal process. The level of sophistication and strategic prowess can be determined through the type of processes and case studies the design firm applies to similar projects and challenges. Strategy is predominantly defined by how the agency thinks and applies insights to design executions.

2. Has the firm demonstrated relevant experience within the given product category, or transferrable knowledge to the given business?

Each industry and product category have unique dynamics driving the opportunities and risk. It’s important that the firm demonstrates a strong understanding of these category dynamics and some of the underlining factors influencing the success of a project. The best way to gauge relevant experience by requesting one case study strongly reflecting similar challenges and how the firm tackled the recommended opportunity.

3. Does the firm have the appropriate team and company culture to support the strategic initiative?

Experience on a category comes from both case studies of similar challenges in addition to the knowledge gained by the agency’s designated project team. One of the biggest concerns from clients is the assurance that the individuals pitching their business are the same ones leading the charge. Having the agency outline the project staffing chart with key roles in addition to the amount of time each is being allocated to the project provides some assurance the right talent is slated for the right phase of the project. The second part of evaluating the team is the importance of ensuring both the agency and client cultures are aligned. Very often, a misalignment around company cultures leads to relationship and process friction points and a high level of anxiety on both parties.

4. Is there a defined process outlining each step and the underlining reasons for reach?

One of the biggest challenges in any major project that touches numerous departments is the appropriate management of senior executive expectations. Having a clearly outlined Gantt chart with assigned phases and tasks aligned to given dates on the calendar will ensure all stakeholders are appraised of their involvement and when key milestones are being achieved. Very often, major rebranding project timelines are derailed due to poor planning; it is important to ensure things like holidays and management travel do not conflict with the project timelines, and key approval dates.

5. Can the firm articulate key insights around barriers to success and key issues to avoid during the redesign?

Major strategy-driven design projects require insights allowing the process to avoid potential hurdles. It could range from insights on how change is absorbed and aligned internally within an organization to more executional challenges an organization may be facing through the rebranding journey. It’s important to ask agencies under consideration what are potential pitfalls and hurdles needing to be avoided to ensure a smooth and frictionless execution.

6. Is the firm nimble and agile to respond to shifts in direction based on market insights?

The majority of strategic package design initiatives start with project assumptions that need to be further validated as part of the overall process. Often new insights and market dynamics challenge these assumptions with the design agency requiring a shift in direction. These market dynamics are often created due to a change in internal client requirements such as new budget or manufacturing constraints (i.e. moving to a new production line or dyeline) or through insights derived from the strategic validation process. Ensuring that the agency demonstrates a strong ability to be nimble and responsive is key on avoiding the road bumps found in most projects.

The ultimate success of any packaging project is based on the alignment of the right experience, the strategic approach, resources, and process between the client and the designated agency. The selection process in hiring a strategic design firm must take these factors into consideration while ensuring there are no significant gaps between the client and agency expectations.

Have we missed anything? Let us know what you look for during your selection process.