Better by design: P&G’s Herbal Essences

Better by design: P&G's Herbal Essences

Design thinking is clearly on the brains of marketers behind some pretty big brands. We asked two to pen a piece about how responding to consumer needs has influenced a recent launch

Krista Schwartz

P&G global design manager, retail hair care


As P&G’s global design manager, Schwartz, who is based in Cincinnati, creates and manages the brand’s design direction and visual identity, and leads all design work on future initiatives as well as global design innovation for Herbal Essences. In a given year, she works on at least two strategic design projects, and five to six pipeline initiatives, while also heading the Hair Care Design Innovation team, which is responsible for design innovation on all of P&G’s global hair care brands.

Graduating with a BSc in industrial design, she first worked designing lighting fixtures for retail and restaurants before joining P&G 10 years ago. Since then, she’s spent time in baby care, feminine care and corporate new ventures on brands such as Tampax and Kandoo, a kids’ personal cleaning line – a category which was previously nonexistent. She joined the hair care category about three years ago and has been on the Herbal Essences brand for two and a half years.

She writes:

Product: Herbal Essences hair care collection

When launched: August 2006 in Canada

Why design? Why now?

Herbal Essences had been in a multi-year decline in share percentage, but it had a strong heritage. By utilizing P&G’s Clay Street Project design thinking approach to solving tough business problems, we were able to thoroughly understand the consumer and her lifestyle, and we created a multi-dimensional

product/package experience for our target consumer. P&G’s Clay Street Project is set in a remodelled commercial building in the heart of Cincinnati’s inner city, just a few blocks away from the P&G head offices. The five-storey building is designed to be flexible, with wide-open spaces and all kinds of portable things to sit on, write on and play with.

Multi-functional teams come together for eight to 10 weeks to work on specific product or business challenges facilitated by the Clay Street staff, who are trained in design thinking and other processes and methodologies that enhance facilitation.

How tested:

During the exploratory phase, we used in-home visits, shop-alongs and weekly small qualitative groups to learn in-depth about our consumer. During the design phase, we used qualitatives. For the final design we measured the ‘stop, hold and close’ power of the packaging on shelf as a final decision maker.

Number of prototypes:

From exploratory to final design, around 50.

How did design thinking enhance the product?

• We used a series of design elements to engage [the consumer] visually in-store and at home.

• We broke through the clutter on the shelf by using vivid spring-like colours and a bold green shimmering logo to catch her eye. Through the dramatic design, we created a fun dance of shape and colour that also drives conditioner usage, since the shampoo and conditioners are intimately linked via the design.

• The consumer notices the abstract botanical patterns and gets engaged with

the witty collection names, such as Dangerously Straight, None of Your Frizzness and Body Envy.

• We used icon ingredient details such as Mandarin Balm and Pearls, colour fusion (for example, our Body Envy Collection is in a pink bottle with yellow product, which results in an orange final color), witty tag lines and Herbal head games on the back panel.

Is it working?

In recent consumer research, the new packaging is stated as a key reason why consumers love the new Herbal Essences hair care collection.