Virtual Shopping Uncovers Unexpected Insights During Packaging Optimization

A global cereal brand was the pioneer of its category, but due to pressure from smaller, more agile players in the category, it was now facing sales decline.

The VP of Insights and her marketing team had a hypothesis that it was time to renovate their packaging as part of a brand revitalization.


We know that consumers are rarely able to objectively represent their world and provide a rational, logical response to their shopping behavior. Our recommended approach went beyond what consumers say by observing and measuring their actual behavior.

Hotspex created a virtual shopping environment that reflected the reality of current shopping channels to conduct an initial shelf, packaging, and brand asset audit.

We measured the emotional response to the brand and its competitors using the proprietary and globally validated Hotspex emotional measurement platform. We also ran the brand through our brand identity and distinctive brand asset evaluation tool to better understand how each of the brand elements contributed to the perceptions consumers had about the brand. Here is a video that describes how this solution works.

This initial audit was brought to life in a workshop with the design agency, marketing, and several other cross-functional team members to inform the upcoming design journey.


An initial shelf audit uncovered that the existing packaging was under performing category norms and the emotional response measurement uncovered that consumers felt that the brand was “boring”, “unimaginative”, and “out of date”.

The workshop led the evolution of the brand from over focusing on functional attributes to a more emotive territory. The emotional measurement platform demonstrated what associations needed to be dialed up to overcome consumer apathy and build a distinctive brand.

Using the emotional measurement platform and the Hotspex behavioral science team as brand building teammates, the partner agency developed the new brand world which led to 3 new packaging options to bring that new brand world to life.

The emotional measurement platform helped the team make clear cut decisions on which packaging to move forward with and provided insight into how to optimize that design before launch, by leveraging the positive elements from the other two designs that did not move forward.


The VP of Insights and marketing team said that they would not have considered the winning design if they hadn’t used Hotspex.

Running the designs through the emotional measurement platform highlighted that the winning design had the most impact at breaking through at shelf and also mitigated some of the negative associations that the brand had accrued over the past few years.

The sell in story to the retailers went over well as the proposed shelf with our client’s new packaging led to an improved shopping experience as demonstrated by the emotional measurement platform.

Within 12 months of the packaging revitalization, the sales decline had been stemmed and for the first time in several years, the brand saw an uptick in its market share.

Behind The Scenes

Our client selected us to run this study because they were impressed with our detect, diagnose, dissect framework that we applied to our initial shelf, packaging, and brand asset audit.

Detect – Measure consumer behavior as they virtually shop the shelf by understanding what is grabbing their attention, how they navigate the shelf, what they are picking up, what they are putting back, etc.
Diagnose – Measure consumer perceptions by evaluating the current packaging and several of the key competitors using our emotional measurement platform that evaluates both conscious beliefs, as well as non-conscious associations.
Dissect – Evaluate all of the individual brand elements from the brand identity to understand which assets you need to reinforce in the new brand world, which elements need to be updated, and which ones can be removed because they are not adding value or detracting from overall equity.

We partnered with the design agency to evaluate individual brand elements from the new brand world through our brand identity and distinctive brand asset evaluation tool to help guide the redesign. Here is a video that describes how this solution works.

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