Re-designing an existing high quality product is one thing. Creating an entirely new one from scratch is something else, especially for a successful retailer as demanding as Costco. Ziba had earned Costco’s trust in 2009 by turning their Kirkland Signature bar soap into a high-volume success. In 2010, they came to us with a larger challenge: to add an entirely new product to their health and beauty line, using the insights into Costco and its consumers that we’d previously developed.
The Best of the Best
Nurturing Household Managers
House Brand as Name Brand
Body wash for every body.
The project posed familiar challenges: Costco’s diverse and discerning consumer base, the constraints of bulk packaging, and a retail environment built on shipping pallets rather than shelves. Body wash was a strong candidate for the new product from early on, backed up later by findings from Ziba’s research team. Kirkland Signature didn’t offer a body wash of its own yet, and the category had been growing for years, appealing to a far larger market than the beauty conscious women that had embraced it early on. When families shop at Costco, they’re looking for products that the entire family can use, and that poses a tricky design goal for a category dominated by gender- and age-targeted products.
So what makes a body wash accessible? It turns out there are dozens of characteristics, from the color and viscosity of the liquid to the scent and the way it feels when rubbed between two fingers. As designers we had control over all of these, but quickly realized that the perceptions people had were subtly interrelated, and heavily influenced by external cues. Talking with dozens of Costco members and observing them in their homes laid bare some surprising principles.
For the first time, Costco is carrying products designed from the ground up to delight the customer at every point in the journey.
Scent turns out to be a crucial decision-maker. Customers talk about it the way oenophiles talk about wine, and many insist on smelling the product before deciding on a purchase. The palette of colors that appeals equally to men, women and children is vanishingly narrow. Viscosity must be dialed in precisely, not just for feel, but for the effort required to squeeze it out of the bottle, and even the sound it makes. And all of these perceptions can shift dramatically when the packaging is changed. We were fortunate enough to have a close relationship with both the packaging vendor and Costco’s manufacturing partners, so all of these qualities could be refined in parallel, leading us eventually to a product with unprecedented broad appeal. The Costco Body Wash has a silky, exfoliating formulation, a light citrus scent that’s invigorating without being medicinal, and a peach-orange color that’s bright without being explicitly feminine. Together with the packaging, these qualities combine to convey a sense of freshness and vibrancy, and create a product that everyone can use.
From the first impression to the last drop.
The packaging had to be similarly all-encompassing, so we took care to consider the complete consumer journey when developing the design. The bottle size, for example, had to strike a fine balance between minimizing cost (larger is better) and fitting comfortably in shower corners and small hands (smaller is better). It also had to fit the way people actually used it at home—in our observations, body wash almost always stands on the edge of the tub, in the corner, and gets used by several family members. A pump top was ruled out by shipping requirements—packages had to be stacked five high on a pallet, and a delicate pump posed the risk of damage, and a lot of lost product and expensive cleanup.
The resulting 800mL bottle is broad at the base to minimize tipping, and textured to provide a secure grip. More significantly, it features a unique rounded triangular cross-section that’s easier to grasp than the typical circular one, even at that size, but still fits snugly in the corner. Bundled with a simple but elegant printed cardboard wrap, a pair of these bottles is suddenly sturdy enough to palletize, and presents a prominent “billboard” on the warehouse floor. The graphic treatment of the wraps and the boxes that hold them work together to draw shopper interest from a distance, and highlight product benefits on closer reading.
Success: Premium from the ground up.
More than just a clever package or a reformulated beauty product, the new Body Wash represents an entirely new approach to products for the Kirkland Signature brand. For the first time, Costco is carrying products designed from the ground up to delight the customer at every point in the consumer journey, from first viewing to last usage. It’s an approach that helped launch the brand’s bar soap from obscurity to top-selling status, and is already producing similar results for the Body Wash. Since hitting the shelves in early 2011, Kirkland Signature Body Wash has consistently outsold the leading competitive brand, to become one of the fastest selling new releases in the history of the company.