We often think creativity is big, loud, and painstaking.

But in truth, it’s as good as changing the angle with which you look at a problem.

VanMoof’s Bike Packaging case study is an excellent example of this idea.

Founded in 2009, they’re experts at manufacturing e-bikes (electrical bikes). In 2015, they started shipping the builds from Netherlands to the US.

But there was a problem. Many customers were receiving damaged goods. It was costing the company money and their reputation.

Although they never officially accused anyone, it was certain that their delivery & fulfillment partners in the States were not being as cautious & careful while handling the cargo.

They did consider & try some ordinary solutions. Tougher boxes. Changing their shipping partner. Talking with the staff. But nothing worked.

That’s when their co-founder Ties Carlier provided a simple insight – “Bikes obviously didn’t have the kind of priority flat-screen TVs.”

It was their Eureka moment.

The boxes they used were similar to those that hold big, expensive, flat-screen television screens. So they put an image of one (TV) on every box, tricking the handlers into caring a little more than usual.

And it worked!

  • Overnight their shipping damages dropped by 70-80%
  • Online sales account for 80% of their revenues, so they still use the tactic to this day
  • 60k+ such boxes have been shipped directly to our riders worldwide

While they say they didn’t actively boast about their innovation, it was too good to ignore, so media houses around the world picked up the story, and their competitors had to borrow it.

This case study holds two crucial lessons for anyone who works in marketing, design, and other industries.

Firstly, VanMoof understood that the rash handling was only the symptom of the problem. What actually needed correction was the target’s perception of the packaging (the target here being the handlers). So manipulating their psychology was what they focused on.

Often, we’re trying to tackle the wrong issues, without asking “Why is this happening?” and going a few levels deeper into the consumer journey.

Many business solutions & strategies often sprout from the field of psychology, so it will serve you well to study the subject informally in your free time – whether that’s through podcasts, books, or lectures on YouTube.

Secondly, VanMoof tried to find an elegant solution. It didn’t require a change in their budget (since they were printing something on the boxes anyway). It didn’t require paying anyone more. All it needed was a simple addition of the TV element. So easy, even I could do it in Canva.

Most problems don’t need massive changes or improvements to get resolved. Often, the answer is right in front of your eyes – you just need to observe closely.

Mr. Carlier must’ve spent a bit of time at the dockyard, or at least seen how the carrier staff interacts differently with certain types of boxes.

That’s when he must’ve understood that boxes with fragile items like electronics or glass obviously get handled with care, since our brains are designed to respond to the signs/symbols immediately.

To find solutions, step out of your bedroom. Dive into the customer journey IRL, and go through the experience yourself. Talk to real people & know their lifestyles rather than making assumptions & personas from your desk.

One day in the field is as powerful as weeks of online research, if not more. So don’t underestimate the power of sharp observation.

So what do you think of this case study? Have you seen a similar innovation in packaging design?

Maybe an example of how a small tweak helped create a huge impact for a brand?

Let me know in the comments below!

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