Vitality of the Pack: A new framework to maximize the multifaceted nature of packaging.
Packaging plays an important role in
the lives of consumers, business and the planet. It’s called upon
to protect, preserve, present and deliver the product; to delight the
consumer; and ultimately, to do no harm to the world we live in. So
how can we effectively leverage this important piece of the marketing
mix that, for so many years, has been underleveraged or misunderstood?
From Containment And Beyond
To begin, we need a better framework
for understanding the discipline. The history of packaging begins with
the need for containment. Many of the products we enjoy today would
not exist without the preservation that packaging affords. Crops would
rot in the fields and medicine would not reach the masses. Over the
years, entire markets began to develop around certain types of products,
and with this came competition. Multiple offerings at the shelf fueled
the need for packaging to evolve from its primary role of simply keeping
things fresh to actively aiding brands in the communication of the product.
Despite the growing complexity of packaging’s
role, for many products and for many years, packaging has only leveraged
these same two principles: containment and display.
This has much to do with the nature of
the industry that grew to support the packaging boom of the last half-century.
With roots in heavy manufacturing, the packaging sector developed under
guiding principles of speed and efficiency. This meant that the focus
was on standardizing equipment, optimizing materials and driving out
costs. For many companies, the margins that their brands enjoy are derived
from the low cost of packaging.
So what about the brand experience? In
some cases, that experience is less than adequate. The cereal bag-in-box
doesn’t reseal or tell you how much of the product is left. The 40lb
bag of dog food is difficult to transport, dispense and often won’t
reseal. Before it can offer you relief, the pain reliever bottle first
requires you to throw away the outer box, struggle to defeat the child-proof
closure and remove the cotton ball within.
With competition reaching bewildering
levels and many forms of advertising losing their effectiveness, the
brand experience afforded by packaging can no longer be ignored.
At the same time, new challenges have
emerged for the traditional brand owner. Store brands are becoming more
sophisticated, creating unforeseen competition on the shelf. Supply
chain logistics have grown increasingly complex, requiring even broader
handling and containment requirements for goods. And we are now awakening
to packaging’s impact on our planet, which will continue to have profound
influence on our future decisions.
Four Truths of Packaging
A.G. Lafley, chairman and CEO of Procter
& Gamble, presents a unique way of looking at packaging when he
eloquently talks about brands winning at two crucial “moments of truth.”
The first moment occurs at the store shelf, when a consumer decides
to buy one brand or another. The second occurs at home, when the consumer
uses the brand and is delighted – or isn’t.
I would suggest expanding packaging’s
effectiveness into four moments of truth, with a holistic approach that
considers the planet and the business. The first moment: Does the
consumer buy it? The second: Does the consumer want to buy it
again? The third: Does it harm the planet?
The fourth: Is it profitable for the business?
Let’s call the first moment
of truth the “presentation” phase of the brand. For a package to
be effective at this phase, it must “pop” at shelf, differentiate
itself from other offerings and create appeal. This is a difficult task
when most categories represent a “sea of sameness” based on common
package forms, standardized manufacturing processes and an over-proliferation
of product offerings.
The second moment of truth is
what I call the “fulfillment” phase. How effectively does your package
deliver the product and enhance the user experience?
Retailers can make this a difficult task
by demanding pilfer-resistance, which, by its nature, impedes consumer
access to the product.
Adding to the challenge is the limitation
of some packaging formats. The standardization of packaging to address
just containment and display issues has resulted in most package types
lacking functional characteristics that could enhance product delivery.
The cereal box and pain reliever bottle are classic examples of this.
Another factor in a package’s success
at this phase is aesthetics. Many packages lack the “made with care”
appearance. They aren’t beautifully designed, but rather functionally
engineered. Wouldn’t it be great is your brand’s packaging were
so attractive that a customer would proudly display it like a perfume
Such a question naturally leads us to
the third moment of truth: What happens to your package once
the consumer is finished with the product inside? I call this stage
of a package’s life the “harmonization” phase.
To gauge whether they’re harming the
planet, many consider the three ‘Rs’ of sustainability: reduce,
reuse and recycle. The packaging industry has expanded these to seven
or more Rs, depending on who you’re talking to. For simplicity’s
sake, I use these three: Renewable, Reusable and Reasonable.
“Renewable” considers whether the
resources used in creating the package (materials and energy) are exhaustible.
“Reusable” (maybe the best way to address the needs of the planet)
looks at eliminating packaging waste by extending the product’s life
cycle through a refill system or some other continued use. The third
moment of truth also considers whether a package is “Reasonable”
– whether it sensibly balances its intended purpose with its impact
on the planet.
Overriding each of these stages in a
package’s life is the fourth moment of truth: the package’s
benefit to the business, or the “profit” phase. As the “P” in
CPG, the package is the link between the “consumer” and the “goods.”
For it to be effective for business, the pack must be something a consumer
wants and can afford, and an item business can product for a profit.
The package must be worthy of the sometimes significant investment in
manufacturing and distribution capital. It must also help cement consumer
loyalty, drive consumption and/or increase market share.
The Road Ahead
As you think about packaging strategy
in the future, consider these four moments of truth, which hone in on
the most important phases in a package’s lifecycle. Looking at packaging
as a complete story enables you to reach consumers on a higher level
and realize your brand potential. If understood and leveraged effectively,
packaging may prove to be the most effective tool in your marketing
Peter is a visionary entrepreneur who founded
Product Ventures in 1994 to create the ultimate strategic creative agency for
the research, design and development of manufactured goods. His passion for
excellence and dedication to helping clients shape products and packaging to
enhance consumers’ lives have garnered Clarke enormous recognition
throughout the industry. He is a frequent commentator in the
media, as well as a sought after speaker. Contact Peter at 203.319.1119 or firstname.lastname@example.org.