Vitality of the Pack: A new framework to maximize the multifaceted nature of packaging.

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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

bottle?  

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

arsenal today.  

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 pclarke@productventures.com.