The Power of Packaging Doesn't Stop at the Store

Make Sure Your Product's Vessel Makes a Brand's First (and Second) Impression

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As marketers focus on using social media to create connected, highly personalized brand experiences, they may easily overlook another critical touchpoint: product packaging.

In today's fragmented marketing environment, packaging is far more than a product's vessel; it is the physical manifestation of a brand experience and an important part of a brand promise. As such, packaging should be a critical piece of a brand's integrated communication strategy.

Just consider that 100% of a brand's purchasers interact with its packaging. Each time they touch it, hold it, open it, store it, and dispose of it is a moment to create a brand impression. For example, the cork bottle stopper for Grey Goose Vodka cues the consumer into a connoisseur experience and helps drive a higher price point. Would the brand belief be as effective with a screw cap? When consumers buy freshly squeezed orange juice, they look for a clear, blow-molded bottle because that connotes "fresh," whereas a gable-top carton says "pasteurized." And finally, Johnson's Baby Shampoo's newly redesigned bottle enhances the "No More Tears" positioning with its soft curves, gentle, transparent label and cap, and clear bottle that imply that there's literally nothing to hide.

These subtle visual and emotional cues can have a profound effect on a company's ability to deliver the rich experiences consumers seek and earn their loyalty.

5 Tips:
1. Integrate packaging into your communications strategy.

2. Design for in-home shopability. Do your products stand out in a crowded pantry or freezer?

3. Aim for the "past-purchase" list. Good packaging helps earn loyalty from online customers.

4. Package your talent. The consumer products world is littered with beautiful packaging designs that were too impractical to make, and ineffective packaging that was easy to manufacture. Striking the balance between good design and practical packaging takes a careful blend of consumer insights with marketing, manufacturing and design talent.

5. Observe. Become mindful of the subtle language of packaging. When you buy something, what about the packaging helped make that product emotionally relevant?

Influencing consumers to buy a product is half the battle. Getting consumers to use it when they take it home (and therefore increase the likelihood they'll buy it again) is the other. Packaging can make the difference. If a product looks appealing and is practical to store in a consumer's pantry or freezer, it can easily become part of the "three Rs" -- routines, rituals and regimens.

For example, let's say that I purchase a multipack of Coca-Cola. It is important that the packaging inspires me to put all the cans into the fridge (and not the pantry) because most consumers are as unlikely to drink a warm Coke as a warm beer. The more cans in the fridge, the more opportunities for consumption. And therein lies the beauty of the FridgeMaster. Not only is it the only self-oriented marketing billboard in the fridge, but also it enables consumers to put all the cans in the fridge. The package and the product work together seamlessly to help the consumer navigate, select and consume the product.

Conversely, let's say I purchase a frozen meal in the ubiquitous folded carton. In the store, the package is arranged beautifully, with an attractive photo of the contents on the front. However, what happens when I get it home? I store it sideways with all the other boxed frozen meals. The appetizing front-facing graphics aren't visible. Our research shows that less than one in five consumers preplan dinners; what they do instead is "shop" their freezers to decide what to have for dinner. So the packaging that stands out in a crowd wins.

Of course, with the proliferation of online shopping, there are some who say packaging isn't as important -- companies can save a ton of money by putting everything in a generic box or bottle and shipping it off, right? Nothing could be further from the truth.

The most powerful force influencing online purchasing decision is a consumer's "past purchases" list. Brands may have to do more target marketing to get on that list, but once they're there, they've uncovered the Holy Grail. Once a product gets home, the packaging can facilitate an emotional connection between the brand and the consumer. So the consumer will keep buying it. Conversely, if the packaging and product don't make good on that brand promise, consumers will take you off that list. And once you're off it, you will not get back on.

Whether consumers are shopping online or in their own pantries, packaging plays a critical role in forging their connections with a brand. In a crowded marketplace, there may be one opportunity to create a brand impression. Make it count.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Steve Kazanjian is VP-global creative for MWV, which works with leading brands around the world to create cutting-edge product packaging.
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