With many retail outlets now automated (think the Costa Coffee machines in service stations), packaging becomes your sales person and your advertising. Good packaging creates a personality to the brand and creates a link with the buyer. Brand association is also achievable with packaging design. The square foil wrappers of Durex condoms for example make you associate the packaging with sex. When the retail shelf is full of similar products, packaging can connect to other strong drivers for the purchasing decision achieving more by association than an above the line advertising campaign alone.
Good packaging can create competitive advantage by emphasising the brand, the brand’s USP’s, or increasing the life of the product. In terms of advertising reach, the packaging of a brand will penetrate into the consumer’s home and remain in the consciousness for however long until it’s consumed or completes its lifecycle. Packaging must actually cover several areas of the advertising communication function. It has to focus heavily on A.I.D.A. by gaining the attention of the consumer in an often crowded environment with other similar products vying to be seen and bought.
Packaging must also then persuade the consumer that it’s advertising will match the contents (effectively explaining why it should be picked up and purchased). Some brands struggle with this concept and opt for a nice easy transparent window where the consumer can see the contents. Of course brands can also find that difficult which is why when you think about it, the stickers on the transparent packet of meat in the supermarket (sirloin steaks for example) is always covering the less attractive area of the meat (a strip of fat or gristle for example). Packaging can connect other benefits to the brand product such as recipes for its use. They form a reason to buy that product over similar.
Another aspect to incorporate (just when brands thought it was challenging enough to communicate their messaging on such a tiny space), is the ever-increasing demand for information from the modern consumer linked as it is with regulations from government (nutritional information, health warnings, source of origin, full ingredients etc). Packaging must also say whether it is recyclable and how. Packaging design can create the USP necessary to gain mass awareness similar to advertising, by improving functionality. For example don’t packets of tea still contain tea dust..? Packs of sugar still leak, well, sugar..?
Think of that bottle of olive oil that drips down the side of the bottle after pouring..? Imagine how many units that first manufacturer sold who created the packaging of a second lip inside the bottle which eradicates drips? Coca-Cola designed their glass bottle in such a way that it is instantly recognisable, even in the dark. With the sense of touch alone, we can distinguish a bottle of coke. Some of their adverts don’t even say anything, they just show a bottle. The advertising is just showing you what the packaging looks like (quite amusing). Certainly on the shelf then that image is easily seen.
Packaging has to keep its contents safe. Consumers don’t want to get home with chocolates for a loved one that are all jumbled up or melted. So, you need a careful box with hollows for each chocolate’s shape. The Happy Egg company has to keep the eggs from being broken long before they can advertise why their eggs are happy and the competitors aren’t. Once that is mastered, packaging can get down to the job of communicating brand messaging. While packaging often has no home in the media budget, if you don’t ask your agency to produce effective packaging communications, you will waste millions of budget on above-the-line advertising just to get the same level of sales.
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USP – Unique Selling Point
YouCom Media News, Nov 2018, London, ‘Packaging Sex.’