Expert's Opinion

Marketing and Packaging Go Hand in Hand

By Russ Napolitano, VP-Strategic Development, Wallace Church, Inc. | August 12, 2010

Russ Napolitano of Wallace Church weighs in on visual cues in the marketplace.

We cannot ignore that another major reason that consumers are more connected to packaging is the fact that they are also more in-tune with what is happening in the world around them. Consumers know that packaging is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to increased consumer waste. CPG companies, manufacturers and consumers must all work together to identify alternative resources and materials responsibly. Less is more. Several studies have shown that consumers would be willing to pay more for one product that is deemed “environmentally friendly” versus one that is not.

Connect with Your Packaging

Just as consumers have become more conscious with packaging, you must also stay in-tune with your brand’s packaging. Years ago, a newly designed package would last 5-8 years. But today, most packages are updated or “freshened” every 2-3 years. Why? The competition! If you are paying more attention to packaging, so are your competitors. If you want to maintain a leadership position, you have to make sure that your packaging positions your brand as the leader and stays relevant to consumers. Consumers are fickle and their needs and habits are changing frequently. If you ignore this fact, others will pass you buy. You must keep one eye looking forward and one looking back because you never know who is about to pass you by or who is right on your tail.

In addition to worrying about your existing competitive pool, there is always someone new waiting in the wings about to make a big and lasting impression. Don’t believe me? Just ask P&G. Did P&G ever think that someone like Method would come along and literally turn the dish care category upside down? Method took dish care out from under the sink and proudly displayed it on the counter. Those of us who thought that Method would stay in the kitchen were fooled yet again. Method is now a household name (and in a relatively short period of time by conventional standards) with products represented in every household category from hand washing to floor cleaning and from to laundry to air care. Watch out Johnson’s Baby. Method Baby has arrived at a store nearest you.

How did Method accomplish such success and become a household name? Simply through great design. Method’s mantra is to infiltrate every room in the house through product design that becomes part of your home’s décor. Method has successfully taken what has been viewed as very functional categories and made them emotional, engaging many of our senses. They have taken the household “chores” and made them more motivating. Oh, and by the way, did I tell you that Method has achieved this without any advertising?

For Many Products, Packaging Is the Sole Form of Advertising

Let’s face it. In prosperous times and in economic challenging times, packaging is the sole form of advertising for many brands. Some brands can and never will be able to afford to advertise, others will have their advertising budgets reduced and still others don’t believe advertising is necessary. Why? They believe that the package is their best form of advertising. They view packaging as the most valuable form of real estate.

Seize this opportunity. Take the time and money to do it right. It frustrates me to no end when marketers will allocate the least amount of money toward the one thing that makes the biggest impression on consumers—the package. Again, I dare you to find a smarter investment.

Packaging As the 5th P in Your Marketing Mix

Marketing 101 teaches us all about the importance of the 4 P’s when marketing a product—product, price, place and promotion. We are taught how these 4 Ps are critical whether we are launching, maintaining or restaging a product. What about the role of the package in the marketing mix? Anyone who is marketing a product whose contents require a container, must factor in the role that packaging plays. One could argue that packaging is one of the most critical factors contributing to a brand’s success so much so that it should become the “5th P.” After all, the lifecycle of the package has a longer duration than many of the other P’s. A typical package lifecycle consists of development, filling, shipping, storage, shelf placement, shopping cart, home transportation and storage, usage and finally, some kind of discarding (hopefully recycling). Any one thing with such an extensive lifecycle should be given the highest of priorities.

Increased Role of Shopper Marketing

The new buzz in town is all about shopper marketing and the role the retail environment plays in capturing the consumer’s attention. This encompasses merchandising practices, displays, in-store communications and promotions. There is lots of talk around the impact of shopper marketing on influencing consumers purchasing habits. Extensive studies have shown the effectiveness of shopper marketing. Would anyone care to venture to guess which vehicle is considered one of the most impactful? Yes, the package. Packaging plays an integral role and has a major impact on shopper marketing. When a consumer is walking down an aisle and stumbles upon a shelf talker, floor ad or end-aisle display, it is the packaging that will often result in that first moment of truth – the purchase decision. For many brands the packaging usually sets the tone for all of the other communications efforts establishing the brand’s overall look and feel. Sounds like a pretty smart choice to me.

For more about Shopper Marketing, I encourage you to read “Shopper Marketing — How To Increase Purchase Decisions at the Point of Sale” — a book recently published by Kogan Page 2010.

About the Author
Russ Napolitano is vice president strategic development at Wallace Church, Inc. For 35 years, Wallace Church has been renovating and innovating many leading global brands across all product categories through award-winning branding and package design. For more information, contact Russ by e-mailing him at or calling (212) 755-2903.

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