Expert's Opinion

Packaging Can Be Your Best Investment

By Russ Napolitano, Vice President Strategic Development, Wallace Church, Inc. | September 13, 2010

Napolitano of Wallace Church offers the latest on the packaging marketplace.

When I mention such brands as Aveda, Burts’ Bees, Clinique Happy, Dove and Olay…to name just a few, there is a very good chance that an image of their packaging comes top of mind. When packages such as these become visual icons and such an important part of the brand’s overall DNA, how can anyone argue that packaging cannot be one of your brand’s smartest investments? Whether the physical package shape (its structure) or its color, imagery, typography or a combination thereof, many brands are identified by consumers through its packaging.

Your Most Efficient Marketing Investment

There is no doubt that we are facing some of the most challenging economic times in decades, and the events plaguing Wall Street and our pockets are having an impact on CPG companies, distributors, retailers and consumers. Costs to make, ship and distribute products have increased considerably. Companies are finding ways to do more without passing along the financial burden to their consumers. While packaging costs have also increased, you should realize that your brand’s packaging is still one of your most efficient marketing tools for reaching your target consumers. You can still renovate or launch new packaging for less than 10-25% of the total cost to produce a television advertisement, produce and run a print ad or execute a promotion and/or a display program. Packaging will also have a longer shelf life, making it even that much more cost efficient method for reaching your consumers.

Packaging Makes More of An Impression

Not only will packaging have a longer shelf life than your advertising or promotions program, it will be seen by more people. Media spending is down for large and small brands and media placements are more fragmented than ever. The average consumer is bombarded with anywhere from 250-5,000 media messages each day. It has become most challenging to connect with your consumer through any one medium, making it that much more difficult to reach your optimum level of media impressions. Consumers have more choices than ever—traditional media such as TV, magazines, newspapers, billboards, electronic media such as the internet, cell phones, blogs, gaming, and word of mouth (WOM). With stats like these, one would wonder how any brand could effectively and efficiently target its consumers these days?

Through its package!

Is there any other vehicle that the consumer interacts with 24/7? From the time they notice your brand on shelf, purchase it, store it, use it and reuse it over and over again, they have formed a personal relationship with and an attachment to your brand through its package. Packaging is the one medium that results in a physical relationship with consumers, literally.

The packaging also makes that first impression on the consumer. Consumers will often decide whether or not they are going to purchase your product through their first impression, which is usually made through the package.

No Longer Strictly Three-Dimensional

Packaging creates a one-on-one personal experience that usually first takes place through sight. Imagine if your package incited some or most of the other four senses? Consumers have become very interested in packaging and, as a result, have high expectations. They want and expect packaging to entertain, engage and excite them on many levels. In developing your brand’s packaging, understand if and how it can engage all of the five senses—sight, touch, sound, taste and smell. Delivering against the first is a must. Your package must be impactful (sight) in order to break through the retail clutter and get noticed. Just imagine reinforcing sight with strong hand appeal (touch). Then you have managed to engage consumers on an even deeper level. Johnson’s Baby Lotion took advantage of its “baby soft skin” strategy by selecting the soft touch process for its bottles. When the consumer picks up Johnson’s Baby Lotion off the shelf, they are immediately reinforced with softness. There is nothing quite like having your product’s end benefit engage consumers when they notice and pick up your package. Now, imagine if only the fragrance of Johnson’s Baby Lotion can be infused in the bottle cap. It can. Just ask my friend Steven Landau at ScentSational Technologies.

Consumers Are In-Tune with Packaging

Consumers have become more in tune with packaging and have high expectations that their brand’s packaging is going to meet both their functional and emotional needs. Of course, the package must be easy to carry, hold and store. But it must also be easy to use, re-use and discard. Major companies are starting to take packaging more seriously because of the demands imposed on then by their consumers. Avon, L’Oréal, Estée Lauder, Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson are just a fraction of health and beauty companies with internal design teams solely responsible for making sure that both structural and graphic design are given the attention they need and deserve within each brand’s marketing mix. In fact, P&G successfully disproved conventional wisdom when it redesigned its Olay packaging to be more reminiscent of packaging that is usually found in higher-end department stores. Up to this point, there had been an “unwritten theory” that consumers would never spend as much as $60 for any skin care item distributed in a mass outlets. This price point was reserved for department or prestige outlets.

When P&G launched Olay Pro-X, its goal was to position the brand as prestige skin care that was now available via the convenience of your neighborhood drug store. P&G took a bold step in laying the groundwork for new opportunities and setting the stage for higher expectations at mass retail. There is no doubt that this premium price point is contributing to Olay’s overall return on investment.

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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