Can product packaging be uses as a cost effective marketing method of stretching budgets?

In the face of massive media channel fragmentation, marketers have to figure out the most cost effective way to stretch their marketing budgets and still achieve their KPI’s.

Twenty years ago, an advertiser could reach 80% of the population with just a few TV ads. Today it’s a whole lot more challenging to even reach that number of your target audience, let alone the population.  Today’s marketer struggles because of the sheer volume of advertising platforms available. There’s an ever widening media fragmentation gap and an increasing amount of new technologies allowing consumers to tune marketing messages out. Traditional advertising and marketing methods no longer fit an unconventional media world. So where can a brand marketer get message cut through?

Advertising tactics simply don’t work anymore

The same old advertising techniques simply don’t have an impact on a new digital consumer generation. As a result of the digital age the power base has shifted to consumers. Brand marketers find themselves now needing to be both relevant and responsive to the “on-demand” marketing needs of their target consumers.

  • Search technologies have made product information easily accessible to anyone with a mobile device.
  • Multiple social media channels encourage consumers to go to their friends and share, compare, and rate their product experiences.

This means that brand markets have their work cut out for them if they don’t want to be shut out of their market.

The great news is that there is one clear cut stable platform still available to brand marketer’s. It’s a marketing method that, whilst susceptible to trends, is not likely to change form radically over the next decade. This marketing medium is also one of the earliest platforms available to the marketer. Product Packaging. Packaging can be used as a very cost effective marketing method.

 “The Law of Raspberry Jam” Alvin Toffler

Alvin Toffler, the famous futurist and author of Future Shock, once said, and I paraphrase, “The Law of Raspberry Jam: the wider it’s spread, the thinner it gets.” Today, more than ever Toffler’s prophetic words are ringing true for the brand marketer.

The more marketing sources fragment, the more brand marketers have to stretch their meagre budgets across multiple platforms. This spreading of one’s budget thinly across multiple channels, actively reduces both the brand marketers focus and targeting ability. The impact of this raspberry jam spread for the brand marketer means less effective results. So when it comes to considering the allocation of your ever dwindling budgets, every brand manager should consider RE-THINKING their investment into their product packaging instead.

BUT… I’m already spending money on packaging???

“BUT… I’m already spending money on packaging; I don’t have any more money in the budget for packaging...” I hear you say. Well that may well be true. Okay then… so why is it that when one looks at the absolute over-abundance of category packaging on the retail shelf today, how come so much of it looks so unappealing. Why does so much of today’s packaging look so “me too” and uninspiring?

Do you hold with the theory that much of a brands advertising is lost on the consumer today? If that’s true then consumer packaging may be the only opportunity many brands have to “sell” consumers on their brand and products.

We know that consumers are tuning out of mainstream media channels in droves. Instead they are and tuning into their iPhones, Androids, Instagram and other social networks. Yet despite this mass abandonment, the final purchase decision, is in most cases, still being made at the retail shelf.  This means that packaging as cost effective marketing could be an effective solution.

Old News – But we’re not listening

The continual, ongoing  entry of  new products into your category makes it increasingly difficult to get, and to keep, the customer’s attention at the shelf. Let’s face it, the researchers have given us between 3 and 5 seconds to grab our consumer’s attention. That’s a mere 5 seconds, if we are really good, to grab their attention long enough to have them identify with our message and make an emotional connection strong enough for them to take it home.

Of course this isn’t news to an experienced brand marketer and yet… have we truly heard it? In the grand scheme of the marketing mix how much attention is really given to our silent salespeople. The pack sitting on the shelf is still the last step in the consumer’s decision making process. Our packs are out there, on the shelf working their butts off to appeal to an ever changing consumer. Packaging is a marketer’s main opportunity to connect with their targeted consumer. Yet in so many cases it’s the one part of the marketing mix that gets overlooked.

Packaging as cost effective marketing…Really?

No doubt you already do this, but just as an experiment (one more time), go stand in the aisle of your local Coles or Woolworths store and look at the multitude of product categories on show. Just notice how many brands are “me too”, in that they are barely distinguishable from one another.

Now take a look at your own brand as it appears in relation to your competitors. Without bias, I know it’s hard, but does your brand tend to look the same as similar competitor products in your category? Is your packaging still doing the job assigned to it? Is it achieving its hurdle rates and other associated KPI’s. Maybe that’s a clear sign for a packaging over-haul. If your packaging isn’t performing like it should then maybe you need to consider reinvesting in this key slice of your marketing mix. Maybe it’s time to get some fresh ideas? Maybe it’s time for a new outside view.

The Risk to using packaging as cost effective marketing

The fact is, the investment for a brand refresh is a whole lot less risky than spending a limited budget on media channels that may or may not net a return. And… even if your marketing does drive your targeted consumer to the retail shelf… what’s to stop them from picking up your competitor’s product?

What if a strategic over-haul created a whole new wave of excitement on shelf? If you’re convinced your product is so great then why not give serious thought to revolutionizing the category with stand-out, stand-alone , disruptive packaging?

Others have done it within their categories and have since cemented themselves in the minds of their targeted consumer’s minds. So maybe it makes sense then to invest more of your marketing spend in packaging as a cost effective marketing strategy?

As author Ted Mininni of Design Force, Inc. said in his 2008 article “Advertising is Dead. Long Live Packaging”, “Brands demanding unique positioning in the consumer’s mind demand unique packaging. Whether the challenge is to market heritage brands to newer generations of consumers, to launch new brands in the marketplace or to co-brand or package licensed products, the focus has to be the same: owning mind-share. Advertising or packaging? Is there a better way to allocate marketing funds than trail-blazing new packaging?