PACKAGING An often underestimated marketing-tool!

We seem to flatter ourselves with the thought that packaging is an art, is a key issue for businesses. Of course it is, but let´s not forget that there is proof that also in pre-historic eras packaging was an issue that was considered. Primarily to play two important roles: transport and (food-)preservation. In the Western cultures this has been the case until probably the middle of the 19th century. In the wake of the industrial revolution things gradually changed. Soft soap could be got in an anonymus brown paper bag (hurry home before its starts to leak) into which the quantity required by the customer was scooped by the shopkeeper. Then the paper-tube with a cover and a message from the manufacturer on the outside entered the scene and became the alternative. Thus two additional functional elements entered the packaging arena: storage and branding. With one drawback for the consumer: instead of buying the quantity she wanted, she had to get accustomed to buying what the manufacturer wanted to sell. Because of the added convenience, manufacturers asked a higher price and got what they were looking for. Marketing had entered everyday business!

As did additional convience! Easy to open, easy to pour, easy to close, easy to ........

But haven't we all had the experience that some packaging was designed in such a way that difficult to open, to pour etc. was more applicable? And did we stick with that product or did we go for a more convenient option next time around?

I think that the influence of packaging can be overrated. How often do we see NEW, whereas only the graphic design has been changed? Or where glorious design needs to cover the mediocrity of the physical product involved. In the end of the day the contents must satisfy the needs of our customers. Excellent design can of course lead to trial purchase, but repeat is often very doubtful in case of mediocre products!

Packaging has gradually become a way in which companies try to distinguish their offering. And has thus become part of increasingly complex R&D programs. The complexity of the packaging-issue also leads to the development of new packaging-lines (lots of ideas are transplanted from the human (food) sector), that can "only" be invested in by the bigger players in the industry. They thus aim to grow their sustainable competitive advantage; the medium-sized players simply lack the funds and the required volumes to follow.

In this respect packaging has become of key strategic relevance, certainly for fast moving products.

A sometimes grossly underestimated function of packaging is communication: tell the brand-message!

Packaging is your closest and most real-life link with your (potential) customer. Your product is on the shelf and your customer is shopping. Your message will to a great extent define – assuming that there are products comparable to yours on the same shelves – whether you end up in their shopping-basket or not.

All in all, packaging should not be a side-line for our industry. It is not always merely a cost-factor.

Packaging protects, offers convenience to and communicates with your consumer. And therefore, from a marketing point-of-view, the development of packaging must get the financial and human resources it deserves

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