Learning To Be A Wrap Artist
When it comes time for marketers to think about how best to allocate their advertising budgets, I've got a suggestion: Spend less on advertising. Let's be frank: It's no secret that most conventional advertising isn't cutting it.So, of course, many marketers are responding to that problem by scraping up better ways to . . . advertise. But I have a better idea.
Take all the money you were going to drop on ads and invest it on packaging.Yes, you heard me: Packaging. That's marketing, too, you know, and for those of you who'd hold that a box or wrapper is too low-tech, an analog strategy unsuited for a digital age, I submit that's precisely why it's time to give packaging your attention.With consumers increasingly tuning out of mainstream media channels and tuning into their iPods, mobile phones and social networks, most advertising messages are disappearing in the ether.
The truth is that, with so much broad-channel advertising lost on consumers, the lowly package may be the only opportunity many brands have left to even get noticed.But oh, say you: We already do invest substantially in our product packaging. Oh, do you really? Well, then why does so much of the packaging out there look so boring? Why do you look like your competition? Here's my rule of thumb: If your brand can't be picked out from a distance, an overhaul's in order.Of course, my 700-word column is no place for design directives that would properly fill a textbook.
But I'm not here for a how-to as much as to call for a new approach. Chances are, changing a color or a logo isn't going to correct the shortcomings of your packaging. Only radical new thinking will do that—a willingness to depart from the well-worn path and create excitement and buzz.If your brand just so happens to be the best pasta sauce ever, why are you wrapping it with the same red-and-green label that your cut-rate competitors are using? Why aren't you creating wholly new, standalone packaging instead?
That's what Pom Wonderful did with its double-orbed bottle crowned by pomegranate se-pals encircling the rim—even as other juice makers stuck with the same old barrel-shaped bottles. Pringles had the right idea way back in 1968 when it adopted food chemist Fred Baur's idea for a reusable, foil-lined tubular can, even as every other chip stuck with bags. One new and the other old: These package designs are now universal and iconic. They leave no doubt, just by looking-who the category leaders are.Pepsi recently rolled out 30-plus whimsical, contemporary designs, such as a profusion of record turntables floating on a black background on its "Max" cans. The brand was careful to retain its flagship colors—blue, red and white—but contemporized its imagery even as it kept its heritage in place.
This new "Choreography" campaign has elevated Pepsi in consumer consciousness, boosting appeal to younger drinkers while retaining enough of the original look to reassure core drinkers that this is still the Pepsi they know.Procter & Gamble's Downy brand is unquestionably a category leader. But when it came to the new Radiance collection of "fabric enhancers," the packaging looked nothing like the baby-blue industrial jugs associated with good, old standby Downy. Radiance collection bottles came in twist-neck, opalescent bottles in sherbert-like colors, each matched to a sophisticated new fragrance.
Why can't more established brands launch exciting new packaging like this?The bottom line is that a brand that expects a place in the consumer's mind had better employ unique packaging if it hopes to get there. Whether the challenge is to market heritage brands to newer generations of consumers or to launch wholly new brands period, the packaging focus has to be the same: owning mindshare. Packaging may be a marketer's first and only opportunity to make that vital connection with the consumer.Or you can just keep your dull packaging and dump more money on advertising.