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Packaging a punch

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Packaging occupies a unique place within a brand’s marketing mix. Apart from the product itself and the odd bit of point of sale material, packaging is pretty much the one opportunity for a brand to display itself in three dimensions on a regular basis. Not just on a shelf in a shop or supermarket; but at home, on the table, work surface, in the bathroom, the bedroom, wherever. It doesn’t matter whether it’s been bought in Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Harvey Nichols or Harrods, in-store, on-line or somewhere in-between. There it is, in its 3D glory. 

What is product packaging in marketing?

This all seems great, and as brand managers what more could we want? We’ll have done all our focus groups and research on how our brand and its packaging should look, what it should say to people beyond its functionality. We’ll have worked out who these people might be, how many of them there are, how they live their lives, what else they buy, why they might want our brand, and what they want it to do for them. We’ve probably decided where it should be distributed, what we should charge for it, how we should promote and advertise it.

Yet how often do we pause for thought and wonder whether our packaging has helped sell our product? Got new people to try our brand? Find out if it has enticed our current shoppers and consumers to be more loyal, buy more of our brand, more often? Heaven forfend – worked out does the money and time invested in our packaging or indeed repackaging of our brand create incremental sales for it, and produce some kind of return?

What are the types of packaging in marketing?

Strangely enough, these questions are nearly always asked of the rest of our marketing mix. It’s rare for example, the efficacy of a price promotion isn’t established, the sales uplifts generated by a TV campaign aren’t estimated or modelled, effects of a social media campaign measured, or the ROI of in-store point of sale evaluated.

Yet it seems we don’t particularly think like this when it comes to a form of marketing communication that is integral to the marketing mix, has the power to influence the success or failure of a brand and can’t be easily turned on and off (in every sense!) like so many forms of communication. We can use packaging or repackaging to convey changes in our brand’s attributes, its provenance, price, promotional messages and product information materially and visually; but we don’t quantify its role within the consumer or shopper’s path to purchase or communication journey.

Come to think of it, for such a critically important element of the marketing mix… it’s all a bit odd that frankly, the commercial value of repackaging has always been a bit of a mystery.

How important is packaging in marketing a product?

Why has this come about? Perhaps there’s some confusion. What are we traditionally trying to understand in order to best measure packaging success? Is it visibility on shelf (physical or digital)? So a cunning eye-tracking technique might help. Could it be how easily recognisable its design or colour cues are through a semiotic study? We could measure if the packaging changes peoples’ subconscious perceptions of our brand by wiring them up to a neuro-science helmet. We could ask them if their consideration to purchase a product has been influenced by some new packaging, and many more methodologies can be employed to ascertain some form of success. 

But, when all is said and done, we could probably do with measuring the success of our packaging in how we try to measure anything else we buy. It’s return on investment.

How important is packaging? 

What’s holding us back from working this out? Where to start, what to do?

At CollidaScope we‘re in the business of making brands’ communication more productive. As an analytics business specialising in marketing effectiveness, we use sophisticated techniques across all forms of marketing communication, whether they’re in-store, out-of-store, on or off-line to establish precisely the incremental sales effects and efficiencies each element of the marketing mix generates, singly and in combination.

Therefore we know where to start and what to do when it comes to measuring the performance of packaging. It means we’re measuring the attribution of packaging within the mix of all other activities both in the short and longer term, using the common currency of sales and changes to shoppers’ purchasing behaviours to establish on behalf of brand owners how worthwhile changing packaging really is, and how best it should be supported. At launch, we’ll work out should it be backed with advertising, price promotions, in-store activations or anything else? On an on-going basis what combination of activities work best with a particular form of packaging. Or indeed we look at it the other way around – what form of packaging works best in conjunction with everything else?

All we need to know is when a brand’s re-packaging is being distributed within which retail channels and how quickly; sight of past promotions’ and in-store activation calendars, communication and media plans; and access to your sales data in pretty much whatever form it takes. Our analytical, data science and modelling expertise takes care of the rest.

How to create successful product packaging

We’ve helped brands identify which factors have made their re-packaging successful, or for that matter unsuccessful.

For example, during summer 2018 a well-known snacking brand was busy sponsoring the football World Cup. Even though the brand’s national team ‘bombed’ in the competition, the brand owners thought the sponsorship had worked a treat, and were gearing themselves up for a repeat sponsorship of the Euros that were scheduled for this year.

Through our forensic analysis of their marketing mix however, we discovered that actually their sponsorship unfortunately played about as well as their national team. We saw a few hot, sunny days helped boost some sales, but actually it was their re-packaging of their brand, including a re-vitalising of their Masterbrand logo, that generated the significant sales uplifts seen during the period of the World Cup. It has gone on to help improve the performance of their TV advertising and social media campaigns ever since, and the brand has gained marketing share in their growing category.

Conversely, we’ve identified what packaging has not worked for some brands. One was heavily involved in pack redesigns to accommodate on-pack consumer promotions to try and attract a certain target audience. Sales have certainly grown for the brand, which is the good news, but it wasn’t the on-pack that’s done it, but rather the price promotions that supported it, and without them, the repackaging exercise produced negligible incremental sales results. 

What makes packaging successful?

So, perhaps we should give some more thought on what are the right KPIs to measure packaging and repackaging success. Looking at it in a similar way and in combination with the rest of our marketing mix produces some surprisingly robust conclusions as to what works and what doesn’t.

It’ll help take out the guesswork and demonstrate the return on all our efforts when it comes to repackaging brands.


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