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You’re missing out on A Free Communication Channel! (Any guesses what it is?)

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Are you as shocked as I am, to think that there is a free communication channel which most marketers are not using effectively today?

So what is this incredible channel? The Internet? No. Social Media? No.

OK, so everyone is excited about the web and have jumped on board the digital train. But some are already seeing that online advertising is not the “safest” way to communicate.

Take P&G for example. A recent AdAge article stated that:

Procter & Gamble‘s concerns about where its ads were showing up online contributed to a $140 million cutback in the company’s digital ad spending last quarter… 

P&G didn’t call out YouTube, the subject of many marketers’ ire earlier this year, … but did say digital ad spending fell because of choices to “temporarily restrict spending in digital forums where our ads were not being placed according to our standards and specifications.”

Will others follow? I don’t know. But I would like them all to reconsider their total advertising spend in light of this underutilised but highly effective channel that I’m about to share with you. Have you guessed what it is yet? It’s packaging!

Think about it. Packaging communicates in-store, on the shelf as shoppers pass by.

Packaging communicates in-store, on the shelf as shoppers pass by #Packaging #Instore #Retail Click To Tweet

It communicates to users when they take it home and open it. Although for how long? See below for some developments in that area.

And it may also communicate when it’s used, whether it is snacks, drinks, breakfast cereals, cookies, pharmaceuticals or a whole load of other products which are consumed straight from the pack.

So if a pack has the possibility to communicate, why are so few marketers using it?

I believe it’s because they don’t see packaging as a communication channel, which is a serious mistake. After all, it’s free!

There are two very popular posts on C3Centricity on the topic, which you might like to read before continuing. The first is “How Communicating through Packaging is more Informative & Personal” which shares some great examples of how creative pack usage has become the basis of full media campaigns. Click the link above to read more.

The other is “Is your Packaging Product or Promotion?” which talks about why people don’t read instructions – until they need them – but they do read what’s written on packs. Click above to read more.

Both of these posts provide some great examples of companies which have used their packaging to communicate with their consumers. However they are a couple of years old now, so I wanted to update my thoughts on the packaging channel opportunities, as well as the examples I share.

After all, customers have become more demanding in recent years and want to know far more about the products they purchase.

Customers are more demanding & want to know far more about the products they purchase #shopper #purchase Click To Tweet

And if you can’t wait to start a review of your own packaging, why not book a complimentary advisory session with me?

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Food and Beverages

NHS TRAFFIC LIGHTS
Image source: NHS UK

The F&B category has seen and continues to see the introduction of a lot of packaging laws.

When Nestle launched its "Compass" way back in 2005, most other food manufacturers were keeping things simple. Some had colour codes like traffic lights to indicate calorie content, while others had five or seven bullets on front of pack that showed the ingredient breakdown in terms of daily limits of fat, protein, sugar, carbohydrates etc.

Today, purchasers check far more details on labels in-store before buying. According to research by Prepared Foods and BevNet, they are looking for very specific guarantees in addition to mere ingredients, such as:

  • gluten free, dairy or nut free.
  • no additives or preservatives
  • recyclable packaging
  • healthier packaging materials
  • functional properties such as a good source of calcium, fiber, antioxidants, protein, omega 3 or probiotics.

Unfortunately with such demands for so much information on pack, there is little room for anything else. That is why manufacturers are getting creative with their packaging.

There are so many new ways to use packs for communications, but here are three of the most on-trend tactics today.

There are so many new ways to use packs for communications #packaging #communications Click To Tweet

Smart Packaging

It has always amused me that we spend time reading product contents, but still try to connect electronics or build flat-pack furniture without reading the instructions! Clearly we think we understand technology and furniture better than food, or at least we think we do! Therefore thank goodness that smart packaging is now available!

Smart packaging, including NFC (near field communic­ation) tags, transforms conventional packaging into a digital communication channel with customers. Not only does it transmit information at the point of sale, but also after purchase in the home, with such benefits as refill reminders, freshness alerts or usage tips.

Connected packaging is a real win-win for both manufacturers and customers. It can collect consumer habits and behavior that provides brands with a new level of understanding which can then be used to develop future products.

According to Research and Markets, the global smart packaging market is expected to grow to $52 billion by 2025, thanks to adoption in categories such as personal care, beauty, food, healthcare and pharmace­uticals.

Smart packaging works by tapping on the pack with your smartphone, to receive information about the product, usage suggestions, sourcing and ingredients. This brings an intimacy with the customer that will differentiate the brand from its competitors and hopefully increase loyalty. It also provides a guarantee of authenticity, which is an added benefit in certain categories plagued by counterfeits.

As packaging is also required to show more information on pack, and in multiple languages as sourcing goes global, smart packs have arrived just in time to save the customer from needing a magnifying glass to read what's printed on them. With the aging population in most developed countries today, this is an additional benefit.

 

Free communication on Tapped
Image source: Tapped

Attractive Packaging

Amongst the numerous trends highlighted by Mintel in their report "Five key trends set to impact global packaging markets in 2017" the importance of appeal, especially online, was mentioned. This will mean a desire for packs which stand out from the competition, especially in the smaller sizes on-screen.

 

 

An article on 99Designs shows how manufacturers have risen to the challenge in a number of creative ways:

Free communication on Sweety & Co packs
Image source: Sweety & Co
  • Simpler, bolder designs
  • Exceedingly bright colours
  • Unusual designs
  • Illustrations as narratives
  • Eco-friendly packaging

 

 

There is one additional benefit of unusual or attractive packs and that is their "buzz" value.

There is one additional benefit of unusual or attractive packs & that is buzz value #SMX #packaging Click To Tweet
Free communication on Smash Mallow packs
Image source: Smash Mallow

People love to be the first to share a new purchase when it is out-of-the-ordinary in terms of colour, shape or usefulness. It's a matter of forget the contents - at least the time of a YouTube video clip - and love the look of the pack!

Personalised Packaging

This is not a new trend but has attracted attention from many brands in recent years. In an article entitled "The pros and cons of personalised packaging for FMCG brands" eConsultancy reported that:

Free communication on Heinz soup cans
Image source: WeAreSocial.com

The success of Coca-Cola’s ‘Share a Coke’ campaign proved that people can’t get enough of  personalisation.

However as they also point out, personalisation is not really "personal" since so many people have the same name around the world.

Enter the trial of true personalisation. Heinz offered their soup range with a "Get well soon ... " message.

Although it was almost twice the usual price per can, the reasons it worked were many. It included a donation to charity for every one sold. It communicated online rather than on TV, adding to the personalised feel of the campaign.

Also in the second year they even allowed fans to vote for their favourite soup to join the tomato and chicken flavours they already offered. (potato and leek won, by the way)

One company that has had less success with its own attempts to copy Coke is Nestle. They proposed a pop-up "KitKat Chocolatory" in London's Westfield shopping mall.

Free communication on KitKat packs
Image source: eConsultancy

It was built on Coke’s naming trend and the success KitKat had with the concept in Japan.

Although the personalisation went beyond the name, with customised toppings and flavours too, it made a number of basic mistakes:

  • The UK is not Japan. KitKat is a cult brand there and has been for years, especially for gifting.
  • The process was digitalised, so people didn't get the chance to make nor even see the bar being made for them - unless they hung around for an hour or so.
  • Purchasers had to wait (at least) 90 minutes before their personalised bar was ready.
  • The "experience" added up to a few moments using a touchscreen; neither personal nor very exciting.
  • It cost seven pounds! 

I believe most of these points could have been corrected if they'd bothered to be a little more customer centric. The text message sent when the bar was ready, while a nice touch, meant providing Nestle with additional information about the purchaser, which no doubt they will use in the future to contact them, whether they like it or not!

I suggest that Nestle learn from how Pret a Manger did pop up retail brilliantly. You can read about it in "Eight ways Veggie Pret innovated pop-up retail strategy" from eConsultancy.

Like Veggie Pret, the KitKat example does include a personalised product offer too. But that's not new. Many food and confectionary brands have been offering these for many years on a promotional basis. Again the prices are higher, but the impact of the product too is greater. At least that was one thing Nestle did get right.

Returning to the topic of packaging, the change in retail, which I spoke about last week in "The Future of Retail is in the Stars - or it is the Cloud?" means that packs too have a new role to play beyond protection and container. They can be a free communication channel too.

In some industries we are seeing a return to non-packaged products where the customer provides their own containers. 

Bulk offering of essentials has been used for years for washing powders, chocolates, candy, juices, wine, vinegar, olive oil etc, but with the crackdown on recycling, many purchasers are leaving the cardboard outers in the shops.

Manufacturers will have to get smarter in the way they communicate, when their outer no longer exists. It will certainly make communicating even more difficult unless manufacturers follow the trend to smart packaging.

What do you see as the future of packaging? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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Are You Still Using The Marketing 5Ps? Move To The Improved 7Qs.

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Marketing is a great profession and the marketing 5Ps the code by which we live. I’ve worked in or with marketing teams for almost my whole career. From the outside, others see marketers as those who come to work late and seem to party all night. They’re always watching TV or jetting off to exotic places to talk about advertising.

For people working in operations or finance, marketers just don’t seem to be doing a very serious job; they’re always having too much fun! I’m sure you’ve already heard such comments.

Well, as you yourself know, marketing IS fun, but it’s also a lot of hard work, often close to 24/7 on many occasions. So does all that hard work pay off? Not always in my opinion. And why? Because marketers don’t always ask the right questions!

If you work in marketing, you already know the 5Ps – people, place, product, price and promotion. However, the problem with them is that when you find an issue with one of them that needs attention, you know the “what” but not the “how”.

So I suggest you work with my 7Qs instead. Each question explains not only what to check, but why. And if you can’t immediately answer any of them, then perhaps you need to do a little more work and a little less partying!

 

Q1. Who are your customers?

Your marketing 5Ps are your sourced from customer understandingThe first “P” stands for people and often that is taken to be “Do you know to whom you are selling?” The answer is always yes and that’s accepted as sufficient.

Instead, ask yourself who your customers are. I don’t mean just their demographics. I mean who they really are; what, where and how they use or consume your brand. And especially the why of their attitudes and behaviours. If you can’t give all these details about your customers, then you’re in serious trouble.

See  “12 things you need to know about your target customers” for more details on defining your customer persona.

 

Q2. How are your customers changing?

Hopefully, you answered Q1. without any hesitation – you did, didn’t you? And it’s great that you know a lot about your customers, but people change.

Are you following how your customers are changing? Are you keeping up with them and their new opinion, needs and desires? Do you know the impact of the latest trends and technologies on your customers’ behaviours? Do you know how these changes may alter your market in five, ten or even twenty years from now?

There are countless examples of brands that have disappeared because they didn’t keep up with the changing needs of their customers:

  • Kodak who didn’t understand the impact of digital photography.
  • Borders bookstores who didn’t get into eBooks.
  • Motorola, once the leader in smartphones, who didn’t embrace new communications technology.
  • Sony who resisted MP3 and lost the portable music player market that they had led for years.
  • Blockbuster who survived the transition from VHS to DVD, but failed to adapt to consumers’ dem and for home delivery.

The easiest way to be ready for any future changes is to prepare for them, by developing future scenarios. (Tweet this<<) How many possible future customer changes have you already prepared for?

 

Q3. What does your brand stand for?

Brand extensions need to be complementary to the parent brand's 5P structureI don’t mean it’s marketing identity or slogan; I mean how your customers or your competitors’ customers would describe it, its image? Is it strong and consistent? Does it align precisely with its identity or the positioning you want today? Do you follow the developments in its image regularly? Do you adapt your advertising and promotions to strengthen its desired image and eliminate negative changes before they impact your brand’s image? Is it authenticated by your customers’ experiences with your brand? It should be a direct reflection of your brand’s (internal) identity and promise. (Tweet this<<)

You should be able to describe your brand in one or at most a couple of sentences, using the words and ideas you want it to stand for, like these:

  • McDonalds offers “quick, convenient, family-oriented  and fun, casual dining.”
  • Bic disposable pens, lighters and razors offer “high-quality products at affordable prices, convenient to purchase and convenient to use.”
  • Dollar Shave Club: “Shave and grooming made simple.”

What you notice about these three examples is that they clearly define the customer’s benefit and what the brand is promising to provide. There is a synergy between what the internal image of the brand is and what the customers would say about it. When that is achieved you have a strong brand that your customers relate to and to which they are more likely to remain loyal.

 

Q4. How are sales and distribution?

I don’t mean just the totals. I mean the local specificities. The regional differences and anomalies. Do you know why they occur? Do these differences result from cultural differences, alternative traditions or usage, historical reasons or just distributor practices? Even if you work in marketing and not sales, understanding weekly, monthly and annual trends all mean increased understanding of your customers and their differences.

If you don’t know why your brand is doing better in some regions than others, then you’re probably missing opportunities for growth. (Tweet this<<) Always play to your strengths and correct your weaknesses as soon as they are identified.

 

Q5. Do you know what your brand is worth?

I don’t mean how much it costs to manufacture or to distribute. I mean how it is valued by the end user. How does your brand’s value compare to its current price? Incorrect pricing could mean that you are leaving money on the table!

If you are priced lower than your customers’ perceived value of it, you could be asking for more. If you are priced above the perceived value of your potential customers’, you are stopping many new customers from buying into your offer, as they don’t think you’re worth it.

Either way, you could be earning more and possibly selling more too. (Tweet this<<)

 

Q6. Are you using the right channels for your communications?

The marketing 5Ps include how to communicate consistently with customersMany marketing plans are still just a rehash of last year’s, especially when it comes to advertising and promotions. With today’s huge array of media opportunities, both on and offline, it is important to choose the most appropriate ones for your customers.

If you answered Q1. completely then you will know which ones they are currently using most often, and if you are also able to answer Q2. you’ll know how these are changing or likely to change in the future.

Wasting money with outdated media plans and channels no longer used by your customers is still one of the biggest challenges of marketing. Make sure it’s not yours.

For a fun piece on the topic, check out “ 10 Signs Your CEO Has an Outdated View of Marketing‘ on Hubspot.

 

Q7. Is your messaging consistent and complementary?

Answering Q3. means that you know what you want to stand for and the image you want to portray. Image metrics will tell you which of them need to be boosted, depending upon the desired changes.

Do you want to attract new customers, support current customers, or develop your image in a certain direction? Appropriate analysis of your image data will give you all the information you need to adapt your messaging and strengthen the positioning you have chosen for it.

For more details on image analysis check out the section in Denyse’s latest book “ Winning Customer Centricity: Putting Customers at the Heart of Your Business – One Day at a Time.” It’s been called “A must read for today’s and tomorrow’s marketeers by none other than Paul Pohlman, Unilever’s CEO!

So there you have them, the seven questions that I believe will bring you greater results than just using the marketing 5Ps. What do you think? Next time you review your brand’s performance, why not give the 7Qs a try? They will provide you with a clearer picture of your brand’s current and future development opportunities, and more importantly, will identify the actions you need to take to progress its growth.

If I’ve missed any important points that you check regularly for your own brand, please share your thoughts below by adding a comment. I’d love to hear your own ideas and success stories.

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Is it time to review your own 5Ps?

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