Is Packaging Part of Product or Promotion? Should it be Both?

Which did you answer subconsciously when you read the title? Do you consider your packaging to be a part of the product, protecting its contents and framing its on-shelf life? Or do you consider it to be an integral part of your connection with your customers at an important moment of truth, that of purchase and usage?

If you answered both, then I believe that you are making maximum use of your packaging or at least you recognise its potential for communication.

If you answered only one of the choices, then you may be missing an important opportunity. Let me explain, with a few examples.

 

People don’t read instructions

We all expect most things that we use or consume to be intuitive these days. In other words, we assume that we will understand how to build / cook / use them without reading the manual / instructions.

 

If you are like most people – myself included – this has nothing to do with the complexity of the product concerned . I myself will only turn to the instructions when something doesn’t work: I end up with left-over screws when mounting a flat-pack piece of furniture, or I can’t achieve multi-recordings on my smart TV or DVD recorder.

In the article How Likely Are You to Read the Instructions they  they link behaviour to personality types. It makes an interesting read and offers at least some explanations why many (most?) of us still don’t read instructions.

As internet results in us having access to more and more information, we seem to be reading less and less. Therefore we need to ensure that any vital information is called out in some way on the packaging – and perhaps visually as well.

 

People do look at packs

Whether it is the cream we put on our faces, the cereal we eat for breakfast, or the dip that we offer to friends on match night, there are moments when we are faced with packaging for more than a split second. It is at these times that we are likely to read at least some of what is written on a pack.

It therefore makes sense to provide more than just a list of ingredients. After all you have your customer’s attention.

 

Here are a few examples I have come across recently:

Our customers’ attention is pulled in all directions today, with thousands of messages pushed at them, from so many channels, products and services. Capturing their attention is more likely to be successful when they are open to learning about your product, that is to say, when they are actually using it. It therefore makes good business sense to use packaging more creatively; wouldn’t you agree?

For more information on the support we can provide in product innovation and branding, please check out our website here: https://www.c3centricity.com/training

This post is regularly updated and expanded from the original published on C3Centricity.

 

 

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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.

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.

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

Are you Jeopardising your Customers’ Loyalty? Or is it Going to Disappear Anyway?

As you have no doubt already noticed, my Blog posts and those of many other Bloggers too, are often prompted by real-world experiences. This week is no exception.

I want to share with you some examples of how companies jeopardise the loyalty of their customers and also seriously limit their chances of getting repeat purchases. But manufacturers aren’t the only guilty party; there have been some interesting comments on retail loyalty as well these past few weeks, so I will touch upon that too.

Promising More than the Customer Gets

This week I bought a new br and of bacon; I fancied a real English breakfast for once. When I opened the pack up, I was shocked to see that under the first three or four deliciously lean slices, was a pack of rather fatty, poor quality meat. Now why would a company do this? To make the sale of course. Seeing such great quality you would rightly expect the pack to contain similar meats to the front slices.

Another example which uses a similar ploy involves packaging. How often have you been enticed into buying a new product because of the picture on the pack? Or perhaps it was in an advertisement showing a delicious-looking meal or an amazing improvement to the skin or hair? Sometimes the pack content or product result may be acceptable, but when it’s not, you’re disappointed rather than delighted, aren’t you? (I previously wrote about one such experience in a post on br and honesty here) Again, why would a manufacturer set themselves up to deceive the customer into buying – once?!

Are such behaviours customer-centric? Certainly not! They are deceitful tricks used to sell customers less than they were led to expect. Yes you may get the sale, but you won’t get repurchase and certainly not loyalty. Which do you want? One, several or long-term purchases?

Raising Prices without Saying so

Most major markets have seen low rises in their CPIs (consumer price index) in 2014 with Switzerl and actually in the current situation of a deflation! However that hasn’t stopped several manufacturers from increasing their prices. Or should I say decreasing the content of their packs, as that seems to be the more usual response of many of them? This is not a very customer-centric approach to pricing.

The shopper is buying the same br and at the same price, but the contents, which the consumer rarely verifies, have decreased. If the reduction is significant, consumers may notice that the pack is significantly larger than the contents inside, which may then prompt them to check the actual weight they have bought.

A recent article in the UKs “The Telegraph” talked about some of the most noticeable offenders, including Birds Eye (Pirmira’s Iglo Group) and Twix (Mars) c andy bars. However many categories were using the same method of hidden price rises.

A survey of 1,257 UK’s Which? members found that over half (58%) said they would rather prices rose than packs got smaller.  Continue Reading

Sourcing & Services Matter: Why Price Alone Won’t get your Customers to Stay

Price wars are a st andard challenge of marketers, whether working on the retail or manufacturing side. They have become more frequent in the last couple of years following the recession. Consumers are today even more price sensitive and are searching for great value and even greater deals. However as most retailers are now claiming lower prices, it becomes less of a differentiator. I therefore read with interest that Walmart is moving from its emphasis on low prices to one on sourcing.

Walmart gives serviceIn 2007 Walmart replaced its “Always Low Prices, Always” slogan by “Save Money Live Better”, so this new push with the message “ Made in the US” is worth noting. This latest announcement is made in conjunction with its promise of an additional $10 million in grants to non-profits focused on “on-shoring” manufacturing efforts.

 

Target gives serviceTarget announced last October its plans to introduce the “ Target Sustainable Product St andard” which was developed to “establish a common language, definition, and process for qualifying what makes a product more sustainable.” Target will ask vendors to complete an assessment that is designed to determine a sustainability score for their products. Products will be assigned a score of between zero and 100 “based on the sustainability of ingredients, ingredient transparency, and overall environmental impact”.

 

Both these initiatives show a move to a more caring retail environment. A study run by the Boston Consulting Group at the end of last year, found that more than half of companies with sales greater than $1 billion are actively planning or considering to bring production back from China to the U.S. This rise from a mere 37% just six months earlier shows a significant shift in American sensitivity.

 

Jumping across the “pond” to the UK, something similar is happening in terms of shifting attention from price to value, or should I say values?

 

Tesco gives serviceTesco recently introduced their “ Price Promise”, a pledge to match the price of a basket of both own-label and br anded products at Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons, or to offer customers a voucher at the till for the difference. Sainsbury’s has appealed to the Advertising St andards Authority, arguing that this claim was misleading customers. However, their wrath was, in part at least, sparked by the fact that this new Tesco pledge came in response to their own highly successful “ Br and Match” scheme, although the latter only compares br anded products.

 

Sainsbury's gives serviceSainsbury’s has now retaliated with the launch of a new campaign with the title “ Same price, Different values”, a possible dig at the fact that although Tesco won the ASA appeal, Sainsbury’s might appeal as they claim that their own-label products cannot be compared since many are locally produced. To support this position, the National Farmers’ Union has now taken a stance, backing Sainsbury’s. In light of last year’s  horse-meat sc andal, the values of retailers and the sourcing of food has become even more crucial, and Sainsbury’s sees this latest row as an opportunity to emphasise the difference between itself and Tesco. Continue Reading

Is Honesty still the Best Policy? Walking the Talk of Customer Centricity

I got an email today that irritated me, I mean it really insulted me, and prompted this post on customer centricity. I am sure it would have annoyed you too; in fact you have probably already received it or at least something similar yourself in the past.

It announced a “massive 46-page eBook” that I had been chosen to receive for free. It sounded as if I should be happy and feel privileged to receive it. I wasn’t. I don’t know about you, but I don’t call 46 pages massive. A jumbo jet is massive; War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy is massive; not a measly 46 pages – even if it was for free.

ASA Logo protecting customer centricityWhy do companies continue to think that they can treat people like idiots? In my opinion, it can only be a very short-lived business strategy. People will quickly learn the truth, especially in today’s connected world. Or should I blame the advertising agencies for coming up with these “lies”? However, it seems to me to be just a little too close for comfort to the “misleading claims” from which the Advertising St andards Authority in most countries should be protecting us.

If you are looking to be truly customer centric, here are some other examples that you are hopefully NOT doing.

Claims

The above illustration is just one example of many exaggerated claims which seem to have become prevalent these days. This is most probably because the internet makes it so easy to reach new, “naive” customers, who still trust organisations to do the right thing. Why do so many companies use overly attractive adjectives that their product or service can’t live up to? They are setting themselves up to disappoint their potential customers, especially if they don’t register what comes after that word before buying.

Massive, mouth-watering, heart-stopping, mind-blowing, huge discount, best price ever; most of the time the products are not, which is probably why they feel they have to use such words. Customer centric companies don’t use these claims unless they can substantiate them.

Packaging

One area that often suffers from exaggeration is packaging. How many packs have you opened to find the product sitting miserably in the lower half of it? What a disappointment from the promise of the packaging. Or worse still in my opinion, are companies whose packs have been discretely reduced in contents over time. Companies may print the weight of the product that is inside the pack, but customers recognise and buy the pack without checking its weight each time they buy.

What is particularly offensive in this example is that it is the company’s most loyal customers who are being cheated. The company reduces the pack’s quantity but not its price; they are getting a price increase without informing their customers. That isn’t customer centric.

Value

Customer centric companies price on value not costAnother area that often suffers from exaggerated claims is price value. I was recently offered access online to a video “worth more than US$ 997” for just US$49.99. I don’t know any videos, even those of the classics or Oscar-winning films, that are worth that amount, and certainly no such offers proposed on the internet. Continue Reading

How Communicating through Packaging is more Informative & Personal

Two posts caught my eye this week as they both referred to the importance of multi-channel communications.

If you are looking for inspiration and new ideas in this area, then read on. In particular we will speak about the often forgotten opportunity for communicating through packaging.

The first article was by Jim Tierney at Loyalty360 in which he commented on the results of a new survey in the USA by IBM, concerning cross-channel integrationThe research found that

“Only 35% of leading marketers currently integrate their campaigns across all channels, with 8% indicating they are not currently integrated at all. In comparison, only 12% of the remaining marketers surveyed currently integrate their campaigns across all channels, with 39% saying they are not currently integrated at all”.

The other post on the same topic was from Ginger Conlon, Editor-in-Chief at Direct Marketing News. In it she spoke of the recent Responsys Interact2013 event and the keynote speech by Scott Olrich Responsys’ President:

“Most marketers still cling to blast campaigns,” he said. “Smart marketers focus on digital and addressable.”

They’re now able to deliver on the promises of personalization made 10 years ago, Olrich added.

Why is doing so important? Customers today expect personalization, choice, and value—because they get it already from leaders such as Amazon, which is one company creating personalized experiences at mass scale.

One way to do this? Flip the model, said Steve Krause, SVP of product management at Responsys. Today most marketers start with the campaign, create an offer, schedule it, and send to mass audience; instead, Krause said during his presentation, marketers should start with customer, build profiles, design experiences, and personalized interactions.

As a customer centricity specialist myself, I particularly like Steve’s comment about starting with the customer. Do we still need reminding that this is the first business essential today? Perhaps we do. However, neither article spoke about the opportunity of communicating through packaging, so I would like to add my own thoughts.

I wrote a post last year about the opportunity packaging provides to connect directly with customers at the critical point of product trial. In that post, I gave some good examples from Kellogg’s Pringles and Nestlé’s Nutritional Compass. I include them below for completeness.

This time I would like to add a couple of other interesting examples I have come across recently, where the messaging has become even more personalized.

 

Inspiring Examples of Pack Communications

Pringles goes from allaying a negative to a full blown campaign

 

Who doesn’t know Pringles, the  br and of potato- and wheat-based stackable snack crisps sold in 2012 by P&G to the Kellogg Company?

Pringles started using the freshness seal to communicate to their consumers, by printing “Bulging with flavour” to explain the swollen lid. At the time I was fascinated by the fact that Pringles had been able to turn what might have been perceived as a negative (bulging lid = altered product inside) into a positive, through this simple message.

Today, I am even happier to report that since then, Pringles have turned that short message into a full promotional campaign for the brand. Continue Reading

Creative Messaging for Competitive Advantage

Most companies have issues with their products at times. Often they don’t immediately correct them unless they are considered to be significant and could have a direct impact on sales.

You could argue that this will always be the case eventually, so better resolve them as soon as they are identified. Some companies however are creative enough to turn what others might see as an issue into a competitive advantage. Let me give you a couple of examples.

 

Pringles Freshness Seal

Most consumers associate bulging lids and packs with a product that has deteriorated in some way. This is not at all the case of Pringles, for which a bulging seal under the plastic cap is a sign of freshness apparently, or at least is a normal phenomenon.

What I love about the br and is that whereas in the past the seal’s surface was used for communicating promotions and competitions, it is now used to send a positive message to their consumers about this situation.

On a pack I recently bought the seal was printed with the words “Bursting with flavour”. How is that for making a positive out of what might have been perceived as a negative? I love it! It adds to the br and’s image and also to the taste and pleasure expectations for the consumer who is about to open the pack. I can imagine that this came directly out of consumer insights, to answer a query about why the seal was always bulging, which as I already mentioned would usually be associated with a product that had “gone off”.

 

Heinz Tomato Ketchup

Another br and which has recently started using the “Bursting with Flavour” tag on their pack is Heinz. However I am not sure whether it has the same impact as it does on Pringles. Heinz started inverting their ketchup bottles in 2003, because their product was so thick it took time to slide down the bottle and onto the plate. This resulted in impatient consumers banging the bottom of the bottle, leading to the product being shaken out in a burst of splashes, not only on the plate but the consumer and tablecloth too! Perhaps this is where they got the original idea for the slogan.

Whilst I admire Heinz for putting different, and usually very relevant, messages on their ketchup bottles, the lastest one I saw didn’t live up to the others in my opinion. Why? Because the product is now much thinner and slides easily when the bottleis upturned. In fact it is so thin it doesn’t even need to be turned upside down anymore. As for bursting with flavour; it might have been appropriate in the past, but not any longer for this thin sauce. Pity.

 

The strange taste of Marmite

In contrast to Heinz, another well-documented example of a product that converted an issue to its advantage, is that of Unilever’s Marmite. Marmite claims to be a nutritious savoury spread, although non-Brits would describe it more as a very strange tasting concoction. Continue Reading

10 Things your Customers won’t tell you

Customer centricity has many organisations buzzing in anticipation today. Everyone seems to be talking about it and saying how important it is to the success of their business. 

We are all trying to satisfy our customers as best we can, but all too often we continue to take our own perspective, instead of theirs. Here are ten things your customers wished you knew about them.

#1. I’m sometimes irrational

Don’t ask me why I do what I do. Sometimes I don’t even know why I do things myself! If you really want to underst and me, don’t ask me questions, be a part of my life to underst and things from my own personal perspective.

 

#2. I like gifts

Yes I know I won’t tell you I bought something because I saw it advertised, but the promise of a gift really does help. We never get enough gifts, especially as an adult. Even if I know it is not that special, it makes ME feel special on an otherwise ordinary day, so go on, give me an unexpected treat.

 

#3. I like advertising

Yes I know I tell you it doesn’t matter, but I really do like watching some ads on television. Especially if they make me laugh or tell me something I didn’t know, or entertain me. I will watch them and even more than once, so your br and name might just be in my head when I next go shopping.

 

#4. I don’t like being taken for a fool

I know prices are going up all the time, but don’t try and fool me by putting less and less in the pack whilst maintaining the same pack size and price. One day I’ll notice and I won’t be happy – at all!

 

#5. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver

Also, don’t try to fool me by promising something on the pack you can’t or don’t deliver. OK you need to make your product or service look appealing to me, but if you over-promise and under-deliver it will only make any negative feelings I might have become even stronger. Even if I buy once, it’s doubtful that I’ll buy again if you have disappointed me.

 

#6. I’m just not that into you

With very few exceptions that I am really passionate about, most products and services I buy satisfy a need that I am looking to fulfil. There are usually choices available to me, so don’t take my loyalty for granted. Every purchase is a decision for me, so make it easy by always satisfying my continually exp anding needs. If you don’t, one of your competitors can probably do just as good a job as you do.

 

#7. Don’t confuse me with statistics

Whether it is offering different pack sizes at differing prices, or calculating fat / sugar content by weight instead of calories, I check your maths with my smart-phone today. I believe I should get larger sizes for less money per gram, and lower fat / sugar content for less calorie intake. Continue Reading

6 Ways to Offset Low Customer Dem and

Last week I spoke about how companies can become more customer centric, but in ways that will differentiate them from their competitors. This week I want to give some more concrete examples of actions, inspired by the latest results of McKinsey’s recent survey on the economic outlook.

As their chart below shows, whilst sovereign-debt defaults, economic volatility and geopolitical instability are considered to potentially be the biggest threats globally, low consumer dem and continues to be seen as the greatest barrier to business growth at a local level.

McKinsey economic threat chartThis has been the case in the last six months of results, so I thought it would be a good time to share some thoughts on what organisations can do to offset this (potential) threat to their renewed growth.

# 1 Customers

This should be the starting point for all strategy and plan development, but is so often only an afterthought. Tough times have a nasty habit of showing up an organisation’s incomplete or total lack of underst anding of their target customer. If there are any areas of your customers’ life of which you do not have a deep underst anding, including how they are likely to react in turbulent times, then this must be what you start to investigate, before going to the other five points.

Are your customers pretty resilient to price? Do they often switch br ands, products or outlets? Are they portfolio purchasers or highly loyal? The answers to these questions and more, will help you to be better prepared for tight times and to know how to respond to their specific needs better than anyone else.

# 2 Value

Many companies have reacted to lower sales by reducing price and increasing promotions. In most cases, this has been a waste of time, unless they have always been selling at a price higher than their value. If you don’t know what your customers believe is your true value to them, then you need to run some research urgently to find out, and only then, if your value is below your current price, should you consider either of these actions.

# 3 Offer

In an attempt to maintain pricing, some other organisations have been reducing the size or quality of their products and services, usually without making this clear to their customers. Whilst this might work in the short term, your customers eventually look at the details of the pack content or their service agreement, and realise they are no longer getting what they thought they were. This will both annoy them and make them lose trust in your company; you are at risk of also losing their business too, sometimes forever.

Instead of making reductions in your current product, why not empathise with your customers by offering smaller packs or reduced services for a lower price. In this way, should they decide to switch, it will at least be to another of your products / services, so they can remain loyal and hopefully return to the offering they previously purchased, when times become less difficult. Continue Reading

Simply better communications

One of my recent posts was prompted by a pack of Pringles, where the freshness seal was printed with the words “Bulging with flavour” to explain the swollen lid.

You may remember that I mentioned being fascinated by the fact that Pringles had been able to turn what might have been perceived as a negative (bulging lid = altered product inside) into a positive, through this simple message.

In today’s world of social media, most companies are jumping onto the latest craze and extending beyond the creation of br and websites, to Facebook pages, Twitter and many other forms of online / on-the-go communication. It was therefore a double pleasure for me to see a company making use of its most intimate form of communication to its customer, that of its packaging.

Nestlé adds valuable information on pack

If I am not mistaken, Nestlé was one of the first companies to see the value in communicating not just promotional content on its website, but actually providing useful information to its consumers on its packaging. According to their website, the “Nutritional Compass” provides their consumers with four valuable pieces of information:

  • a st andardised nutrient table giving amounts per 100g, per serving and as a percentage of Guideline Daily Amount;
  • “Good to Know” panel explaining ingredients or nutrients relating to the product, such as fat, sugar, fibre or calcium content;
  • “Good to Remember” panel with tips for responsible product enjoyment and its place in a daily balanced diet;
  • “Good to Talk” panel with contact details and links to consumer services, websites and other materials.

Nestle's pack informationNestlé started working on this initiative back in 2004 and by the end of 2008, they were claiming that its Nutritional Compass had been added to 98% of its global product packaging by total sales volume. This is an incredible achievement in such a huge and diversified company, and shows what can be achieved with passion and dedication.

The often forgotten media channel

Packaging is a wonderful medium for communicating with your audience and yet many companies seem to be ignoring it, whilst at the same time significantly increasing their investments in online media.

My question to all marketing people is therefore “Are you aware you are doing this”? I am sure many of you see packaging as purely a product protection mechanism or a facilitator of shelf impact. Whilst both of these are important of course, the opportunity of engaging with your customers whilst they are in the process of using your product has enormous value. Isn’t it time you took another look at yours?

If your company is effectively using its packaging to communicate more than ingredients or usage instructions, why not share it below and let your br and get into the spotlight?

For more information on br and communication please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage/

C³Centricity uses images from Dreamstime.com

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