Marketing and selling in tough economic conditions -
Increasing sales with effective packaging
is a silent salesman
Packaging is a very important aspect for marketing success, specially
in the case of consumer products. However, the attention given to
develop sound packaging is inadequate. This is probably due to the cost
of packaging or the lack of understanding of the strategic value of
packaging. In my view, packaging should be considered as a separate
element of the marketing mix, so that the required attention is
The benefits of packaging
Primarily packaging fulfills two major roles i.e. functional and
emotional. Functionally, the package must protect the product and its
contents, so that the product is received by the consumer in a
satisfactory condition. In general, most organizations are able to
achieve this. However, the real strategic value of packaging is the
emotional aspect, which helps to increase sales. The emotional
dimensions relate to colour, shape, graphics, finish of package,
The levels of packaging differ mostly in the quantity of their
contents and the importance of their communication function. Primary or
sales packaging is what usually reaches the consumer. It has the
smallest product quantity, and the communication element used is very
important. The packaging is in direct contact with the product.
Secondary packaging is primarily used to safely transport several
primary packages. The most common example is the corrugated carton. It
is generally plain and has little communication function beyond a
barcode to identify it.
Tertiary or transport packaging is used for handling and transport of
secondary packages, for instance, shrink-wrapped pallets and metal
shipping containers. These contain the largest product quantities and
have little communication function.
Factors to be considered in making packaging decisions
In the case of global products/brands, a key factor would be whether
standard packages are to be used or customized once. The more
standardized the packaging, the better recognition worldwide. A good
example would be Absolut Vodka.
Package cost must be considered on a total and per unit basis. Total
costs can be prohibitive and be a substantial portion of the product's
retail price. (Maybe 40 percent in certain instances).
Due care must be taken in choosing the packaging material. In the
selection, trade-offs are probably necessary. For instance, cellophane
allows products to be attractively displayed, but is highly susceptible
to tearing. Paper and cardboard are relatively inexpensive, but can be
difficult to open or weatherproof.
Packaging needs to meet legal requirements
Irrespective of which market a product is made available, the
packaging has to adhere to certain regulatory requirements. For example
in a Sri Lankan context, barcodes, nett weight, maximum retail price,
expiry/manufacturing date, list of ingredients, name and address of
manufacturer/marketeer are all necessary. The name of the product/brand
should be clearly visible and two languages need to be used. If certain
quality certifications are available, they should be mentioned. (SLS,
ISO, HACCP, Halal etc.,)
Packaging needs to communicate
The communication aspect of packaging is important to increase sales
of a product/brand.
An attractive package supports the positioning of a brand. For
example, the packaging of 'Gillette' razors, supports the positioning of
a premium brand.
The packaging further needs to communicate the details of the
product, how it should be used and how the packaging should be disposed
of, in an environmentally friendly manner.
In a self-service, modern, trade environment, the package should
'sell' itself. Supermarkets and department stores carry a range of
products/brands on their shelves and creative packaging is required to
For this to happen, the aesthetics of the packaging should be
excellent and compliment the product type.
When the communication aspect of packaging is considered, the colours,
designs, graphics are all important.
In certain markets, certain colours are inappropriate, due to
cultural reasons. Due care must be given in using colours such as white,
black and grey.
There is a wide range of package features from which to choose,
depending on the product. These include screw-on tops, hinged lids,
see-through bags, pour sprouts to name a few.
Next, the sizes, colours and shapes of packages should be selected.
In selecting the package size, the shelf life, convenience and
competition must be considered.
By selling small, medium and large sizes, an organization can ensure
maximum shelf shape, appeal to different segments and make it difficult
for new products to enter.
How innovative must be the package?
This depends on several aspects such as nature of the competition,
the uniqueness of the core product, the characteristics of the target
customer to name but a few.
Organizations such as Unilever, P&G, Nestle, L'Oreal, General Foods
have been very innovative in their packaging and this has resulted in a
certain degree of competitive advantage.
Very innovative package shapes can be observed in the cosmetics and
personal care industry. Brands such as LV, Christian Dior, Wella, Nina
Ricci come readily to mind.
Innovative packaging can also be seen in food products such as cheese
(Kraft), beverages (fruits, carbonates) and alcoholic beverages (wines,
beer, whisky, champagne).
Packaging and environmental issues
Environmental aspects are critical in packaging design, material
selection and disposal of empty containers. Stringent environmental
regulations are in force in certain markets, whilst in others newer
regulations are being drafted. By developing and marketing eco-friendly
packaging, a certain product/brand can achieve a competitive advantage.
Basically, marketeers would do well to consider the disposal issue of
used packaging. Glass and paper based packages are more environmentally
friendly, as opposed to plastic, polythene and cans. In Sri Lanka we
observe the Keells Super chain of supermarkets, initiating a paper based
bag, as opposed to plastic. The support of consumers is also needed to
ensure that the environment is safeguarded.
There are several aspects to be considered in packaging
products/brands. What is fundamental to remember is that the packaging
must be compatible and support the rest of the marketing mix. Packaging
decisions should not be left to production, QC and finance personnel.
It is imperative that marketeers get actively involved in packaging
decisions, since they are finally responsible for the performance of