Packaging as a marketing tool - why this is so important?

By Ian Segail | Blog | 15 Jun 2020 |

From my point of view, packaging is arguably the most important tool in the marketers shed. You heard right, you should be thinking of packaging design as a marketing tool. Especially in an FMCG environment where consumers are becoming less and less brand loyal. To somewhat validate my claim, I read an interesting piece of research the other day that said consumers are LESS brand loyal with the products they purchase frequently.

Seems counter intuitive right? You would think that consumers would be loyal to the products they purchase frequently. The catch is that the majority of these products are actually low-involvement purchases with a plethora of competitors. As a result, consumers are quite happy to try an alternative.

This poses a significant problem for brand marketers. You can spend millions of dollars on advertising campaigns & promotions, raising brand awareness, sending people in-store to buy your brand (essentially creating need & demand), then ultimately lose the sale in the aisle. Why? Because someone else was smarter with their number one marketing tool… packaging.

Packaging is your final sales pitch…

We’ve touched on this several times, but packaging is your final sales pitch so it’s imperative you value it accordingly. You need to start seeing packaging as a brand and marketing tool and not just something that looks pretty and houses your product.

The core issue is that many marketers don’t hold packaging in the high esteem it should be. It’s such a crucial element to driving sales for your brand, and yet many marketers view it as a burden, something that just has to be done. Worse still is when marketers see packaging as an opportunity to showcase the exhaustive list of features and benefits for their product. Quite honestly, this is a packaging 101 mistake. It signals to consumers that you don’t know who your brand is and what they stand for. If you don’t know what you stand for, then why should a consumer purchase your product?

Add to this the fact that consumers read on average only seven words in an entire shopping trip and it’s clear that you’ve seriously misunderstood how consumers shop and probably missed the sale.

Using packaging as a marketing tool

The growth of digital printing has only added value to the use of packaging as a marketing tool. The demand from today’s consumers is that brands need to be relevant to them as an individual. For example a shared belief in something (sporting team, lifestyle choice/lifestyle stage, suburb, gender), digital printing has meant you are able to develop personalised messaging for each of these without the additional costs associated with creative messaging changes when using traditional printing methods.

I recognise that not everyone has access to digital printing technologies, but that does not mean you shouldn’t treat your packaging as your number one marketing tool. Obviously, personalised messaging has a direct correlation with sales. However, if you are smart about your packaging design and develop an EMOTIONAL CONNECTION with the consumer, then it can be an extremely effective marketing tool.

We have multiple examples of brands we’ve helped develop an emotional connection with their consumers through their packaging, see our website here. One of our favourites is a little brand called Bills Organic Sourdough Bakery, we helped this wonderful brand build an emotional connection with consumers through their packaging. Sales results speak for themselves seeing an increase of 25% in just the first two weeks on shelf. Not a single dollar was spent on additional marketing efforts. 

There is a catch…

Now I know I’ve convinced you that packaging is your most valuable marketing tool, however, this doesn’t mean you should rush off and update your packaging design immediately. You need to ask yourself a few key questions first:

  • Do you know who your brand is? I mean this seriously… what’s the heart and soul of your brand?
  • What does it stand for? This has to be emotional…
  • What is the one key value that sets you apart from all of your competitors? Again, this has to be emotional, it can’t be a whiz bang snazzy product feature.
  • Does this add value to your consumers? If you can answer the above three questions then you’ll know the answer to this.

2D View

I know these seem like pretty simple questions. But they’re not. You would be surprised at how many marketers can’t answers them. The reason is because we often look at our brands and the answers to these questions on a superficial level, we view them as 2D.

In reality, we should be answering these questions in relation to the heart of the brand… the core essence that you love and feel connected to. If you find this and then answer these questions you’re onto a winner.

This is what any good packaging agency will cover prior to starting any work… and if they don’t? If it was me, I’d be concerned about the results that follow. One of our founders favourite sayings is “we can produce the most beautiful packaging designs in the world, but if they don’t translate to sales… they’re not worth the paper they’re printed on”.

Think about this the next time you’re updating your packaging… does your agency or designer truly understand the heart of your brand? If the answers no it’s not going to translate to your packaging design and you’ve missed a crucial opportunity to hero your number one tool in the marketing mix… packaging.


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