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Silent but effective marketing

If nobody picks up your product, nobody's going to buy it. So what makes consumers choose to pick up your brand in a sea of alternative options? Your packaging. “The fifth P of the marketing mix has been playing a much stronger role in the advertising of a product and new product launches,” says Desiree Gullan, creative director of Guerrilla Marketing.
Ten years ago, product manufacturers saw packaging as a way to cut costs, instead of a marketing vehicle to generate product awareness or create some consumer excitement.

This trend changed in the '90s. New start-up companies suddenly hit the market with products featuring head-turning, innovative packaging designs. After a couple of months, they were racking in sales and market share. Brands such as SKYY Vodka leapt into the marketplace with a beautiful cobalt blue bottle.

“The packaging created an on-premise buzz and massive product awareness. SKYY didn't have a huge advertising budget. So they put a priority on packaging design. And caught their competitors off guard,” comments Gullan.

“And recently Coca-Cola refined their packaging, retaining the iconic coke bottle shape, but changing the material to a striking all-red aluminium bottle. It really is deserving of its Cannes 2008 Grand Prix Award,” she says.

Understanding the brand DNA

In the past, brand managers would approach their marketing agency and say, “This is the product we want to create and it has to look like this.” Fortunately this process has evolved into a more collaborative effort.

“We usually sit down with our clients and discuss every aspect of the product, including all aspects of the brands DNA that includes, colour, typography, illustrations, packing style, materials and importantly the target market. Only once we understand the brand's DNA can we begin to design the new product's ‘physiology' to meet the branding objectives and talk to your consumer's ‘psychology',” explains Gullan.

More than a salesperson

That doesn't spew the irritating sales pitch. Of course packaging has to do a lot more sell. “Your packaging has to work hard; it not only has to entice consumers to pick it up, it also works hard to inform them of how your product is going to enhance their lives. It encloses and protects your products for distribution, storage, sale and use. It assists with meeting legal and health specifications. It provides security for breakage and theft. It has to work well on shelf displays. A brand's packaging is a vital component of the marketing matrix,” she adds.

Biodegradable packaging is also important. “Without sounding like too much of a cliché, we only have one planet and as designers and marketers we have a responsibility to look after it by making as little environmental impact as we can, while still building and marketing brands,” implores Gullan.

Sustainable packaging has to be not only biodegradable, but also compostable, which means it re-injects goodness back into the earth when sent to the trash and helping to reduce landfill waste. More and more industries are using packaging made with starch, cellulose and polylactic acid (PLA), as opposed to the traditional petroleum polymers, which end up in landfill only to produce methane - a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.

“Also the papers used for labels and boxes should be printed on recycled papers only, a wonderful challenge for designers to keep designs enticing and impactful.”

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