One of the most important elements in the Marketing mix is Promotions. And lately, packaging has become a strong element of the Marketing mix. Some say it should fall under Promotions because it helps in attracting attention for the product. Others say, it serves a much higher purpose then only promotions and hence the argument is that packaging can become the 5th P of the marketing mix. Nonetheless, we feel the role of packaging is very important in Marketing and sales.
Here are a set of crucial roles that packaging plays in an organization or for the product.
1) Information and self service for the customer – One of the first role that packaging plays, especially in new products launches, is the information provided on the packaging. This information can tell the consumer how to cook the food product, it can tell them how to use a technology product, or it can lay out any procedures and precautions necessary during the usage of the product.
Thus, when products are sold in large quantity and you cannot have a salesman for each customer, the role of packaging is to convey the information to the customer. Below is an example of a Maggi packet, where it specifies how to make maggi and also gives additional information of the beneficial nutrition to be found in Maggi and specifically, the harmful nutrients which are NOT there in Maggi.
2) Information as a safeguard – Packaging information can also be used as a means to safeguard the company. In case someone sues the company for information not provided, and that information is already printed on the packet, then the company can raise it hands and say that the information was already provided. Here’s a funny take. If you have seen the FRIENDS episode where Ross comes to know that condoms are effective only 97% of the time, you can see the hilarity that follows. And yes, the condom company is safe even if someone gets pregnant. Because they have clearly written that they are effective only 97% of the time. Get the gist how packaging can save you?
3) Innovation in packaging helps sales – There have been many instances where the role of packaging in increasing sales is evident. Look at the example of Tetra pack which was introduced by Frooti in India. Or you can also have a look at how Ready mix concrete has changed the market. No mixing of cement required anymore because it comes directly from the company. Such innovation in packaging leads to more sales because more and more customers prefer a convenient packaging over a non convenient one. Not only the tetra pack, the sachets used for small packaging of oil, shampoo or any other small items have increased the sales tremendously of these items. They are easy to carry, easy to be sold off and have penetrated the market thoroughly. They can also be used as samples for the product. If you look at Cadbury celebrations, a whole new gift item has spawned just by repacking the already well selling items in the market like Dairy milk and 5 star.
4) Utility – Besides being attractive and promoting the product, another utility that packaging serves is in safeguarding the product. Protection of the product, carrying it safely, not allowing damage of the product, transportation of the product are all examples of the utility and the role that packaging plays. Even basic things like Milk and Grocery items like Salt and Sugar come packaged because ultimately you dont want ants or other pests reaching these products. So at a base level, the utility of packaging is to safeguard the product. Utility of the product can be increased by changes in packaging design. Baby sippers, bottles, storage containers are all designed nowadays to increase the utility of the product.
4) Role of Packaging in Branding / design of packaging – In many cases the brand recognition and the brand image relies on the packaging of the product. Take for example Absolut vodka which is known and loved for its round bottle. The bottle is the brand’s symbol and used in a wide variety of ways to signify the quality of the vodka. The more expensive and well designed the bottle, the more is the value of the vodka stored inside. Besides Absolut, another brand which is popular for its packaging style is Ferrero rocher. The gold cover of the brown chocolate is recognised everywhere as the packaging of Ferrero rocher. Consequentially, your mouth begins watering as soon as you see that packaging.
5) Brand recognition – A special mention needs to be given for the brand recognition and the role packaging plays in it. There is a very small brand in India known as “Balaji” chips and wafers. Let me tell you, the fight that Balaji is giving to Lays and other chips is astounding. And the yellow colored packaging plays a major role in the push of the chips brand. It is distinct, and even on highways, when people want to munch on something, the packaging is observed from a long way across, thereby bringing an impulsive push for the brand.
If we discuss it at local levels then Balaji is good, but it will be wrong to not praise the packaging of Lays as well. The bright blue color, its usage in their promotions, and the chips on the cover have made Lays a favorite snack all across. In a larger format, look at Haldirams, Gems, M&M’s or any other such FMCG products and you will see how they package their products attractively for the delight of their consumers. Kitkat packages its products in red and inside is a Silver foil. It specifically promotes the tearing apart of the silver foil and how to break the kitkat inside. This is majorly to drive brand recognition and bring acceptance in the market for the products.
6) Differentiation – A key role of packaging is differentiation. A look at the brand sunsilk will tell you exactly how packaging can differentiate between products. Each sunsilk shampoo is made by a different hair expert and the objective of each Sunsilk shampoo is different as well. One of them will be for Anti dandruff, whereas other will be for hair fall and yet other will be for smoothening the hair etc etc. In that, there would be a matching conditioner also. Consequentially, all you have to do is go to the supermarket and buy the pink sunsilk shampoo. Or you can buy the black or golden one. Your brand and the packaging color becomes clear in your mind that “this is what you want”. Have another look at Tide (Orange), Rin (Blue), Ariel (Green) or surf excel (Navy Blue, Green and orange). All of them are soaps. But if one of them is your favorite, you will be able to spot it right across the super market.
7) Promotions – Ever seen the deal of 1 + 1 free? Or any other bundled offer? That you buy a soap and you get a shampoo free? You buy a shaving kit and you get so many blades free? Well, these below the line promotions are majorly dependent on the packaging that goes along with the product. Besides this, there are other ways to package a product to use it for promotions of the company. Like instead of sending plastic bags like other E-commerce players, Amazon always sends its products in cardboard boxes to keep it safe. As a result, Snapdeal (in India) recently launched its own variant of the box with the tagline “Unbox life” and the box was a beautiful red color and smaller units were delivered in this red box. Similarly, various other below the line promotional methods can be used while packaging a product.
8) Decision making – Finally, the main role of packaging is in consumer decision making. Packaging is the final salesman on the frontier. You spend a lot on advertising, branding, marketing and sales and you got the customer inside the showroom and in front of a line of products. Many a times, the decision taken by the consumer is influenced a lot by the packaging of the product. Hence many times, you will find that books pay a lot of attention to the cover photo. This is because authors understand the age old philosophy that many people buy a book based on its cover. As a result, it directly influences the consumers decision making.