Steven Anderson discusses how packs are a permanent fixture in marketing campaigns
American marketing guru E. Jerome McCarthy devised the ‘Four Ps’ classification in 1960, which has since been used by marketers throughout the world. The ‘Product’ category has always included packaging, but recent campaigns have led me to wonder if perhaps our specialist niche deserves a ‘P’ (for Pack!) of its own. This is because more and more brands are now integrating the packaging into their wider marketing campaigns. It’s not just flashes on packs any more, offering 25% extra or traditional promotions for that weekend in Devon. Instead brands are using packs as a key part of the integrated marketing campaign. There are examples everywhere right now.
Probably the most famous is the ‘Share A Coke’ campaign where individual names replace the brand logo on the bottle – in 2014 alone it saw more than 150 million personalised bottles sold and more than 730,000 glass bottles personalised via the e-commerce store. But that’s hardly the only one. Nutella has let people personalise their jars at Selfridge’s, Yorkshire Tea joined with the Gruffalo to become ‘Yorkshire Tree’ and KitKat is currently rolling out more than 100 million special edition packs in its biggest redesign ever: 72 different “breaks” such as “Movie Break”, “Lunch Break” and “Sporty Break” are replacing the traditional logo and rolling out across 400 individual packaging designs.
Smith and Milton, meanwhile, recently helped Warburtons become ‘Warbeartons’ in honour of Paddington Bear. It wasn’t just about changing the logos on the packs, but everything from advertising and digital to stunts and PR. What we’re seeing is the pack becoming a vehicle for social media and marketing campaigns, to the point where some might wonder where the campaign actually starts and finishes. Is the campaign trying to make you buy the product or is the product the campaign? The lines have become blurred and the pack and product have become a delivery method for the marketing campaign. In many ways this is a great thing: packaging is an extremely effective channel that offers physical advertising in your hand, on the shelf or at POS. It’s like a small-scale ad campaign taking place in the shop itself. Then when you get the product home it’s on the kitchen counter or in your cupboard, which means the brand has cleverly managed to get ad space in your house as well.
It plays perfectly with social media and allows customers to see that other people like them are buying into the product as well. In fact it’s the next level of integration, using the pack as a marketing delivery channel. Brand marketers are thinking about packaging in a different way, thinking about it as a media channel rather than just as a product. Of course, as with any new idea, there are caveats. If brands continually run redesigns or promotions on pack, they could lose the iconic status and recognition of the original packaging. It has to be managed carefully – used for a time then followed by a return to the core packaging, so people don’t forget what they were buying in the first place. Or if there is too much on-pack, people will find it difficult to find the product in-store and on-shelf. Brands could risk their customers not being able to find the variant or flavour they’re after because they can’t see it. Companies have to be careful with the way any new design is treated so they don’t totally confuse their consumers. But done right, it’s a great option for marketers – and a chance to really let packaging take the limelight as the key messaging channel. About time, too.