Question Time

Question Time

Do on-pack promotions aid or hinder packaging design and do they ultimately affect a consumer’s decision to purchase?


On-pack promotions have become a staple on FMCG products and we are now bombarded with various ways for consumers to engage with brands. Shoppers have become accustom to give-aways, collect&wins and multiple other ways that brands are trying to get consumers to make that decision to put brand X in their shopping trolley instead of brand Y. With the FIFA World Cup looming, we can now enjoy the likes of football themed on-pack promotions throughout the summer; Kellogg’s are leading the way with their RioBall promotional packs. But just how important are these on-pack promotions? Do on-pack promotions aid or hinder packaging design and do they ultimately affect a consumer’s decision to purchase?


David Howlett, Board Director of MMR Research Worldwide


Our experience has shown that, on the whole, on pack promotions have less widespread appeal than those offering savings or increased value to the consumer.  


Their true impact should be not focussed solely on the immediate returns in terms of hard and fast sales but also take into consideration the impact on longer term brand equity and consumer loyalty. A brand owner’s natural tendency is to think longer term, as brands work and build over time. Conversely, our businesses are all measured by shorter term financial success, and the fact is that it is possible to buy this using tactical and promotional tools.


The risk for brand owners who pursue these types of tactics is that they are not investing in the core of their brand; they are often just jumping on the bandwagon.  At best, on-pack promotions are a series short term activities to meet a particularly competitive position, but at worst, brands just become judged against their promotionally supported value equation and then brand equity most definitely has been diluted.


However, on-pack promotions with a link to national or international events are a different strategy, a more positive tactic, which is about building brand equity through association with a co-brand.  So it is very important that brand owners do not embark on this kind of activity lightly!  


There are a number of factors, which will impact the effectiveness of such a campaign. Not least is the potential barrier posed by the limited time shoppers actually spend to actively respond to information in store – particularly with habitual purchases.  On-pack promotions need to either stand out so effectively to be able to achieve cut through or to subconsciously trigger previous exposure to the campaign observed out of store if they are going to have any chance of influencing decisions at the shelf.


Take two well-known examples, vying for attention both in and out of store and both looking to capitalise on the excitement of the World Cup. Coca Cola (who is also sponsoring the competition) is leading with an on-pack promotion to win a football. A simple, and often utilised, mechanic whereby a code can be found on promotional packs and entered online to be in with a chance of winning is communicated by the snappy ‘win a ball’ message on pack. Coca Cola has also recently launched its World Cup television advertisement, ‘The World’s Cup’, an emotive portrayal of the struggles faced by different communities and the ability of football to unite and help get people through hard times. 


Pepsi on the other hand has led with a more aspirational, fun advertising campaign, featuring football and music stars in Rio. They too have special World Cup packaging – but theirs simply features the face of various footballing stars.  Whilst not a promotion per se, this tactic offers the opportunity to reinforce the brand connection to the World Cup being portrayed ATL, requires little cognitive attention at fixture plus provides potential for buzz associated with collecting the different ‘heroes’ depicted.  However, in reverse to the Coca Cola situation, whilst this may aid take up in store, it’s less easy to see what (if any) positive impact this can have on brand image on a longer term basis.


John Nevens, Co-Founder, Bridgethorne


Brands that are looking to exploit the potential of the forthcoming World Cup in Brazil need to be preparing strategies that target the shopper as well as the consumer. The power of the World Cup is not in question. If history repeats itself, over the next few months England football fans will splash out on everything from replica shirts and new television to pizzas and cases of beer as they follow the team’s progress in Brazil. British retail sales rose six times faster than expected in the month preceding the last World Cup. (Source: ONS), whilst the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said that the 2006 World Cup in Germany generated about £1.25bn in extra spending across the retail sector. 


On-pack promotions are fine provided that brands and retailers ensure that marketing activity is optimised by focusing on the shopper (those who actually make the purchasing decision) as well as the consumer. 


Take beer as an example, where some statistics show that whilst the overwhelming amount of bottled beer bought in supermarkets is consumed by men most is also purchased by women. A promotion that offers tickets to a sporting event may be a good idea but a ticket promotion that may motivate the consumer – the man – might not necessarily appeal to the shopper. For a campaign to be fully connected it needs appeal to the shopper – perhaps a spa break to appeal to football widows – as well as the consumer and be relevant to both the stage of the purchasing journey and the shopping environment they are in. 


Vast sums of money are invested to drive brand awareness, increase sales and competitive advantage but this investment is being risked every day because suppliers fail to recognise that their consumers and shoppers behave differently. 


The investment needs to target all phases of the shopper’s path to purchase (not just in-store activation) right the way through to consumption and repeat purchase.  One message or one type of activity rarely fits all these requirements and only by adapting activity and fully connecting the dots on the shopper’s journey can return on investment be optimised.


Simon White, Business Development Director at Protravel


How to catch the attention of consumers in supermarkets is an ongoing challenge for FMCG brands.  Money-conscious behaviour that came about because of the recession is now entrenched for many and as a result some brands are continuing to promote on price for fear of losing sales.  This is not a healthy long-term strategy as it damages brand equity and the relationship that a brand has with its consumers.  


Added value on-pack promotions are one way in which brands can maintain their margins, avoid price-led offers and differentiate themselves from the competition. The key to a winning promotion that succeeds in engaging with consumers lies in getting the match between the prize and the target audience spot on. In recent times, with economic conditions remaining difficult and household budgets continuing to be stretched, consumers have been drawn to promotions which offer them the opportunity to continue to enjoy the things they may have been forced to cut back on such as travel, dining and family activities. Few consumers will remember a slight price discount on their tea bags for very long, but they will remember something like a family day out or a weekend break and are likely to feel ‘warm’ towards the brand behind the promotion as a result. For brands, the right reward will capture the consumer’s imagination, create awareness and reinforce the brand values, as well as providing an important opportunity to collect accurate data.  


Given the potential packaging issues with some retailers, many brands are opting to use vouchers either as part of the packaging or as a Fix-a-Form® leaflet-label when space is at a premium. However, due to cost, timing and space not every brand can run an on-pack promotion. In these situations many will opt to communicate the message near pack on point-of-sale material, directing the consumer to an online or text entry mechanic.  


To ensure that the promotion is cost effective it is vital to choose the right mechanic, whether its text to win, collector or online.  What is vital is to ensure that the mechanic is seen to be relatively quick and simple to do by the target audience in relation to the prize or reward on offer in order to generate a high level of response.  To achieve this, many brands are using a redemption mechanic, which enables them to take a fixed fee approach. This allows them to budget for the promotion and offer more big prizes or a larger reward for the available budget while allowing somebody else to take the risk on the level of redemption.


An on-pack promotion is a focused marketing tool that is highly effective in influencing purchasing decisions. And for those brands that really get it right, the added value provided by positive PR and social media buzz can boost the impact of a promotional campaign hugely.


David Jenkinson, Creative Director, Elmwood London 


There’s no doubt that on-pack promotions serve a purpose and ultimately lead to an increase in sales or result in customer action to some degree, otherwise brands wouldn’t continue to run them.


Obviously, the audiences for promotions vary hugely. As a child I was always enticed by the free give aways or competitions on cereal packs (to my parents annoyance) especially during world cup or film promotions. As an adult I’ve become much more suspect of brands jumping on the bandwagon and trying to push random promotions down our throats (if you’ll excuse the pun).


Consumers are bombarded with messages throughout their shopping experience, so unless there is relevance and a clear benefit for the customer, promotions can be yet another distraction. 


Within Elmwood, we recently decided to create promotional World Cup packs for our own tea brand – Make Mine a Builder’s. As a brand that is quintessentially British in its attitude with a tongue-in-cheek personality we felt there was perfect synergy and relevance with a world cup audience. We altered the pack visual from a single handed mug of tea to a double-handed gold trophy of tea and changed the tone of voice to embrace the world cup spirit.


From a design perspective, naturally the less clutter you have on the pack, the better. As with any piece of communication, it’s our job to make the visual navigation and decision-making process as easy as possible for the customer. Brands should ask themselves if there’s room on the pack to include promotions, how relevant they are to the overall brand experience and whether they maintain the essence of the brand while continuing to communicate the product’s core message. 


The future of on-pack promotions will become a lot more interesting with the ability for consumers to use their phones to scan smaller, subtler icons. This will allow them to enter a competition or get more information on the promotion off pack and online. We’ll move away from the old school approach of plastering a pack with visual promotions, to more considered and integrated ways to communicate with customers, while maintaining the integrity of the pack design. 


Fiona Beauchamp, Director of activation, Bray Leino 


Do on pack offers work? Our experience indicates that they certainly do. They work through a mixture of disruptive design, brand equity and the ability of the messaging to create an emotional connection in-store, at a brand’s moment of truth. 


In the fierce FMCG retail battle ground, we market to ‘shoppers’ rather than ‘consumers’. When consumers go in-store, they change. They assume more of a hunter gatherer mind set; they become shoppers.


When in-store, a shopper’s brain is in search mode, not research mode. This means the time we have to catch their attention is very brief. And with over 5,500 messages battling for their attention, the retail environment is the crunch point where brands live or die based on split-second decisions to either pick up their product, or choose a competitor’s.  


On-pack is one of the sharpest weapons in the shopper marketer’s tool cabinet. It’s the most reliable, cost-effective piece of communications real estate you have in the cluttered retail environment, and the only area you can ensure you have more-or-less total control.


To optimise this space, we believe an on-pack activity must have four key attributes. 1) Add value: Offer the shopper an emotional reason to pick up the product. 2) High impact on shelf: The pack has to stand out against everything else in its category, without losing the brand cues. 3) Relevance: The offer and its messaging must been in-keeping with the brand’s equity. 4) Don’t over complicate: The promotion has to be simple enough to engage in a couple of words.


And with up to 50,000 SKUs in store all competing for attention, many carrying World Cup promotions in the run-up to kick-off; it’ll be the brands that most effectively implement the four golden rules that do best.



David Howlett has over 25 years’ experience of marketing, sales, production and general management in the FMCG sector. He has a responsibility for new client development and marketing and specialises in packaging development and research.


John Nevens has over 25 years experience within the blue chip FMCG sector, having held several senior sales roles for companies such as Quaker Oats & Anchor Foods. In his 14 years as a Director at Bridgethorne he has used his in-depth understanding of the UK grocery trade combined with his trading strategy experience to quickly grow the business above and beyond expectations.


Simon White has extensive experience in the development and delivery of aspirational travel and leisure based promotional prizes and rewards including holiday prizes, experience days and travel vouchers. He can advise on all aspects of promotional marketing.


David Jenkinson is Creative Director of Elmwood London and is responsible for managing and raising the standards of creativity across key clients. He is passionate about creating brands with a clear and compelling central idea, that are expressed strongly through products and services, people and behaviours, environments and channels and communications.


Fiona Beauchamp, who has been a director at the creative communications agency since earlier this year, has over 25 years’ experience delivering first-rate strategic, award winning activation and shopper marketing activity for a range of consumer brands. She was recently appointed to the Institute of Promotional Marketing’s Board of Directors.



Stephanie Cornwall
Stephanie Cornwall