When it comes to packaging,
it pays to be different
Written by Shirley Lichti for The Record,
November 20, 2002
Packaging has traditionally served a utilitarian
purpose, to contain and protect goods in transit to the final consumer.
Other purposes of packaging include identification of the brand,
ingredient lists, weight or volume specifications, and instructions
on use of the product.
But if you think packaging is simply functional
in nature, think again. It also plays important marketing roles,
from capturing attention and increasing consumption, to ensuring
consumer safety or even gaining access to new distribution channels.
Here are some examples, old and new, of how
companies have used packaging to contribute directly to their bottom
Focus on Innovation
At one time, pantyhose were only sold at
department stores. In 1969, Hanes (a division of Sara Lee Corp.)
changed that with the introduction of L'Eggs pantyhose in distinctive
plastic egg-shaped packaging.
The product name and the package provided
a play on words, helping to boost awareness. And L'Eggs could be
purchased in grocery stores, making purchase very convenient.
Women saved the empty packages, which were
both fun and practical. They used them in craft projects, and to
store earrings and other small items.
As a result of innovative packaging, L'Eggs
became the best-selling pantyhose in the U.S.
A product manager at Procter & Gamble in Canada discovered consumers
typically used only 60 per cent of the recommended amount of Tide
when doing laundry. At the time, most people just shook what they
thought was the right amount into the washing machine.
The company knew that putting measuring scoops
into Tide boxes would increase the average usage by as much as 50
per cent, but the idea was never implemented because the cost of
scoops was too high.
Then, in 1985, the manager suggested using
cheap plastic beer cups. The 12-litre box was cut in half so that
it was shorter and could hold a scoop.
The result? Average usage increased by almost
50 per cent and Tide went from being a five million case brand to
almost a seven million case brand.
In the cracker industry, sales of the 30-year
old brand Bits and Bites had been flat. So on 1996, Nabisco repositioned
it to the snack food category. But, to compete against other snacks
like chips, which were packaged in foil bags, not cardboard boxes,
a new approach was needed.
Nabisco came up with an innovative, stand-up
foil bag that was resealable. As the first company to use this type
of packaging, it caught consumer attention - the product stood out
on the shelves. And the fact that the package could be resealed
meant that consumers felt the product stayed fresh longer.
The result? The company, which thought the
changes might increase consumption, was proven correct. From 1996
to 2000, sales of Bits and Bites tripled.
In the fall of 1982, Johnson & Johnson endured a public relations
nightmare when seven people died as a result of cyanide-laced Extra-Strength
Tylenol capsules. Someone had tampered with packages on store shelves.
Overnight the company went from having a
huge share of the over-the-counter analgesic market to having virtually
Johnson & Johnson handled the situation quickly
and honestly. It warned consumers not to buy Tylenol and pulled
$100 million dollars of product off store shelves. Less than six
weeks after the deaths, it reintroduced Tylenol capsules with a
new triple-seal tamper-resistant packaging.
This made them the first pharmaceutical company
to offer tamper-proof packaging. More importantly, it reassured
consumers that the product was safe.
As a result, Tylenol not only recaptured
lost sales, it also gained market share from competitors.
In the crowded beer market, you have to be different to stand out.
Brick Brewing Co. president Jim Brickman says consumers are always
looking for something different from the industry standard glass
bottle. The Waterloo company prides itself on being an industry
Last spring it reintroduced Red Cap - one
of Canada's most popular beers of the 50's and 60's - in the stubby,
a unique squat-shaped bottle, that was the standard long before
long-necked bottles became popular in the 1980s.
The launch grabbed the attention of bars
and restaurants, increasing Brick's presence. According to the company,
sales of the stubby Red Cap have exceeded all expectations.
Even more recently, Brick introduced beer
in 16-ounce (473 ml) brown plastic bottles, that chill faster, stay
cold longer, are lightweight and unbreakable.
This last point is critical because it allows
Brick to expand distribution to outlets where glass bottles are
prohibited, such as university residences, sports events and concerts.
It also lets the company compete with canned beer without having
to invest in expensive canning equipment.
Brick says it is the first Canadian company
to put beer in plastic bottles. And while results aren't available
yet, like some of the other companies above, Brick is hoping that
when it comes to packaging, it pays to be different.