Products & Pricing

Learn about marketing strategies to effectively position your products and services.

Packaging Helps Attract Customers

A guide to available packaging options that shows how to pick one that attracts attention by reflecting buyers' values.

To a large extent, packaging decisions flow from distribution channel decisions. For example, if you're going to sell software that will be downloaded over the Internet, you won't need to design a box to sit on the shelf at the local computer retailer.

Packaging must, at a minimum, be functional. When designing a new product, you should test the packaging under real-life conditions for things like storage under varying temperatures, lighting and humidity conditions, as well as shipping through all distribution channels, assuming that rough handling may occur. Shelf life studies for age deterioration are also useful. For example, for some products, the package size should not contain a quantity larger than can be used by the average consumer before becoming obsolete.

For service businesses, "packaging" represents the way the firm communicates its sources of uniqueness to buyers and end users. Packaging for service companies can be a collection of logo identifications on clothing, uniforms, tools, stationery, forms, hang tags and other paraphernalia. Packaging can also be the unique style in which a company provides its services. For example, certain elite hotels are distinguished by their concierge services as much as by their guest rooms and physical amenities.

Packaging designs should communicate the business's "positioning" or unique set of values. For example, Marshall Field's department stores are positioned as upscale and fashionable, but a good value for high-income shoppers. Clothing boxes are more expensive white, glossy stock on both sides, imprinted with the Marshall Field's logo in dark green.

This contrasts with specialty clothing stores (e.g., Kohl's in the Midwest), which do not carry a full line of clothing, and which target middle-income shoppers. Clothing boxes, available mostly during the Christmas season, are unbleached brown stock on both sides, with a red printed logo. It would be a disadvantage for these stores to have the same package box as Marshall Field's for their price-conscious middle-income shoppers.

Walk through any store and look at packages on the shelves. Decide which ones catch your eye in any given section, and why. Chances are the majority of packages that stand out have what's called "graphic identity."

Graphic identity is defined as a unique two or three dimensional graphic symbol that may be recognized by target buyers as being associated with a particular brand or business. Sometimes this graphic identity takes the simple form of a unique brand logo or name with unusual letter shapes.

Exxon, for example, is an artificial computer-derived name without prior meaning. However, the unusual double XX in the name provides a unique graphic identity that makes this name recognizable even at distances where normal words are unreadable.

A precise definition of your target buyer's demographics, lifestyle, activities and interests is key to designing a package that reflects your buyers' values and will attract buyers to it on the shelf, or wherever else your products or services are available.

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