One of the harsh realities of marketing is that advertising won’t reach all your potential consumers. Even the best, most expensive campaigns only reach up to 70% of target consumers. Moreover, many products aren’t good candidates for advertising. The only place where you are absolutely guaranteed the opportunity to speak to consumers about your product is at the point of purchase. If a shopper is standing at the store shelf ready to select an item to buy, and your product is displayed as part of the competitive set, only then do you have a 100% chance to communicate why they should buy your brand instead of somebody else’s.
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Consumers make purchases because they are seeking the benefit the product provides. Obvious, isn’t it? So it follows that the best place to trumpet the benefits of your product is on the front of your packaging. That’s where you tell the consumer that your brand delivers the desired benefit better than all those other Joe-schmo competitive products on the shelf.
More often than not, marketers overlook this apparent no-brainer. They mistakenly assume that consumers know what their product is and what it does, so they just slap the brand name on the label with the required legalese and very little fanfare. Big mistake. Sure, shoppers who have used your brand in the past know what your product does and how to use it, but unless you control 100% market share and have no competition, you are losing potential consumers who for one reason or another are buying your competitor’s product. These are precisely the folks to whom your packaging should be talking! If a shopper is using your product and likes it, you won’t have to work hard to get him to buy again. Savvy marketers know that the real money lies in attracting new users and stealing competitive share!
Package copy is no time to be shy -- you need to think like a carnival barker. Go take a look at the products in a typical store that are category leaders. Most of them shout to the consumer what benefit the product delivers. A sampling of the front package copy from some powerhouse brands:
Windex Glass Cleaner: More Cleaning Power! Streak-Free Shine with Ammonia D.
Dow Disinfectant Bathroom Cleaner with Scrubbing Bubbles. Removes Soap Scum Easily!
Drano Clog Remover: Opens Drains Fast! Safe for Pipes.
ChapStick Lip Balm: Helps heal and prevent dry, chapped lips.
Purell Instant Hand Sanitizer: Kills 99.99% of Germs Without Water or Towels.
Downy Ultra Care: Helps Keep Clothes Soft and Looking Like New.
Bounty Paper Towels: The Quilted Quicker Picker-Upper.
Kleenex Cold Care Tissues: Softest Tissue Made! Ultra Comfort.
The world’s best marketers are always searching for new ways to create competitive advantage through packaging innovation. Developing packaging that performs better than the competition is a great way to differentiate your product to consumers. Packaging innovations can usually be protected by patents, which provides your consumers with a demonstrable and meaningful reason to purchase your product.
When liquid laundry detergent was first introduced, consumers loved the product and how easily it dissolved in their wash, but they didn’t like the messy bottle caps. The caps were designed for measuring and pouring the detergent into the wash, but when consumers replaced the cap on the bottle, the liquid detergent leaked around the cap edges causing a gooey mess. To solve this problem, the Tide brand team developed an innovative package design for no-spill tops on their liquid Tide bottles. The bottle top was designed to channel the liquid detergent from the cap back into the bottle, leaving the cap edges clean. The Liquid Tide bottle is protected by no fewer than 13 patents, making it difficult for competition to mimic and offers Tide a distinctive long-term competitive advantage.
Why did it take until the mid-2000’s for shampoo brands to start installing the large flat caps so that you can stand your bottle upside-down to get the last 20% of shampoo to come out of the bottle? Seems like a no-brainer. Same with the ketchup bottle.
When you consider these examples, it’s easy to see why they work. The tricky part is developing the packaging strategies in the first place. It is common to become so caught up in the process of choosing colors and fonts, developing labels and solving manufacturing problems that you stop asking the question, how could it be different or better? How does the consumer use my product? How could I make her life easier or more pleasant?
Step back from the creative process, and get functional once in a while. Worry about pull tabs versus screw tops, and whether your product reseals easily. These are the unglamorous steps to successful packaging, yet can lead to huge gains. Think about the re-sealable Oreo Cookie package and how that innovation has made that package much more desirable and functional than any other cookie brand? Do you think it’s helped grow sales? You bet it has.
I wish I had a dime for every time someone called me up, bursting with excitement over some brilliant new product idea they just had. Inspiration strikes in some strange and wonderful places; washing the dog, looking for car keys, flipping the remote. The thought emerges, “Gee, I wish someone would invent something to make my dog smell better, or find my keys, or keep my remote handy.” Presto, the idea is hatched, and the product begins to take shape.
Sometimes the ideas are pretty good, and often the inventor has already dreamed up a catchy name, like “Smooch Your Pooch Sweet Smelling Shampoo.” But marketing a successful product should never begin with a focus group of one. The problem with many of these homegrown inventions is the inventor becomes so intoxicated with his idea that he starts building momentum before he tests the concept. He violates the most important rule of the marketing game: Honor Thy Consumer.
Everything in marketing begins and ends with the consumer. Before you can sell your product -- before you even develop a product -- you must understand what the consumer wants and design your offering to meet his or her needs. You may want a dog that smells like the Rose Queen, but do other consumers share your desire -- and will they pay for it? If your product concept is on the mark, then your job is simply finding the best way to communicate that you’ve got the goods consumers want. It’s a basic concept: you can’t create a need that isn’t there, and you can’t argue consumers out of what they want.
Consumer is Key
Knowing that the consumer is at the heart of every marketing decision, researchers have invented ingenious techniques to get in tune with the consumer. Consumers have been ambushed, bar coded, spied upon and even hypnotized in the quest for information. Companies pour millions of dollars into research every year to help them understand what consumers are thinking and how the marketplace is changing.
But here’s the big question: if you are looking at the same studies and doing the same types of research as your key competition, how is it possible that you will gain insights different -- and better -- than theirs? The answer: you can’t.
Creating Intellectual Competitive Advantage
Top companies understand this fact, and force their marketing personnel to go farther than standard research methodologies to gain broader and deeper consumer understanding. This is where they create competitive advantage. They teach their marketers how to beat competition at the consumer learning game, where all good marketing begins.
So how do the top companies get better information than the competition? By spending millions, right? Wrong.
Top marketing companies teach their marketing personnel to gain strategic consumer insight through everyday life…watching TV commercials, browsing in stores, and talking with friends and family.
It sounds too ordinary to be true, doesn’t it? Paying attention in everyday life is nowhere near as exciting launching a half-million dollar research project, complete with one-way mirrors and hidden video. But don’t be fooled by the trappings of research. Top companies know the best way to gain real world experience is in the real world, and they’ve made a science of it.
The Discipline of Observational Learning
At Procter & Gamble, the company rule is if you travel to another city, for business or pleasure, you are required to visit at least three stores that carry your brands and competitive brands. You walk in, look around, analyze the situation, and submit a report of those visits upon your return. Why? One reason is to try to pick up any competitive activities or test-market products that may have been slipped into a market, but the primary purpose is to teach the discipline of in-store walk-around learning. There isn’t much to inspire new thinking in the typical office cubicle, but a store is filled with a wealth of stimulation to help you develop wonderful new ideas.
Give it a try. Go look for a few new products this weekend and see what you find.