The new “P” of marketing — packaging

Marketing, as the authors of Rework describe, is not a department. “Marketing is something everyone in your company is doing 24/7/365,”         - Jason Fried and David H Hansson 

 When someone answers the phone, that is marketing communications. When someone wears a company logo while traveling, that is marketing. When someone purchases your product, the packaging is marketing

Marketing professionals are well familiar with the “Ps of marketing,” which vary, depending on the source you consult, and can be as few as four or as many as eight “P” words.  

The eight Ps of marketing are product, place, price, promotion, people, physical environment, process and packaging.

  1. Product = the thing you sell
  2. Place = where you sell or distribute it (online, through a catalog, through salesforce or in a store front)
  3. Price = what it costs
  4. Promotion = the channels through which you advertise and develop an audience for your products
  5. People = your audience, including customers and influencers
  6. Physical environment or evidence = brand identity, reputation, culture, community
  7. Process = logistics and supply chain
  8. Packaging = the materials in which your product is delivered to your customers

Packaging is an often-missed opportunity for a brand’s marketing message, which is so much more than logos, color palettes and slogans. Marketing pertains to the way you package your goods, and the subtle but important messages you send to your customers when you use efficient, sustainable packaging.

Why is packaging important to marketing?

Packaging’s primary purpose is to protect your product during transportation, from the time it leaves manufacturing facilities until it is delivered to the end user. Yet, every set of eyes that sees the package in its journey from factory to end user is a marketing opportunity. Packaging is your moment of truth: It is your customer’s experience when they receive, open and use your product.

Packaging as brand differentiation

Consumers have changed from shoppers to specialists, as innovative marketing consultant Frank Rehme explained.  Think of unpacking as a ceremony, he said, and offer packaging:

  1. That can be opened without tools
  2. That makes the consumer fall in love with the product 
  3. That considers sustainability from end to end     

Packaging can create an experience

No industry understands “packaging as a consumer experience” more than consumer electronics. Apple’s boxes are as much a product as their iPhones, Macbooks and smart watches are. Their packaging creates an unboxing experience, and it conveys the reputed durability and longevity that Apple’s customers seek. 

 

Packaging as a channel for communication

Advertising can be easily ignored. Products? Not so much. When a consumer sees your products on a shelf in a store, in an online ecommerce experience, or when they receive a delivery from you, you have their undivided attention, at least for a few seconds.

Do not miss this opportunity to communicate your brand’s benefits and value to your audience.  

Packaging can communicate your products’ values and benefits, as well as your company’s mission. The outdoor equipment company Primus, which manufactures goods used in camping and outdoor adventures, uses a material in its packaging that communicates their products’ quality and performance

Packaging Displays Value

Value is not only the price you pay for something, but it is what you get for the money. Packaging plays a role in this value proposition not only through the words that are printed on the boxes and packing materials, but also in the materials themselves.  

Traeger focused on eliminating foam, a material that does not degrade well, from its products’ packaging. Foam played an important role in protecting Traeger’s pellet grills, and it was a cost-effective shipping solution; however they wanted a more sustainable solution. Their foam was replaced with well-designed corrugated inserts, which allowed for more branding space and recycling opportunities for environmentally conscious customers.  The new packaging is leaving consumers impressed.

 

Packaging can Create an Experience

No industry understands “packaging as a consumer experience” more than consumer electronics. Apple’s boxes are as much a product as their iPhones, Macbooks and smart watches are. Their packaging creates an unboxing experience, and it conveys the reputed durability and longevity that Apple’s customers seek. 

The Future of Packaging and Marketing

As generations of consumers age and their preferences and behaviors change, brands will need to maintain packaging as a channel for marketing communications, through both direct (logos, slogans, messages, calls to action) and indirect (recyclable materials, materials’ quality) methods. Generations of younger consumers are more focused on sustainability, and they are well-informed. The want to spend their dollars thoughtfully, on brands that care about them and the environment. 

Expect to see more retailers issuing sustainable packaging guidelines like REI, whose four-page sustainability packaging guideline pertains to package material reduction, reuse and recyclability for the brands it sells in its more than 150 stores.  

Explore more resources for brand communications strategies: Resources for Packaging Designers page.

Download our annual sustainability report.

Get in touch with a packaging and supply chain expert to learn how your organization can use packaging as an important “P” of marketing.

Contact

Any questions, ideas or something you'd like to tell us? Don't hesitate to contact us. 

Get in touch