Published in Nov-Dec 2016
For as long as I can recall, my family has always had a problem with me when it comes to grocery shopping. On routine store visits, my mother would assign me a couple of items she wanted with the simple expectation that I would pick up the items from the shelves and dump them in the shopping cart. The task was easy, but I always took longer than expected. My family would be done with half their list and I would still be deliberating on which shampoo to go with. I have been married for five years and my wife still has not fully come to terms with this habit of mine.
In my defence, there is so much to choose from for any one purchase! Such attractive packaging, and so many claims, proprietary formulas and whatnots. I am at once king of the aisle and its sole prisoner. All these products clamour for my attention, compete for my choice, and there is that rush I get when I make (what I think is) the right, informed decision.
The average shopper might not be as anal as I am when it comes to shopping, but point of sale is arguably the most important moment in the brand-customer interaction. At this crucial juncture, one thing that can make or break the deal comes into play – your packaging. The shelf, the aisle, the decision-zone, call it what you may... this is your brand’s moment to shine, and the best tool in your arsenal is the box, wrapper or tube, your brand manifests itself in.
It’s all in the packaging
Pakistanis are as capable of creating conversation-worthy packaging as anyone else. Just look at local eatery brands such as Burger Lab and Ginsoy for example. Who would have thought that a box for a burger could be so interesting that it would make me put it on Instagram? Granted, practicality comes into play. Sometimes it is simply not feasible to box a mundane soap into an artisanal cherry oak container, no matter how much it may be able to lift the brand. At times like these, it is important to integrate a personality into the packaging, whether through words or visuals. I was amazed to find a note (complete with signature!) from the CEO of Dilmah Tea (printed on the pack of one of their green tea variants) expounding about their heritage, history and passion. The tea was terrible, but the story clicked. I felt I was a part of something bigger just by the simple act of buying the product.
The milk arena
Dayfresh’s packaging is based on a cow hide design. Given that the packaging of their competitors is mostly about solids and gradients, the Dayfresh packs immediately popped off the shelves. Although the idea can hardly be called new (“OMG let’s put cow hide textures on our packaging!”), the fact that it saw the light of day is commendable for both the agency and the brand team. They took a risk on the package design and it paid off in terms of higher visibility. Coupled with their claim to be a hormone-free and wholesome brand, the packaging tied in coherently with their campaign.
Nurpur’s new packaging caught my attention with its retro style and flat design colours. The two-colour negative-space based visual is at once subtle and engaging, elevating the brand’s profile by visually balancing their traditional lineage with a modern look. What is more, Nurpur were brave enough to change the shape and size of their SKUs, and when stacked against those of their competitors, they become even more pronounced.
Dostea and Dalda’s CupShup. In my opinion (and I choose my words carefully) neither brand’s packaging design are anything to write home about. However, I have learnt the hard way that there are always other factors at play. What doesn’t appeal to me personally might be more suited to a particular target audience (who might not be as fussy about design parameters as I am). There are also client limitations and value judgements that affect the final outcome; so I will not go any further except to say that perhaps they could have had a little more character.
The chips arena
Oye Hoye have made packaging the cornerstone of their image building campaign and this seems to have been very well received by the market. It helped that the design was pretty fantastic, with six flavours denoted by six bright colours, some of which were unprecedented in Pakistan (I love the sky blue!). The modern design language features an off-centre rotated logo and an in-your-face integration of tagline, along with matte finishing. These are all initiatives traditionally frowned upon in packaging development, especially among local clients. I am very proud of the team behind this effort, and the design seems destined to leapfrog the brand into the competitive landscape.
Lays unveiled a new package design in alignment with their global branding. The #PassASmile idea recognises the fact that the pack need not be a one-way communication medium. Featuring carefully inserted images of smiles, the packaging becomes an accessory to the campaign as consumers are encouraged to use the pack to spread smiles, take selfies and create a conversation around smiles. And this happens by making the product the centrepiece of the campaign. To me, this is the future of package design. In the age of Snapchat and always-accessible audiences, packaging needs to interact and engage with consumers.
Coca Cola started this by personalising their bottles with the names of people, thereby giving every bottle a unique connect with every fan, turning them into friends and then into advocates.
Pepsi jumped on the bandwagon with the PepsiMoji drive, integrating different emojis into their cans and bottles to encourage people to express themselves using the product. I thought the idea was overly simplistic; it seemed like a calculated response to a trend rather than an innovation in its own right – but to each his own.
The fact of the matter is that packaging can be so much more than it is meant to be. For example, we are working on a ‘smart packaging’ initiative by integrating QR codes into the packaging of one of our client’s product ranges which is then activated by mobile apps and micro-sites.
Remember, the packaging space is a physical connect to your audience; one that you may not have through any other media. Tinker with it, change it, break a few rules about how it’s supposed to be, and evolve it into something bigger.
Umair Kazi is Partner, Ishtehari. firstname.lastname@example.org
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