Dress ed to Kill

Thursday, July 19, 2007

He is 25 years old. He dropped out of Princeton University and now he is turning “worm-poop” into green bucks! Tom Szaky and his friend Jon Beyer started a company called TerraCycle Inc. The company uses worm waste to create plant food and the best part is it sells it in recycled soda bottles. Most of these plastic bottles are collected through a nation-wide recycling programme organised by the company itself. It’s got schools and churches to collect empty plastic bottles and milk cartons, which are used to package its products. They now even have neck-tags on these recycled bottles where you can put your first name and the state from where you collected your bottle. It’s this idea of such an innovative packaging that generated copious publicity for this company that it has hardly spent on advertising. It even showed what the company believed in and stood for. Body Shop had done a similar thing years ago. They encouraged customers to bring their old packaging back into the shop to be refilled and re-used or recycled. They did it at a time when no one else was doing it – and it spread a good word about the company, which is more powerful than any advertisement.

Packaging is the first tangible interaction a consumer has with your brand. If it’s powerful and creates an impact, then it’s the best way to differentiate your product from competition and even beat it. No wonder Coors Brewing Co. is relying on packaging to help boost its sales. The have introduced “Cold Wrap” bottles. A wraparound label on the beer bottle keeps the brew cold longer by reflecting heat from the consumer’s hand. Not just this, they even have an agreement with the packers, whereby, the Cold Wrap bottle will remain exclusive to Coors for “at least one year”. What a way to beat the heat and the competition!

New and innovative packaging always helps to create a buzz. Last year, Pepsi Co’s soft drink 7UP decided to get the excitement going high by introducing its drink in a new packaging and using Mallika Sherawat’s curves to up the enticement quotient. It suddenly made the brand both hot and cool. Coca-Cola too had to change the shape of its soft drink Limca if it wanted to remain in the race. This year it made its bottle curvier and called it the Limca splash bottle. They said, it gave consumers a better grip. It might even help Coca-Cola to retain its grip over the market!

It’s a new world

Today it’s a whole new generation that we are marketing our products to. This “millennium generation” or “generation why” is very different. Generation Y, according to Crispin Reed of Sterling Brands, is “...arguably the most savvy generation ever to walk the planet. It’s never felt the chill of the Cold War, never knew life without AIDS, learnt about the birds and bees from President Clinton, never went to library, wore designer kids’ clothes & can’t imagine a life without DVDs, AIMs, Internet & SUVs.” If you have to attract their attention, you need to make the right moves. Amul re-designed its packaging of ice-creams, cheese and shrikhand. Nestlé has changed its “Fruit n Dahi” to “Milkmaid Fruit Yoghurt” and packed it in a cup.

Great packaging changes a brand’s image instantly. No wonder, companies are spending more and more on packaging, year after year. The packaging industry itself is growing at an annual rate of 4-6%. The range of products being packaged is growing and getting more and more diverse. After all, everything is getting packed and ready-to-eat-off-the-racks.

Intelligent packaging has made life easier. Think of life without resealable bhujiya packets, wet wipes, travel kits of the various cosmetic brands, juices in tetra packs, Coke cans, salt & pepper dispensers of Catch and many more.

On the shelf...

There are so many developments in packaging which are now helping in increasing the shelf-life of the products. Processes like vacuum packaging or gas packaging are being used extensively. The shelf is also the place where your brand competes directly with the rival’s brand. Marketers are using packaging to make a statement on the shelf. Some years back Coca-Cola unveiled a 30-litre plastic bottle of Coke. It was 4 feet tall, weighed 274 pounds and required, on an average, three men to lift it! The logic? They said Americans like big things – big car, big stereo, big TV. So why not a big Coke! They did try to make the brand look larger-than-life!

Windows Vista and 2007 Office systems not only redesigned the software package, but also the outer packaging to make it look more attractive on the shelf – displays; apart from protecting the software inside for life-long use.

DVDs and CDs have seen so much of experimenting when it comes to packaging. Limited editions and collector’s editions are just ways of innovatively packaging the old discs to make them look attractive and encourage impulse buying.

Thanks to the “Wal-Mart culture” of retail chains and department stores, most of the purchases nowadays are impulse-driven and many-a-times it is attractive packaging that makes you reach out for the product. Not just this, packaging also increases the brand recall. So it’s imperative your product look good on the shelves.

Save our planet

With the effect of global warming already being felt, consumers are becoming more conscious and making more ecologically friendly choices. Wal-mart has even announced a rollout of a “green” rating system of the packaging used by its suppliers – in a bid to become more environment-friendly. All suppliers would be required to lower the amount of packaging that they use, by 5% and use more eco-friendly & recyclable products. Those who don’t, might lose their business with Wal-Mart!

In today’s world, packaging even makes a statement about your commitment to the planet. Today it is no more packaging... it’s the era of green packaging.

Starbucks invented the disposable coffee cups and has shown that it is environmentally responsible too. Today, it is changing that and trying to rework a system, whereby, it would encourage consumers to drink inside the stores. America started the “take-away” culture and gave birth to a whole new style of packaging, while Europe still believes in the “consumer-in-store” culture. Consumers are demanding that companies show their responsibility towards the environment. No wonder Starbucks now serves in non-disposable re-usable containers.

So packaging is a powerful medium. It’s a statement! It gives a brand its identity. Use it with caution and you could reap rich dividends. If you have to win, make sure your products are dressed to kill.