Dollar for dollar, your packaging is arguably the most important and cost effective marketing money you’ll ever spend. Consider that it’s your only branding vehicle seen by 100% of your consumers. What’s more, those consumers are influenced by it at the exact moment of decision. (Significantly, 90% of shoppers make impulse purchases. And statistics vary, but they all indicate that between 50% and 67% of ALL grocery store purchases are purely impulsive. Even with shoppers who use lists, the opportunity is always there to sway them to your brand at the last moment.)
Your packaging sits right next to your competition (no other advertising vehicle undergoes that level of scrutiny). It’s mute. It’s static. And it’s doing all of the heavy lifting. It’s the distillation of everything your brand represents. So it’s absolutely critical that your packaging be as hard working as it possibly can. If anything about it isn’t optimal and perfect, you’re simply wasting money and a huge marketing opportunity. Furthermore, if you can’t validate that your packaging is communicating exactly the right message to consumers, you’re just guessing.
That said, in the real world, we understand that you’ve got issues of budgets, inventory, and timetables to juggle. Changing your packaging always involves effort, time, money and a certain level of risk. So the big, hairy question becomes, how do you know if the time is right to engage in the exercise of a packaging refresh? Here are the 8 key signs that should make that answer obvious and defendable.
Sign 1 — Is your food packaging more than 3 years old?
Back in the day, package design used to stay fresh for years and years. But the confluence of trends, attitudes and technologies are conspiring to age your packaging like never before. It means your 6 year old package is really 46, in dog years.
At its core, eating is a very emotionally driven experience. And buying food is all about imagining and anticipating that experience. Even the largest legacy brands in the world, with decades of awareness and millions of dollars worth of brand equity, routinely refresh their look (albeit very carefully).
Paleo, flexitarian, non-GMO, gluten-free. Who can keep up with it all? Your competitors, that’s who. And with the rise of Amazon, anybody who has a good idea and a better product is now your competition. Innovation is the norm, and disruption is close behind. If you’re not actively keeping tabs on what your competition is doing, what they look like, and how they’re communicating it, you don’t stand a chance in today’s marketplace.
Food packaging is part fashion. Colors come in and out of style. Graphic techniques change. (Remember when all of the app icons in the world went flat, because Apple’s did? That style quickly made its way onto food packaging icons.) Likewise, a beautiful photo from 5 years ago just doesn’t look the same as a new one. Ever flip through the TV channels and see footage from a football game, and instantly recognize that it was from a previous season? That’s what we’re talking about here.
Additionally, with dramatic advancements in printing technology, including: extended gamut, 7 color process, incredible digital flexo advances, new substrate offerings, and ultra-precise in-line finishes becoming available almost weekly, the options are cheaper and better than ever before. As soon as your competitors take advantage of these options, you’ve already fallen behind.
Whether it’s the messaging, design, or production of your package, don’t let it become dated. Your packaging is a marketing vehicle that’s just too valuable to waste. Despite the temptation of a “good deal,” ordering massive quantities that will last more than a few years can be a very dangerous bet. It’s likely to stick you squarely between the “rock” of throwing out inventory and the “hard place” of losing market share to more nimble competitors.
Tune-in next week for signs 2–8