Grab 'Em in the Store

Packaging has become an indispensable platform for product branding campaigns.

By David Vaczek
Senior Editor
 

The day has long passed when marketers could reach large numbers of a target audience with advertising on major television networks and in the pages of popular magazines.

Many consumers experience their first sustained encounter with a brand when they walk into a retail store.

Because brand messages conveyed through media channels often don’t reach consumers, they are not predisposed to buy products when they enter the store. Studies have shown that 70% of buying decisions are made at the shelf. The value of packaging as a selling tool has therefore never been more apparent.

Marketers have to employ distinctive retail packaging to support product recognition, stimulate trial, and generate brand awareness and loyalty. “The packaging has become dramatically more important to the brand,” says Kent St. Vrain, vice president, marketing and business development, Paxonix (Stamford, CT).

As a result of fragmented media consumption, marketers today have to spend 20 times what was spent on the big-three TV networks to reach 85% of a target audience, St. Vrain says.

“Procter & Gamble defines two ‘moments of truth.’ When the customer picks up the product, and when they actually use it. You can’t fail at either of those two points. Packaging becomes a critical tool for increasing brand awareness and cementing customer loyalty,” he says.

As brands have sought to make products stand out, printers and converters have experienced increasing demand for enhanced graphic design elements such as UV coating, embossing, and four-color printing.

“Packaging is branding,” says Dennis Bacchetta, marketing manager, Diamond Packaging (Rochester, NY). “Innovations in structures and substrates provide competitive advantages, including perceived value, brand differentiation, and increased shelf prominence. We see a trend in many different markets to move packaging more upscale by using textured or plastic substrates, specialized coatings, foil stamping, embossing, and metallic inks,” he adds.

Packaging can convey messages of convenience and an emotional connection with the product. Undistinguished packaging risks being lost on shelves crowded with alternatives.

Allergan, for its Complete eye care brand, shed the box packaging used by its competitors. It created a proprietary ergonomically shaped bottle with an easy-open flip top and an integrated lens case, providing a distinctive on-shelf presence. KornickLindsay (Chicago) created the patented design.

To an increasing extent, major retailers are dictating package requirements. “Retailers, including many of the drug chains, want input on what the final packaging will look like. Wal-Mart is demanding preapproval of shelf-ready packaging,” says Ken Pepper, president, All Packaging Co. (Aurora, CO). “Retailers believe they know better what will sell, and, in some cases, they want a unique package design for their stores,” he adds.

GAINING VISIBILITY

Diamond Packaging uses window-patching units for the high-speed application of rigid widows, Mylar, and cellophane. “Windows provide visual impact with clear, crisp appeal as well as product visibility,” he says. “It is an effective method of displaying a product while leveraging the primary container’s logo or shape, thus enhancing brand identity,” says Bacchetta.

A new Diamondessence combination package features a wraparound window design in a paperboard/plastic carton. The top half of the carton is clear plastic for showing the product, while the bottom half is composed of paperboard and provides ample billboard space for marketing and user information.

Diamond acquired a Heiber & Schroder universal pick-and-place feeder for merging virtually any flat shape or material, such as coated paper, textured paperboard, film, or mesh. The feeder works with a Heiber & Schroder window patcher to produce a one-piece paperboard/plastic structure, says Bacchetta.

The Diamondessence carton features a fold-in top panel with a notch-lock closure for securing the product in the package, eliminating the need for a separate thermoformed insert. “The paperboard-and-plastic design combines maximum product visibility and package integrity, providing a three-dimensional view of the product inside,” he says.

The company is distributing a promotional piece to major customers and prospects. “We continue to strategically focus on customers that are innovative and use packaging to help differentiate their product on the store shelf,” says Lisa Palvino, executive vice president, Diamond Packaging. “We will be targeting the healthcare segment with other combination packaging designs that we plan to launch in the next month.”

FLEXcon (Spencer, MA) is promoting the use of its pressure-sensitive film solutions as a “full product branding” concept. FLEXcon makes pressure-sensitive films used in labels for prescription and OTC pharmaceuticals. The company also provides self-adhesive films used in applications such as point-of-purchase displays, window ads, billboards, bus wraps, and taxi tops for advertising and promotion.

“While we had been working on pharmaceutical labeling for 30 years, We had been individually focused on these two areas,” says Rick Harris, market product manager. “We began to realize our full range of products will keep the consistency of the brand safe throughout a campaign—from product identification to promotion—and that we can be educating our customers about this.” We are now focused on working with our printer partners, advertising agencies, and brand owners to meet companies’ labeling requirements and promotional requirements with a full range of pressure-sensitive film products,” says Roland Castonguay, new business development manager.

“Promoting a brand is about consistent image, but it is also about consistent performance. Companies need to achieve consistency in graphics and message across all advertising applications for the entire life cycle of the product. We can support this requirement with our vinyl films with high-performance removable adhesive systems,” he adds.

All Packaging Co. is supporting package prototyping flexibility with ShelfReady, which yields 3-D prototypes that are indistinguishable from the final package. “ShelfReady helps our customers get proofs more quickly in front of FDA and their potential customers without a huge expenditure. Once you get product approval, the first manufacturer with the printed components available is the first to market. We understand the urgency of getting the end product to the consumer without error and in an expedited fashion,” says Pepper.

The company has invested in prepress systems and formatting software to support cost-effective proof production. A digital printer outputs high-resolution images that are laminated to paperboard and coated with a heat-treated polymer. A CAD system cuts and scores the mock-up. The process creates “an absolute replica down to the color, graphical position, size, and shape—identical to what the finished piece will look like,” says Pepper.

ShelfReady can provide limited quantities of different package configurations that sales forces can use to determine market interest such as in focus-group testing or at trade shows. “There are some cases where the product is close to FDA approval, but the vendor wants to get a jump start presenting to doctors and pharmacists so they are aware of it and can start selling it the day the product is ready. We can quickly provide the quantities required for those sales samples,” says Ella Drummond, director of pharmaceutical sales at All Packaging Co. (Aurora, CO).

“The competition at the retail shelf is greater than it has ever been,” says Pepper. “In the past, companies could rely on the brand identity conveyed in a name. Today, they are looking to enhance packaging appearance with higher-quality, more-appealing graphics, and unusual treatments to capture attention at the shelf.”

The growth of competing brands, including store brands, has forced many companies to focus on innovative OTC packaging to further branding initiatives. Firms are also stepping up the branding of prescription drugs to support DTC advertising.

Unitized-dose packaging such as for birth control pills can support the brand while facilitating product usage.

See Sidebar: First-to-Market

Says one packaging professional: “The element of convenience and functionality is the same for Rx and OTC packaging. Customers want to know, ‘How do I get it out, and how is it protected?’ More prescription drug marketers are providing packaging with additional branding aspects. Branding is putting the trust factor into the mix.”

Prescription drug compliance packaging helps patients grasp dosing regimen requirements. Drug companies can employ systems such as wallet-style blister packaging to establish brand awareness and brand message consistency across multiple platforms. Marketers promote patient relationships with therapeutic and marketing messages in packaging for unitized doses and treatment system kits. Designers and converters have focused on carton design and assembly solutions that support flexible, cost-effective package production.

The Stora Enso Pharma SHR system manufactured by TestPak (Whippany, NJ) is a “performance carton” that provides the same ready-to-dispense and reclosable features of a wallet. The system supports cost-effective packaging in providing F=1 child-resistant performance for virtually any blister style. The senior-friendly package offers ample space for patient communication.

“The opportunities for communicating to the customer are increased several-fold. The outer carton provides significantly more area than in most wallet styles, the contained blister can be carded, and the carton provides a lot of room for inserts and educational materials,” says Bill Eveleth, vice president, sales and marketing.

“Clearly, the package design is integral to the user experience, and is closely associated with the brand. Ease-of-use and convenience are especially important. Companies want to create differentiation, a new look, new functionalities, support product tracking, and achieve better package performance,” Eveleth adds.

 

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