It has always surprised me that brand owners don’t put Packaging on their Media Plan. If you are a packaged goods company, your packaging is actually going to be the medium your consumer spends most time with. Yet we never sit down and attempt to seriously work out its value as a medium for us: what the OTS is on a tub of margarine, for example. How much time we spend with it in front of us on a table. The percentage of viewers of it who are users of our brand (in reality 100%, as Richard Reed of innocent has pointed out). The proximity to point of consumption, perhaps, with the importance attached to that.
Why do we never sit down and ‘do the maths’ on packaging as if it were a genuine medium? and then compare it to the other numbers for our other media? To the OTS on a piece of advertising, the amount of time a consumer spends with that, the percentage of viewers of that who are users of our brand? The point being that if you really started to make visible its relative power in this way you would put it on the media plan. And you would then start to think about it in a very different way: the attention you gave it, the people you chose to work with on it, the decision level (and level of decision makers) you attached to it.
I was discussing this a couple of years ago with Ron Coughlin, then at Pepsi now at HP. He pushed it further. He asked why we didn’t explore thinking about packaging as DM. What if you gave a piece of packaging to a DM agency, and asked them to create a response mechanism around it. We know it is going to reach 100% of our consumers , and we know the identity we want to project, now create an idea that engages, say, 10% of our purchasers to respond actively to us and it in some way. Not something as simple as a promotion – some other kind of connective response. What would that mean? What kind of response would we be looking for that would build the relationship with the brand?
Historically, of course, packaging has been static. And advertising has done the whole Moving Thing so much better. But as the ability to scan packaging develops , and cheapening prices mean that our ability to embed interactive technology moves from sports shoe tongues to peanut butter lids, the Moving Thing Ability will soon become available at any point in the path through purchase and transaction we choose.
Clearly we don’t want to molest people with packaging; there is enough Marketing Molestation as it is. Most mornings I don’t want to engage with a pack of margarine – I just want it to lubricate my toast. But by the same token most days I don’t want to engage with brands on Facebook or watch them on TV either, so that is not an easy way out for us all.
We all tend to feel as marketers that we don’t have enough budget. But I wonder if that is true. I wonder if we all have far too much budget. Because if we had much less, more of us would be forced to take packaging much more seriously as a medium.
New Media, even.