Mike Anthony @ engage consultants

Mike Anthony on Shopper Marketing

If packaging doesn’t work for shoppers, it doesn’t work!

with 7 comments

Packaging is one of the most important, and yet often under-valued elements of the marketing communication mix for a CPG company. I was spurred to write this post by a comment on my last blog by Andy Lock – who reminded me of one of my greatest bug bears – packaging.

In most businesses, packaging needs to work more for shoppers than for consumers; and yet in many organizations, packaging development is managed exclusively by the consumer marketing team.

Packaging does have to work hard. It needs to resonate with consumers, it needs to protect the product and communicate all of the legal requirements. It has to meet logistics and retail standards to be accepted throughout the value chain. And it really has to work for shoppers.

In the comment (below) Andy mentions an anecdote from Vietnam – where shoppers approached the store on a motorbike – if the pack wasn’t visible from 15 feet away, it simply didn’t work. That insight isn’t collected by showing concepts to consumers in focus groups. If the shopper hasn’t been built into packaging development, it is likely that performance is not being optimized in terms of visibility or communication in the store.

If your packaging doesn't work here, it doesn't work

It is on the shelf that packaging has to communicate most – if the product doesn’t work on the shelf; is not visible to shoppers, doesn’t attract them, and give them the message they need, then it isn’t working hard enough. Packaging is a remarkably efficient shopper communication tool, taking your message to every outlet your product is stocked in. Yet I’m pretty sure that when the in-store marketing mix is being defined, packaging as a communication tool is often forgotten.

Yet that message only works best if it is tuned to the target, and in a retail outlet, that is the shopper. Packaging arguably is, or should be, part of the shopper marketing lexicon, and as such responsibility for developing packaging should be transferred. At the very least packaging development (and that includes design) should be a collaborative effort involving both consumer and shopper teams.

Is this too far? It seems to me that consumer marketers don’t always value packaging – too often it is passed to the most junior members of the team whilst more senior hands focus on the big “glory” campaigns. Perhaps it should be passed to a team who might value it more?


Written by Mike Anthony

February 23, 2012 at 2:16 pm

7 Responses

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  1. Hi Mike

    Great post.

    I don’t think you’re going too far. How your brand is represented in-store is too important to be left to chance – P&G didn’t call it the “first moment of truth” for nothing.

    I agree too that the process needs to be joined up so that consumer and shopper communications are consistent and coherent, and help to build brand equity in store – all brand marketers should have an active interest in this. You can have the best consumer communication programmes around but if the product isn’t visible and available in-store then you could be wasting your money.

    I’d add a build too – I think you need to consider the retailers’ requirements to ensure that packaging meets their merchandising and stock-holding rules. This should also ensure that your brand is available for purchase more often than not. There is nothing more frustrating for a shopper than not being able to find easily and quickly the product they’re looking for.

    Declan Lockett

    February 24, 2012 at 2:03 am

    • Hi Declan,

      Thanks for your kind words – glad you liked the post. Agree with all of your comments, and in particular your build on retail requirement – I rather glazed over this in the blog but you are completely right! There is nothing more frustrating to a shopper than an out-of-stock – and that just means that all of the marketing money up to that point is wasted.
      Do you know of any companies who have packaging development owned by shopper marketing rather than consumer teams?



      Mike Anthony

      February 24, 2012 at 10:40 am

      • Hi Mike

        Sorry for the delay in replying.

        I don’t know of any consumer goods companies that do this, although I have seen Sales/Category Management teams being canvassed early on in the process for their opinion on primary packaging. This is a big step forwards. In my experience though, final sign-off still lies with Brand Marketing which is appropriate as it needs to reflect the brand’s positioning etc.

        Shopper Marketing people have a responsibility to demonstrate to their brand colleagues the benefits (e.g. in sales uplift, in brand equity, in ROI…) of adopting the approach we have both espoused. I think it will need some robust analysis to convince businesses of the wisdom of having a more joined up process.

        Brand marketing has done a great job of measuring the effectiveness of their consumer activities; shopper marketing teams need to do the same.

        All the best.


        Declan Lockett

        March 13, 2012 at 6:13 pm

      • Hi Declan,

        Thanks for getting back to me – much appreciated. Agree very much with your comments on ROI and demonstrating effectiveness.

        All the best,


        Mike Anthony

        March 14, 2012 at 7:40 am

  2. As an addendum to this, I posted this blog on a Linked In group and Dave Wendland, Vice President at Hamacher Resource Group, Inc. came up with a cool little checklist of what makes good packaging from a shopper perspective:

    1) Does it instantly resonate with shoppers?
    2) Does it communicate key attributes and differentiators?
    3) Does it fit the shelf/category?
    4) Does it take sustainability into consideration?

    Any additional points you’d like to add?

    Mike Anthony

    March 17, 2012 at 10:23 am

  3. Hi Mike,
    I agree with your point about packaging and it’s critical role at shelf. Where I work my teams role is to provide input to the marketers in advance on innovation from a trade perspective which includes providing input on the impact of packaging on shelf, whether it will pack out on shelf properly for retailers, pricing, merchandizing etc. However, there is definitely a big opportunity for companies to do a better job with packaging to better communicate and drive conversion on shelf in the specific channel. The winner will be the one who does it best as they will beat out the competition.

    Keep posting!


    • Hi Kathleen,

      Thanks for this – testing of packaging in-store is I think becoming much more common which is a great thing – and also your points about the practicability of packaging in terms of fit on shelf are also critical. We’re getting there.

      By the way – my blog has now moved to http://www.mikeanthony.me/ – I hope you’ll follow future posts there!

      All the best,


      Mike Anthony

      July 10, 2013 at 10:56 pm

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