What Ails Packaging Brand Management?

After months of chasing and follow up on emails and phone calls, the Head of Brands at this major packaged food company gave me an audience.

“20 minutes is all I can spare. Are you OK with that?” he enquired.

“20 minutes is perfect!” I said, just thankful he had finally relented.

So I land up at the appointed time. Courtesies exchanged, we settled down to talk shop. “I had a quick look at your website” he offered. “You deal in packaging right? Any creative portfolio you can show?”

Bang! That dreaded déjà vu moment all over again…

My company website makes no claims whatsoever on packaging “design” capabilities. Neither did my introductory mail to him. And yet that predictable question once again…” Any creative portfolio you can show?…”

“Unfortunately, that’s not what we specialize in” I countered. “But I’ve got something to offer you that’s as valuable as brand design and creative expertise. Something that can help you get packaging out faster, save costs and hugely improve the way you manage your brands… Would you be interested? ”

Curiosity stoked, he began throwing a barrage of questions at me. The scheduled “20 minutes only” meeting soon went on beyond 90 as realities of managing packaging were revisited, ideas were exchanged and broad agreements made…

As we shook hands readying to part, he said, “This is an eye opener! I’d like to organize a workshop sometime soon. I’ll get everyone involved with packaging at the table”…

 

In speaking with dozens of consumer products companies both large and small, some consistent behavioral patterns and business practices emerge as regards the approach to packaging and brand management.

Many of these business practices are steeped in the old-world ways of working, woefully out of sync with the business and market challenges facing brand management.

Today’s hyper-competition is driving the need for more packaging – frequent promotions and the demand for more market and segment-specific line extensions and SKUs. The emergence of retail private-label and the evolving sophistication of regional brands, demands a more dynamic, responsive packaging strategy.

Changing lifestyles and consumer tastes is also creating the need for newer products delivered in newer ways. Another key trend is the emergence of the “digital shelf” as online shopping gains mainstream status.

All of these simply mean more packaging, produced with greater brand control, done faster and within available budgets…

It’s not hard to see that meeting these goals requires a deeper strategy. One that lays as much emphasis on implementation efficiency as it does on brand design…

So why do brand managers ignore these realities and continue being status quoist? Why do they continue to look at packaging through a tactical, one-dimensional – “only brand design matters” lens?

Is it in brand management’s interest to create systems and processes for implementing brand standardization?

Is developing organizational agility to support faster packaging launches a priority?

Is there a need to look at packaging ‘costs’ beyond the ‘cost of services’ paradigm?…

In short, is your current packaging strategy relevant to today’s business needs? Does it help you achieve on-time, on-brand, on-cost packaging?

Maybe it’s time to rethink packaging brand management…