Apr 13, 2010

Why aren't more brands wrapped up in marketing's most obvious medium?

Speaking at this year's Asian Marketing Effectiveness Festival, Adam Morgan, founder of eatbigfish, expressed incredulity at the fact that he has never once seen a client place packaging on the media plan.

Why aren't more brands wrapped up in marketing's most obvious medium?
Morgan argues a good case. For a packaged goods company in particular, packaging is by far the most important brand communicator. This is the part of the brand that consumers interact with most - the one they see most often in stores, the one they take home and the one where, in the majority of cases, those that own it are purchasers of the brand.

Coincidentally, two of the winners at this year’s AMEs awards show are great examples of how packaging has become an integral part of the media - if not the media itself.

First up is the ‘Kit Kat mail’ campaign from JWT Japan for Nestlé, which picked up the award for best use of media. The campaign encouraged consumers to interact with the product through a simple but highly effective idea - turning the package into a postcard that consumers could mail to family and friends.

Next is an innovative campaign from Coca-Cola Japan for an environmentally friendly ‘crushable’ water bottle under the i-Lohas brand, which was awarded the Platinum Award. While built around a well-integrated communications plan, it was with the packaging - the bottle itself - that the campaign began.

As with Kit Kat, Coke managed to design and build a product that stood out in a competitive yet low-interest consumer category and allowed consumers the opportunity to be creative with how they utilised the packaging. With 200 million bottles sold in just six months, the success of the packaging speaks for itself.

So is it now time for packaging to be prioritised higher in the media planning stage? Perhaps. It is worth noting that both campaigns mentioned above came out of Japan, a country whose retail space demands constant product and package innovation and differentiation. Fail to innovate and a brand risks losing its position on the convenience store shelf. That said, both Kit Kat and i-Lohas are nonetheless great examples of brands that brought research and development to the communications table and found ways to use the design and functionality of the product itself to create huge amounts of free media, which in turn improved bottom line sales.

As Morgan has noted, the temptation for many brands is to go after the sexiest forms of media (social networks take a bow). But the danger here is that this can lead to the tendency to walk straight past the most important media, which quite often is the product itself. If nothing else, the Japanese examples show that a little more time thinking outside of the usual media plan can go a long way.

Got a view?
Email michael.o’[email protected]

This article was originally published in the 8 April 2010 issue of Media.

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