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Why packaging-led brand campaigns are not a cakewalk

According to leaders, while the packaging is a great medium to communicate, the messages have to resonate with the brand

From the much-spoken-about Bourn-Vita ‘forced packs’ to Maxx Flash’s ‘Killer Pack’ campaign, which won a grand Prix at Cannes Lions 2022. A number of advertising campaigns recently have been centred around the packaging of products.

A few examples of campaigns designed around packaging:

Bournvita- The brand redesigned its jar to become various other items like toilet cleaner, egg box, tissue paper etc. Although these packs had bournvita inside, they designed them as something they were ‘not meant to be.’ The package also directed consumers to their websites which further educated parents about not forcing their children to become what they don’t want to be. The campaign aimed at talking about the pressure children deal with today in a competitive world.

Maxx Flash- The brand along with its agency VMLY&R developed new packaging for its mosquito coils. While people can use the coil to drive away mosquitoes from inside their houses, the packaging acted as a repellent outdoors after being discarded. “The pack breaks down and the lining, which contains 5% active probiotic bacillus thuringiensis (pesticide), kills mosquito larvae within a 45-foot radius,” said the brand.

Coca-Cola- The beverage brand launched a technological product innovation - ‘locked’ Coke bottles as a part of their festive season campaign. The bottles had a special Bluetooth-enabled cap and will open only in the presence of the sender’s phone number. The concept was backed by their #MilkeHiManegiDiwali which encouraged people to meet up in person to celebrate Diwali.

Lay’s - The potato chip brand launched a global campaign called ‘Smile Deke Dekho’. As a part of the campaign, the brand customised its packets and featured ‘the smiles’ of more than 350 influencers on them. Lay’s also mapped each influencer’s smile and matched it to their flavour variants.

Dettol- The brand had a unique way to honour those Indians who selflessly helped others during the Covid Pandemic. The brand curated more than 100 stories from across the country as a part of #Dettolsalutes campaign and replaced its logo with the faces of the Covid warriors.

Maggi- Probably the most memorable packaging-backed campaign was done by Maggi almost a decade ago. The brand wanted to celebrate Maggi’s 25th anniversary in India. They launched an integrated campaign that encouraged consumers to share their stories with Maggi. Many of these stories were featured on Maggi packs as well as their TVCs.

Packaging campaigns should be more thought through

While the concept of packaging-backed campaigns may not be new, not all campaigns leave the mark. According to experts, such campaigns should complement the brand’s overall message and theme otherwise, the campaign may come across as forced.

Mukund Olety

Mukund Olety, CCO, VMLY&R, said, “Brand packaging is the most under-utilised real estate. Once one picks up a product and gets it home, they don't engage with it.  Brands haven't done enough for the audience to engage with their packaging and that exactly is the problem that these campaign-specific packaging ideas solve.”

Sukesh Nayak

According to Sukesh Nayak, Chief Creative Officer, Ogilvy, products are a media screen waiting to be used. He said that if a brand is not utilising its packaging, they lose a big opportunity to engage with the consumers. Nayak added that while one should utilise packaging for campaigns, it should fit the narrative of the brand.

Nisha Singhania

Nisha Singhania, Managing Director and Co-Founder, Infectious Advertising said,  one should be careful that it isn't just a gimmick to win awards. It should be insightful and connect with consumers, only then will it with have an impact. “A personal favourite of mine is the Indigo in-flight food packs - they are fun, quirky and take forward the brand's tonality. 

Today there are several innovations possible, which enable clients to execute them both from a logistics and budget point of view.”

Almost 70% of shoppers make impulse purchases. Hence, the packaging is one of the most important tools to communicate with your target audience. Using your own product as a media space also means that you save a lot of media space which otherwise is quite expensive.

However, a number of these campaigns executed recently look very half-baked. A number of brands come up with ‘limited’ packs in the guise of a campaign. How is that campaign supposed to meet the objective if they are not able to find these packages in stores near them?

Another issue is that packaging is not cheap, it’s a significant investment for brands, hence these ‘limited edition’ packets are unavailable to most consumers.

Asked why these campaigns are short-lived and if it makes sense from a brand’s and logistical perspective to invest in such short-lived campaigns, Nayak said, “Most of these (campaigns) tend to be time-bound and interactive to engage the audiences. Thums Up designed cans specifically for the World Cup, once the world cup was over, the campaign was over. However, it has to have a connection with the brand.”

Soumitra Karnik

Soumitra Karnik, an independent creative consultant, said, “Packaging is one of the best mediums to convey your message. However, people are getting so enamelled by the purpose that they are forgetting about the product. Earlier, there used to be product innovation. However there is not enough innovation happening in products, so marketers rely on packaging innovation.”

“Most of the campaigns executed today are innovating but not enough. Packaging is expensive and that is why most brands do it on a very small scale but their intent comes across as half-baked. Many times, while the idea is not forced and may suit the brands but the execution is forced,” he added.

Arnab Ray

Arnab Ray, Creative Director at Landor&Fitch, said, “Packaging can also be used as a medium of storytelling, and as a medium to express the brand's purpose. It can be used to give connected experiences to the consumer.”

“We at L&F do a lot of packaging work and encourage the clients to give the consumer pack-led experiences. However, brands should not stray away from their purpose when doing this. You should only do it if it fits your brand's personality and the universe. If it doesn't support your purpose, it can feel gimmicky.”

“Packaging if used well, can be a very powerful marketing tool. However one should be careful that it isn't just a gimmick to win awards,” stated Singhania of Infectious.

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