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Does Your Packaging Do its Job?


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Does Your Packaging Do its Job?


One of my favorite bloggers, someone who I have been reading for many years, is Seth Godin. I believe he is one of the smartest marketing minds on the planet, so I was very curious to read his blog post last month about packaging.

It was just before Valentine's Day and he wrote about the packaging of Madecasse, a high-end chocolate from Africa. He took them to task on their plain design and he brought up many good points. He made the case that you should narrow down your target market because you cannot please (or catch the attention of) all the people who may want to buy your product. If you try then you "muddy your brand promise and hide your story" which Godin (and I) believe Madecassa has done.

Madecassa has a high end product with chocolate that sells for north of $6 for a 2.64 oz bar. This is double the price of other high end chocolate, so I would expect them to have some unique packaging. Now, you don't have to have anything that looks expensive, but something that looks unique is essential. I like Godin's idea of putting a photo of the African workers on the front. And then telling the worker's story on the back.

The Power of a Story

I don't agree with Godin that you put nothing other than the photo of the worker on the front. While that would look different, I think you can get the same impact with a sparse front with a photo and just a few words identifying the brand and the product. But the idea of putting different photos and stories on the packaging is something I have been advocating for many years.

We all love stories, but so few people include a story on their packaging. In this case a story with a photo of a real production person could have great appeal if done well. I would have 50-100 different photos and print them so that no photo and story ever repeat inside a box. So customers would always be seeing new people, and it could become almost like the baseball card analogy Godin mentions. Digital printing technology is in place right now to make this kind of project a reality with not much additional cost.

I am amazed how so few companies use their packaging to tell a story. Some wineries use this technique on their wine labels but most other industries don't bother with it. Done well a story can be very compelling. A story with a personal photo even more so. Most companies don't want to step out of the box of what everyone else does in their industry, so they create packaging that is only incrementally different from their competitors.

If your packaging is really doing its job it should be uniquely yours. A quick glance and people should recognize your brand. Then as they interact with your product and read your product label and packaging they should feel some emotional attachment. Then they will feel compelled to drop it in their shopping basket.