Packaging Strategies

Packaging enables a marketing team to highlight key product attributes, qualifiers, and branding images to capture strategic value. Packaging is a significant concern from a strategic perspective, with impacts ranging from the first impression consumers will have to environmental policy to cost-cutting. How a firm packages a product is therefore a key topic across various disciplines, with the potential to increase revenues, decrease costs, and maintain alignment with environmental policies and legislation.

Key Points

  • Packaging fulfills a variety of strategy purposes across a number of disciplines, including legal, marketing, and operational objectives.
  • From a marketing perspective, there are quite a few useful strategies and outcomes to keep in mind when designing a product ‘s packaging.
  • Communicating the core attributes and value of the product, alongside building brand awareness and brand recognition, helps to manage the expectations of consumers and build brand loyalty.
  • Using symbols and icons, particularly from verifying third parties, can be a useful strategy for packaging.
  • Co- branding is also a useful packaging strategy that enables two or more firms to utilize their brand equity to drive behavior on a product to which each firm adds value.

From the marketing perspective, packaging strategies can have a significant impact on brand awareness, brand recognition, expectations management, and as a conduit of information between the organization and the user. Marketing, branding, and packaging must align on messaging, value proposition, and communication to accomplish the following:

Value Proposition

The primary purpose of packaging from a marketing perspective is to underscore why a user would purchase a given product. This could be extremely simple, such as a description of what the product is. This could also be emotional, communicating what the product stands for. For example, perhaps an informed consumer wants to buy locally sourced food. A smart marketing strategy for organizations focused on local production would be to highlight this in big letters on the package.

Brand Recognition

Another important purpose of packaging for marketers is the capacity for building recognition of the brand. When you see a red can of soda with cursive writing, you almost immediately associate it with Coca-Cola. This is strategic on behalf of the company. It builds recognition, which can lead to loyalty.

Brand Awareness

Slightly different than recognition, building brand awareness is all about the opportunity to be memorable. Creating packaging that will draw the attention of a consumer will increase that brand’s ability to convert the customer both in this instance, and in later instances. For consumers, their attention is a much desired commodity for organizations. Packaging is an opportunity to accomplish this.


A key component of effective marketing is ensuring the consumer gets what they expect (and preferably a bit more). This way, the association of the consumer is a positive one when considering the organization, relative to what they had expected. Packaging allows for simple strategies in this regard, such as stating on the package that batteries aren’t included, or that a given accessories isn’t compatible with certain types of smartphones.


Another interesting and useful strategy within packaging is co-branding. Simply put, organizations often collaborate, and can benefit from sharing this collaboration. Ben and Jerry’s ice cream uses a ton of different ingredients, many of which may be another organization’s brand. Heath bar in Ben and Jerry’s, for example, could be co-branded on the package.

Symbols and Icons

Packaging is a visual representation of a product, and can benefit from established and trustworthy markings of certain attributes. For example, a 100% organic symbol on a box of cereal would indicate to the user that an external third party verified and approved of the cereal manufacturer’s production process. Using recognizable symbols and icons can build trust between the organization and the consumer.

In the package design stages for products, structural design, marketing, and environmental responsibility should all be considered.

Packaging Considerations

Package design and development are often thought of as an integral part of the new product development process. Alternatively, development of a package (or component) can be a separate process, but must be linked closely with the product to be packaged. Package design starts with the identification of all the requirements: structural design, marketing, shelf life, quality assurance, logistics, legal, regulatory, graphic design, end-use, and environmental. The design criteria, performance (specified by package testing), completion time targets, resources, and cost constraints need to be established and agreed upon. Package design processes often employ rapid prototyping, computer-aided design, computer-aided manufacturing, and document automation.

With some types of products, the design process involves detailed regulatory requirements for the package. With packaging foods, for example, any package components that may contact the food are considered food contact materials. Toxicologists and food scientists need to verify that the packaging materials are permissible under applicable regulations. Packaging engineers need to verify that the completed package will keep the product safe for its intended shelf life with normal usage. Packaging processes, labeling, distribution, and sale need to be validated to comply with regulations and to ensure they have the well-being of the consumer in mind.

Package design may take place within a company or with various degrees of external packaging engineering: independent contractors, consultants, vendor evaluations, independent laboratories, contract packagers, or total outsourcing. Some sort of formal project planning and project management methodology is required for all but the simplest package design and development programs. An effective quality management system and verification and validation protocols are mandatory for some types of packaging and recommended for all.

Package development involves considerations for sustainability, environmental responsibility, and applicable environmental and recycling regulations. It may involve a life cycle assessment which considers the material and energy inputs and outputs to the package, the packaged product (contents), the packaging process, the logistics system, and waste management. It is necessary to know the relevant regulatory requirements for point of manufacture, sale, and use. The traditional “three R’s” of reduce, reuse, and recycle are part of a waste hierarchy which may be considered in product and package development.

  • Prevention – Waste prevention is a primary goal. Packaging should be used only where needed. Proper packaging can also help prevent waste. Packaging plays an important part in preventing loss or damage to the packaged-product (contents). Usually, the energy content and material usage of the product being packaged are much greater than that of the package. A vital function of the package is to protect the product for its intended use: if the product is damaged or degraded, its entire energy and material content may be lost.
  • Disposal – Incineration, and placement in a sanitary landfill are needed for some materials. Certain states within the many countries. regulate packages for toxic contents, which have the potential to contaminate emissions and ash from incineration and leachate from landfill. Packages should not be littered.
  • Energy recovery – Waste-to-energy and refuse-derived fuel in approved facilities are able to make use of the heat available from the packaging components.
  • Minimization – (also known as “source reduction”) The mass and volume of packaging (per unit of contents) can be measured and used as one of the criteria to minimize during the package design process. Usually “reduced” packaging also helps minimize costs. Packaging engineers continue to work toward reduced packaging.

Key Points

  • While the development of a package (or component) can be a separate process, it should be linked closely with the product to be packaged.
  • With some types of products, the design process involves detailed regulatory requirements for the package. For example, toxicologists and food scientists need to verify that the packaging materials are permissible under applicable regulations.
  • Package development should involve considerations for sustainability, environmental responsibility, and applicable environmental and recycling regulations.
  • new product development: New product development (NPD) is the complete process of bringing a new product to market.

Global Considerations in Branding and Packaging

At the global marketing level, a company needs to launch appropriate marketing plans so results can be achieved across multiple countries.

Key Points

  • Language differences cause many problems for marketers in designing advertising campaigns and product labels. It is important to double-check the translation of a marketing campaign to make sure the meaning being conveyed in another language is the company’s intended message.
  • Colors also have different meanings in different cultures. Marketers should pick country-appropriate colors to make sure the local consumers are not offended or pushed away from the product due to colors used in the packaging.
  • All cultures have their own unique set of customs and taboos. It is important for marketers to learn about these so that they will know what is acceptable and what is not for their marketing programs.

Key Terms

  • global marketing: Global marketing is marketing on a worldwide scale, reconciling or taking commercial advantage of global operational differences, similarities and opportunities in order to meet global objectives.
  • dialects: A variety of a language that is a characteristic of a particular group of the language’s speakers. The term is applied most often to regional speech patterns.
  • economies of scale: The cost advantages that an enterprise obtains due to expansion. As the scale of output is increased, factors such as facility size and usage levels of inputs cause the producer’s average cost per unit to fall.

Global Marketing Plans

Ultimately, at global marketing level, a company trying to speak with one voice is faced with many challenges when creating a worldwide marketing plan. Unless a company holds the same position against its competition in all markets (market leader, low cost, etc.), it is impossible to launch identical marketing plans worldwide. When branding and packaging for international products, careful consideration must be placed on factors such as language, colors, customs, aesthetics and placement.


The importance of language differences cannot be overemphasized. There are upwards of 7,000 languages in the world. These differences cause many problems for marketers in designing advertising campaigns and product labels. Language problems become even more serious once the people of a country speak several languages. For example, in Canada, labels must be in both English and French, like this ad for Pepsi in Canada. In India, there are over 200 different dialects, and a similar situation exists in China.


Colors also have different meanings in different cultures. For example, in Egypt, the country’s national color of green is considered unacceptable for packaging, because religious leaders once wore it. In Japan, black and white are colors of mourning and should not be used on a product’s package. Similarly, purple is unacceptable in Hispanic nations because it is associated with death.

Customs and Taboos

All cultures have their own unique set of customs and taboos. It is important for marketers to learn about these so that they will know what is acceptable and what is not for their marketing programs.


The term aesthetics is used to refer to the concepts of beauty and good taste. The phrase, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” is a very appropriate description for the differences that exist between cultures. For example, Americans believe that suntans are attractive, youthful, and healthy. However, the Japanese do not. These key differences apply to labels and branding as well.


How the product is distributed is also a country-by-country decision influenced by how the competition is being offered to the target market. Using Coca-Cola as an example, not all cultures use vending machines. In the United States, beverages are sold by the pallet via warehouse stores. In India, this is not an option. Placement decisions must also consider the product’s position in the market place. For example, a high-end product would not want to be distributed via a “dollar store” in the United States. Conversely, a product promoted as the low-cost option in France would find limited success in a pricey boutique.

Effective global advertising techniques do exist. The key is testing advertising ideas using a marketing research system proven to provide results that can be compared across countries. The ability to identify which elements or moments of an ad are contributing to that success is how economies of scale are maximized.

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