On Tuesday, September 1, 2020, SobelCo hosted its quarterly Women in International Trade Roundtable in coordination with the NJ District Export Council. 

Coni Lefferts, President of Creative Packaging Solutions, led the program as the keynote speaker, sharing her career journey, fascinating insights into the power of packaging, and personal observations regarding the changes in packaging that she has witnessed through the years. 

Consumer products depend on packaging to inspire shoppers 

Every university’s Marketing 101 course curriculum begins with a discussion of the famous “Four P’s” which include Packaging, Product, Placement and Price.  While much attention is often devoted to the product itself, as well as to the strategy around the pricing and placement, it is as important – if not even more so – to focus on the outer and inner packaging itself.  How it looks inside and out sends a critical message to the shopper. 

Walking through any retail store, whether it is a small, local establishment or a mega-size national or international chain, the packed shelves provide a mecca for consumers.  Row after row of items are placed high and low, each seeking to distinguish itself from the hundreds of competitors sitting side by side. The responsibility for that monumental task falls to the package. The story begins, not with the product, but with the presentation of the product - which is most obvious initially in the outer wrapping. 

Packages tell the story 

We all know that first impressions are difficult, if impossible, to overcome. That is one reason why product packaging is so critical. The first connection the shopper establishes with a new, or even familiar, product is the box, or bag, or container that it sits in. Long before anyone has a chance to make a reasonable decision about the quality or efficacy of the product, it is the package that draws the eye, creates a pleasant association, and encourages further interaction. A nondescript, or even unattractive, package can dissuade or discourage the shopper while a creative, clever, interesting package can encourage a consumer to feel good about the purchase.  

Before the product is lifted from the shelf, the shopper is already making some conscious and unconscious decisions, based on what is most obvious – the container! 

Understanding the decision-making process  

To ensure that the product stands out and affirms its brand, the package designers must understand the entire industry as well as the individual item.  The question they should ask themselves is, “What key points drive purchasing choices? How can we address those key points efficiently and quickly through packaging?”

The answer is different for each sector, from cosmetics to food, pet supplies, home furnishings, cars, or pharmaceuticals.  The value proposition must be the first consideration – and it must be applicable to the package in order to send the appropriate message. What experience is going to move the needle for the shopper?

Changing dynamics impact the packaging industry

There is no status quo in marketing!  That is really apparent in the dynamic and ever evolving world of packaging. But smart business leaders are always poised for change. They know that they can never afford to become complacent if they want to build a lasting legacy across the generations. From environmental concerns, such as the use of sustainable materials, to a global pandemic which is forcing the temporary closure of manufacturing plants around the world, those in the packaging industry are working to be agile, innovative and positioned for new challenges.  Most recently, sales have declined, competition with the low prices of off shore producers is tough, supply chains are constricted as products are slow to arrive, and the economic environment is lackluster for now.

But nonetheless Coni has reminded us all, the human spirit is resilient and successful businesses are creating new approaches, crafting relevant products and  pivoting to adjust to the demands of a world rocked by the Covid virus. As such, packaging will always be at the forefront of the battle for the buyer.