Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:21 pm

What you sell may be important, but
how you package it may be why it sells
Research shows that more than half of all the purchases that people make in grocery and drug stores are impulse purchases. That means they had no intention of buying the products they bought when they went into the store.
What causes people to cough up their hard-earned cash for those products? What captivates people about them?
More often than not, the answer is simply: The Package.
Walking down the aisle in the store, shoppers pass by an array of products neatly stacked along both sides, row upon row. Something about one of them attracts the shopper’s eye. The shopper pauses, examines, drops the item in the shopping cart, and moves on. Another impulse purchase generated by the package.
With such an abundance of shopping dollars spent on impulse purchases, the value of product visibility looms large. Manufacturers go to great lengths to assure their products are “eye-stoppers.” Procter & Gamble, among others, conducts tests in mock grocery stores with shoppers filling imaginary carts with products. If the blue box is chosen twice as often as the green box, guess what color the package will be on the grocer’s shelves?
Conducting some informal research among my students, I asked them to describe a box of All, a leading laundry detergent. Few could. How about Cheer? They shook their heads. Bold? Era? Oxydol? Nope.
When I asked them to describe a box of Tide laundry detergent, virtually all of them could picture the red and orange target with the dot of the Tide “i” at its center.
Tide’s package is often considered the most outstanding example of eye-stopping packaging in history. It’s no coincidence that Tide is also the leader in the category and has been for decades.
Better packaging can also help sell products outside a grocery store setting. A vendor at the Wisconsin State Fair this summer was having difficulty selling her popular cream puffs in quantities of more than one or two. Fairgoers couldn’t hold more than a few in their hands at once; bags tended to jostle them around; and flimsy boxes often left the delicate pastries crushed and unappetizing.
The merchant called Great Lakes Packaging, a Germantown company, for advice. GLP designed a simple “six-pack” container that protected the pastries and featured a handle for easy carrying. Sales of multi-packs helped boost the vendor’s revenues significantly.
Packaging has six basic functions:
1. As a container, it surrounds the product and holds it in place (critical for powders and liquids, of course). But it also protects the product, just as a brown bottle will keep beer from growing flat from light exposure, or Styrofoam will help protect delicate instruments from breaking.
2. It makes it easy to handle, stack, and store. The pour spout on dishwashing liquid is a packaging convenience. The sturdy box that computers come in allows them to be stacked six or more high at the warehouse.
3. Visibility is extremely important because of the high incidence of impulse purchases in retail establishments. The color, shape (think Absolut Vodka), and graphics all contribute to the package’s visibility.
4. Many packages contain instructions. Those, naturally, could be for the use of the product. But they could also be for the package itself. Some innovative packages, when opened, unfolded, and refolded, can be converted to colorful point-of-purchase displays.
5. The all-important UPC symbol on packages allows retailers to monitor their inventory efficiently and accurately. It also allows for scanners to read the price at checkout.
6. In the 1980s the government began requiring ingredients and nutritional information on all food packaging.
When designing a package for your product, there should be no question that form follows function. Certainly cereal, chips, or cheese wouldn’t be edible for long if your package didn’t provide protection from moisture, dust, odors and insects.
But effective packaging can also set your product apart from the competition. Hungry Jack Microwave Ready pancake syrup comes in a short, fat jug that fits into the microwave, has a handle that stays cool, a special closure that automatically releases steam, and a label that says “hot” when the syrup is ready to serve.
What color should it be? White to communicate purity? Yellow because it reminds people of lemon freshness? Should there be a picture of the product on the label, such as a can of green beans? Or should there be a picture of the results of using the product, such as beautiful hair on a bottle of shampoo?
But while package function is important, the frequency of impulse purchases requires you to think about the visibility of your product among its competition.
Ultimately, your package decisions will rest upon your understanding of your customers, and perhaps a little creative genius.
Robert Grede is an adjunct professor of marketing at Marquette University, and author of “Naked Marketing – The Bare Essentials” (Prentice Hall). Read more marketing tips at
Dec. 7, 2001 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

Sign up for BizTimes Daily Alerts

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

No posts to display