The Urban Cheapskate: When Does Your Packaging Become PR

In the midst of designing a new package for a natural or organic product, most discussions revolve around that mystical word brand. So lets start with a definition, albeit an unconventional one, of branding as well as advertising and PR, too.

I’d like to introduce you to my friend Bob. Notice what Bob is wearing, the expression on his face. That’s Bobs image. That’s Bobs brand. Then Bob opens his mouth and begins to tell you about himself; his history, experience, values and beliefs.. That’s advertising. Next I tell you what a great guy Bob is and that everything he just told you about himself is true. Heck, you can trust him with your wallet and your sister. That’s Bob’s reputation. That’s PR.

So the point is simple. We spend lots of time and money on branding, advertising and PR but do you consider the public relations value of a products packaging.

After all, when designing natural or organic consumer packaged goods we discuss, at length, the recyclable nature of the package and the potential use of soy-based inks along with color palettes, images, icons and words that hold true to the core values of the brand. Isn’t that PR? Isn’t that building and enhancing the “brand’s” reputation? I would say, “Yes.”

So what happens when you design a package that moves away from a brand’s core values, from what consumers — and let’s not forget they are your brand evangelists — hold near and dear?

“I’m sorry, I won’t take a glass container in to a gym.”

We recently completed a re-labeling project for a natural fluid–replacement drink. In the course of testing the new label designs with the target consumer, we heard the comment, “I’m sorry, I won’t take a glass container in to a gym” over and over. While “she” loved the designs she refused to take the product, in its recyclable glass container, into the very place where she was going to be using it. To make matters even more challenging she wanted plastic even while she felt that every other product she purchased from this brand should remain in glass.

The client could have ignored the consumers from this test group, but they didn’t. Rather than run away from what could have been a clash of values and a PR problem down the road, the client understood that this test group was providing what we at KO like to call a “nugget” of insight into the entire consumer group. Namely that the consumer appreciates the intent behind the glass container, they don’t appreciate the conflict it provides when using the product — so much so that they are far more inclined to put aside their values in place of convenience. Interesting.
The client also understood that they needed to be prepared to explain their decision to their core brand evangelists. That’s just good PR planning.
Next week: “That’s too much packaging, you don’t need the box.”

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