Category Archives: Customized Packaging

One For the Books

 

Ever judge a book by its cover? It’s not metaphorical, most marketers will agree that consumers make quick judgments by the outside image.

Customized packaging always takes this into account. The right image captures the public’s eye, not turns it away. The right image complements your products, not negates the theme or contradicts your company’s mission. A cosmetics shop offering an array of makeup in assorted bright colors is probably not going to showcase its products with a gloomy grey shopping bag.

The perfect packaging is also a perfect fit for YOUR business, appropriate to YOUR products, whatever those may be.

Packaging is not the be-all, end-all in this world, but it certainly makes a difference to customers and sometimes a big difference directly to the bottom line. As one example, the grocery-chain Kroger experienced sales growth after repackaging its poorly performing store-brand products.

And, in this season with Mothers Day, Fathers Day and other holidays coming up, it’s ever more important for retailers to be ready with the best packaging. Remember, customers not only expect attractive packaging, but gift boxes and shopping bags on hand as they begin their shopping.

Packaging is Important – Especially for Restaurants!

 

I believe that packaging is an integral part of branding. Effective and inspiring packaging will get your customers to look forward to the product that’s inside!  And isn’t that what you want?

In addition to retail outlets and cosmetic boutiques, we have served all types of restaurants in our 60 years in business. I can tell you confidently that most patrons don’t walk into a deli thinking about packaging. They want a nice sandwich, something good to eat for lunch. Paper take-out bags aren’t exactly mouth-watering — the food is. But everyone takes food home these days.  They take it home because they liked it!  What better reminder is there than seeing a container with your restaurant’s name in their refrigerator?

And for your direct take-out customers – especially those who order by phone — what better way to remind them to come back than packaging with your restaurant logo and phone number?

Retail Redux

 

Easter sales are expected to be hopping this year, exceeding $16 billion, including candy, apparel and baskets. And although it’s only March, merchants are also banking on Mother’s Day sales to boost the bottom line. Consumers routinely look for sales and promotions, so it would be foolish to neglect marketing to your base this year for either holiday.

JC Penny sees things differently, perhaps. In my last post, I commented on the “Fair and Square” campaign launched by the national retailer, which is celebrating its 110th year in business. Doing away with coupons and discounts? We’re still in the process of seeing how that works. Most consumers love buying items on sale, for the perceived discount, and prefer being informed about upcoming sales events.

Consumers also love themed packaging which complements the product. As we all know, Coca-Cola dresses up its bottles with its famous rendering of Santa Claus every Christmas. (The modern image of Santa dates back to 1931 when artist Haddon Sunblom depicted Santa for ads in The Saturday Evening Post.) But every holiday has its own recognizable symbols, from Easter Eggs to Valentine’s Day hearts. Get themed, then get customized! It’s a way to stand out from the crowd.

Everything seems to be customizable these days. Credit cards have long been encouraging card holders to design their own cards, with family portraits and personal photos or selecting from a set of original artwork. Sneakers from well-known manufacturers can be customized to match a person’s style, creating a “mass produced” yet one of a kind pair of footwear. Even Pop-Tarts allowed consumers to purchase individualized boxes. Customers selected a flavor, chose a photo and typed a personal message onto a box of Pop-Tarts.

Not all ideas are going to take off like rocket ships. A few years ago, Scion encouraged owners to create a family crest or coat-of arms, by using an online graphics program. The idea was to create an image on your computer. That image could then be painted on your Scion or created as a window sticker. The website, Scion Speak, has since been dismantled, most likely because the market was too narrow. It only applied to Scion owners and not everyone wanted a coat of arms on their car.

But mostly everyone enjoys a beautifully wrapped gift. I mean, come on. Who hates receiving a gift, and who hates the wrapping paper? Only a scrooge. Personalizing presents is the name of the game!

In Love With Retail

 

“You only get one chance to make a first impression.” Know who said that? My father, often. Doesn’t matter if the quote is attributed to Will Rogers, Oscar Wilde or Mark Twain. When I was growing up, my father said this frequently and it was a valuable lesson learned. To me, it will always be his wise words.

How do stores and retail establishments make a first impression to customers? By providing an environment where consumers want to continue shopping. Imagine walking into a store that doesn’t restock, doesn’t have available staff members, and the cashiers yell at you at checkout. If you provide a headache and a half, it’s unlikely the buyer will want to return. And this relates to any retail outlet, whether it’s a brick and mortar or an online store. Speaking of which, at the end of 2011, we revamped our website to make the store a more valuable experience for our customers. To keep providing a user friendly interface, we are continually updating products, reorganizing categories and making it easier to order custom printed bags and boxes. Check out our Valentine’s Day wrap and other items. We’re offering free shipping on standard orders over $200 between now and February 14th.

Come On, Get Happy

Out of the Top 50 “happiest places to work” for 2011, only two retail outlets made the list: Costco, where consumers buy in bulk, and Albertsons, the grocery chain. More than 100,000 employees submitted reviews to come up with this list. Does that mean that any company outside the Top 50 is an unhappy place to work? Of course not. But it brings me back to my first point: making the impression. If employees are walking around with chips on their shoulders, it doesn’t help your business bring in business.

In a much smaller survey earlier last year, MSN teamed up with Zogby International to ask consumers what they thought of customer service at 150 companies. Criteria included knowledgeable staff, friendly employees and service after the sale. The actual product sold was a small factor in how consumers determined customer service. It was far more important for sales staff to be available and answer questions than products be available on the shelf. A lot more retailers made the list.

Which brings me to the “Enough is Enough” campaign by J.C. Penny. Did you see any of these ads on television this week? Consumers are screaming, literally, about missing sales and getting boatloads of promotional flyers in the mail. On Wednesday, Feb. 1, J.C. Penny is changing the way it does business. By eliminating deep discounts, the 1,100-store chain will reduce prices by about 40% across the board, and offer such lower prices on an everyday basis. I honestly wonder what the chain’s competitors are thinking. Are they waiting in the wings, laughing like Nelson from the Simpsons? Or are they getting ready to implement their own “regular pricing” system throughout the seasons. Let’s see how this goes. Because most retailers know the psychology behind consumers looking for bargains. Anyone walking around the mall the day after Christmas, or Black Friday, sees the effect of deep discounting. I’ll write more about this in my next post.

The Gift of Giving

 

We’re fast approaching the biggest holiday season of the year and retail projections are all over the place. I’m sure you read some of the doom and gloom reports predicting fourth quarter sales to be a “Blue Christmas.” Conflicting analysis on seasonal hiring also has retailers hiring more and less workers than last year (when stores hired 627,600 workers for the holidays.) So far, October showed a gain of 141,500 jobs, so the numbers in November will really show what’s happening in retail.

On the other hand, UPS just announced it plans on seeing a late-season surge of deliveries, due to the expected increase in internet purchases.

The National Retail Federation’s consumer intention survey conservatively estimates a slight decrease in holiday spending, down from an average of $718.98 per consumer last year to $704.18 in 2011. (Interestingly, six out of 10 shoppers surveyed said they plan on buying gifts for themselves in addition to family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors and pets.)

In all cases, it is safe to say that 2011 is far better than the recession of 2008, when seasonal hiring was at its lowest in two decades and holiday shopping was like pulling teeth.

What’s It All About?

Money doesn’t always bring happiness but spending money on loved ones usually contributes to a happier life. This is not just being sappy and sentimental and throwing around cliches. It doesn’t matter what the actual amount is, what the gift may be, how big or large – gift giving benefits the giver as well as the recipient. The article “Spending Money on Others Promotes Happiness” – published in the March 21, 2008 edition of Science Magazine – backs up my statement. The findings suggest that spending as little as $5 on a loved one increases the giver’s well-being.

Seriously, who doesn’t enjoy giving presents to loved ones, in colorfully-wrapped gift boxes containing the perfect surprise?

Not to sound like one of those doom and gloomers, but just imagine that the present is bundled not in a gift box but in a hideous fabric found while rummaging through storage. Or stuffed into a boring brown bag fit for lunch leftovers. Or a month-old newspaper. Would that make anyone, the recipient or giver, feel happier? I seriously doubt it. You mean you spent days searching for the perfect present and thought wrapping it up in refuse would make a great impression?

I’m being extreme here but still, making a point: If your company is a product-oriented company with gift giving (and fourth quarter sales) a significant source of purchases, it is essential that customers know an effort has been made to present the best package possible. That means customized packaging which accurately represents your business image.

One For the Books

 

Ever judge a book by its cover? It’s not metaphorical, most marketers will agree that consumers make quick judgements by the outside image. I tend to judge a book by its format. Meaning, if I’m going to read the book, the book has to be readable.

I’m not talking about uninteresting subject matter or bad editing. Those two things are always going to turn off many potential readers and give the author a bad rep. I’m talking about the actual layout, from legible type to style. Yes, despite Kindles and Nooks and as other digital competitors become ever more popular, many consumers still buy hardcopies and paperbacks. (As a side note, bookstore sales in the United States remained flat for the first half of 2011, but still a $7 billion industry for that time period.)

If the typeface is hard to read, set in ludicrous fonts or distracting sizes, I won’t read the book no matter what the topic.

Just this week I was perusing through business books at the local book sale and found a great selection. There were several I refused to purchase just because the fonts and formats were incredibly distracting. I don’t care if it’s a bargain basement price and filled with infinite wisdom. Am I supposed to take a business author seriously when information is presented in squiggly scripts, highlighted by too many drop shadows and organized as if I had a short attention span? Yeah, maybe I missed out a wealth of information, a hidden treasure trove of advice, by not buying these particular titles. But if I can’t get through a paragraph without feeling annoyed or attacked by typography, I don’t think I’m missing out on anything.

Customized packaging always takes this into account. The right image captures the public’s eye, not turns it away. The right image complements your products, not negates the theme or contradicts your company’s mission. A cosmetics shop offering an array of makeup in assorted bright colors is probably not going to showcase its products with a gloomy grey shopping bag.

The perfect packaging is also a perfect fit for YOUR business, appropriate to YOUR products, whatever those may be.

Packaging is not the be-all, end-all in this world, but it certainly makes a difference to customers and sometimes a big difference directly to the bottom line. As one example, the grocery-chain Kroger experienced sales growth after repackaging its poorly performing store-brand products.

And, since we’re now in the most financially lucrative season for retailers, the matter becomes ever more important. Remember, customers not only expect attractive packaging, but gift boxes and shopping bags on hand as they begin holiday shopping.

Wrapping it Up

 

Ever watch The Office, the long-running comedy on NBC? It’s a show about an ineffectual, uninspiring work environment that decreases morale and stifles productivity. Creativity rarely is a result.

Advertising Week is hosting its eighth annual event, Oct. 3 through Oct. 7 in New York City. It’s safe to say that uninspired and listless will not be attending. Leave your boring cubicle at home, please! Conferences and seminars will be held all over Manhattan featuring brand strategy, marketing to target demographics, and technological topics, among other subjects.

Speaking of which, I was watching a political pundit show the other day when someone mentioned that anyone can brand themselves in this day and mobile age. You don’t need an actual product because with social media, you are the brand. Sure. But it sort of reminded me of reality show hacks who manage to convince the public they are either experts or otherwise important. Many fade into the background after a while or become a running gag.

Or, American Idol contestants. Some go on to great success, but many crash and burn. That show has been around for 10 seasons already, but only the diehard fans will remember the runner ups or even the initial auditions. The winners who won and went on to notable careers did so because of not only talent, but consistency. The chameleons who changed every week? Do you even remember their names? The general public won’t.

As far as getting your name out there, even garbage can be advertised. Well, the process of hauling away the garbage. Bagster dumpsters, for example, proudly display the company’s name, despite it being a loaded bag of debris. Presumably, it’s so your neighbors can tell what company you are using when remodeling the upstairs bathroom and getting rid of trash.

One Other Note

I say time and time again that packaging is an integral part of branding. Without effective and inspiring packaging, how are customers looking forward to what product may be inside? How are they drawn to such a product in the first place? By chance? By magic?

No matter what, however, without a product the consumer wants, a nice wrapper is just that, an outside layer.

In addition to retail outlets and cosmetic boutiques, we have served all types of restaurants in our 60 years of existence. I can tell you confidently that most patrons don’t walk into a deli thinking about packaging. They want a nice sandwich, something good to eat for lunch. Paper take-out bags aren’t exactly mouth watering, the food is. But when packaging is not available? Woah, now that’s a problem the patron will remember.

Take a recent review on hoboken411.com. Hoboken is a mile square city across the Hudson from Manhattan. Any given day, you will see hoards of pedestrians on Washington Street, prime real estate for foot traffic. This particular reviewer called ahead for a lunch order and arrived to find his lunch in an unmarked box sitting on the counter. He needed a bag to take the meal home. Several restaurant staff had to search around for a take-out bag. Come on, that’s ridiculous. Forget customized packaging for a moment, but NO BAGS at all? This is a deli is not?

Fortunately someone found a carry-out bag in the back and the patron eventually enjoyed his meal. But his overall impression was not positive. Shoppers, especially in a pedestrian-friendly area such as Hoboken, need bags to carry purchases. Don’t give in to wasted opportunity. Wrap that sale up instead.

Start Spreading The News

 

Many small businesses, along with the biggest and best large firms, rely on word of mouth marketing to promote a product or service. Who wouldn’t want such promotion, especially when it’s free? With social media and instant internet access available to more than two billion people, with 272 million users in North America alone, a good word of mouth campaign or a video gone viral can make a product or person well known within hours.

Not to be a crank, but all p.r. is not good p.r., despite the saying to the contrary. A recent survey of 3,295 consumers from around the country shows that more are likely to promote that product, negatively, if the consumer suffered a bad experience.

I recently spoke with a hair salon owner who was badly reviewed on Yelp. Most of the reviews of her salon were positive, from clients pleased with the service. One recent poster was not. The anonymous user decided to bash the owner in particular, by name, with over the top complaints. (In the same review, the poster fawned over a stylist at the salon, so it’s likely a friend of that employee and none too transparent.)

Regardless, the review is up for the world to see, and anyone checking out reviews before deciding on a new salon may be primed to think the owner is a lazy, ignorant sloth, if they don’t bother to scroll down to read the other, more accurate reviews.

Why am I mentioning all of this? There is no way to stop a naysayer from posting nonsense all over the net. But that naysayer can be discredited with the help of positive comments, the more the merrier. Ever see reviews on Amazon? When a book has thousands of five-star reviews and a handful of negative low ratings, it’ not going to adversely affect sales.

Which leads us back to word of mouth. Shopping bags, take out boxes, any merchandise bag that bears your company logo, all serve as positive or negative word of mouth campaigns which can lead to potential sales from new customers. How? By being catalysts to conversation. For one, hopefully these customized bags or boxes are reflective of your company, with appropriate images and eye catching designs. Two, it prompts questions when someone notices an attractive bag or box, wondering aloud what’s in it and where did it come from.

If the client or customer hated every moment in your establishment? Well that’s not going to be a positive conversation. If your client or customer was pleased with the service or store or product, which is more likely the case, they will gloat about the item inside and where it was purchased, a big plug for your business.

Promoting Through Packaging

 

If you’re dining in a fine restaurant, and love the rack of lamb that’s been served but too stuffed to take another bite, you’re most likely going to ask for a doggy bag. Maybe you will share a piece with your dog when you return home later, but the leftovers are likely for you and your stomach.

I’ve worked with a lot of restaurants so I know this offhand, but snazzy statistics from restaurant associations point to an uptick in take-out over the last 20 years. More specifically, the 2011 Restaurant Industry Forecast predicts record high sales for this year, $604 billion in total revenue, with $195 billion coming from full service restaurants (an increase of 3.1% over 2010).

Let’s forget statistics for a moment. Imagine there are no bags. No one has even heard of such a thing. Your server asks you to hold open your palm and whatever fits in your hands is what you can carry out. That’s “take out.” Who would enjoy that?

When you walk into a grocery store, do you pour a cup of milk, spoon out some Cheerios from a giant bin, and grab a slab of meat from the butcher pile? Of course not. Everything comes in a package, a bag or a box designed to safely contain food without letting it rot before a due date.

Sure, some large scale grocery outlets don’t offer shopping bags, (BJs doesn’t – most bulk items are carted off to a car in the parking lot, Albertson’s recently went bagless, etc.), but I know of one only grocery in the United States that doesn’t actually package its food. It’s not even open yet. A store called In.gredients in Austin, Texas, will offer all items with zero packaging starting this fall. Consumers must bring their own containers or can use compostable containers offered by the store.

This may sound great on paper and be a phenomenal failure in practice, or it may sound stupid in ink and be a wild success. Either way, I cringe at how many shoppers will be sneezing over the sugar and spices and inadvertently adding their own strains of bacteria to the yogurt. I’m all for farmer’s markets and supporting local industry, by the way. But even local farmers carton their eggs and offer bags for fresh vegetables. Although many consumers promote minimalism, with smaller packaging being ideal instead of large, bulky unnecessary wrapping, most consumers still want products contained and not exposed to the elements all day long.

The Bottom Line

Custom printed grocery bags and restaurant take out boxes are not only convenient for your customers, but promote your business!

Ever go to a trade show? I’ve been to many, many, many over the years, and there are always hundreds of vendors, different entrepreneurs, small businesses and big behemoths all participating and vying for attention. One thing they have in common is their need to promote to a new audience and retain standing with old clients. They certainly can’t do this by handing out items without a logo, items without a recognizable name.

Giving out generic promotional materials to prospective distributors and consumers is like throwing cash out the window, with products getting lost along with your company name. (I know several vendors opt for packaging their items in custom-printed euro-tote promotional bags, available in various sizes. It’s one way to keep your items separate from the rest, along with promoting your brand through the trade floor.)

Same principle with dining establishments. Your restaurant has an image, so why shouldn’t your bags be a part of that?

Motivating Presentation

 

Summertime and the skies are blazing. Normally, the shining sun causes many to head for the outdoors, whether to consciously or not soak up some Vitamin D and get fresh air. But when the heat waves take over, crowds crawl back inside for much needed air conditioning. Some days are perfect for backyard barbecues and some days are just scorchers, but you might not know until you take a step outside. (If you forgot to check the weather forecast that is. I personally like my WeatherBug app.)

Yeah, I like getting sun as much as the next person, but not really interested in being baked to a crisp. Is anyone motivated to run a marathon when it’s 115 degrees outside? I’m not motivated to take a walk down the block, can’t imagine going for a jog. Similarly, many people won’t make plans for outdoor parties when the clouds are dark and overcast. Even if not a single drop falls, you’ll see less families and pedestrians at the park when the skies are grey. Why? Do you want to take a chance that it will rain on your parade?

Basically, we tend to make many decisions based on appearances. How many candidates get far in job interviews if they show up unshaven, unclean and disorderly? The interviewer most likely writes that person off as a slob even before they have a chance to speak. If the resume was submitted on a crumbled up envelope, that candidate doesn’t even get an interview, period. No matter how brilliant the person may be.

This premise is the same for packaging. Whatever the contents, the box or bag has an immediate impact on the buyer. Appearances matter.

The University of Southern California conducted a packaging study, with results published in October 2010 in the Journal of Consumer Psychology. The university’s research shows that consumers will consciously choose a product based on its aesthetic design, even if the product is higher priced and lesser known than other brands. Why? Because “beautiful packaging” ignites a response in an individual, similar to the emotions felt when receiving a reward or getting paid.

Remember, this study was conducted and published well after the economy was already in the tank. And still, consumers are willing to pay more for products that are packaged better than their competitors. A purchase placed in an aesthetic, customized shopping bag reinforces the decision to buy even more.

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