Marketing, Meet Technology

October 1, 2005
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Marketing, Meet Technology
By Aaron Brody
Some organizations give packaging its proper place in the consumer product marketing mix, often permeating the process of development with sophisticated packaging technologies. Others, however, treat packaging as an unrefined and last-minute exercise in a complex product development plan—and, incredibly, they are often surprised when the introduction falls short of projections.
What they are lacking, in many instances, are the many gains offered by technology in the package development process. Here are two to consider:
Form tracks function
Engineering and package development consultancies such as Stress Engineering Services (www.stress.com) follow the basic rule of “form follows function” in their support of aesthetics and functionality. Even if the differences between designs appear trivial (e.g., color or font size), issues of implementation still abound and can reduce speed-to-market. Also, when the design direction is more complex—plastic paint canisters with dispensing devices, for example—it may translate into a more difficult-to-execute and more expensive process.
So the question is how packaging innovations can be generated quickly and effectively. Stress Engineering Services was one of the first to apply predictive analysis methods to packaging: forecasting and optimizing bottle, closure, dispenser, thermoform and specialized packaging performances via computer, long before prototypes are considered. Virtual package simulation reduces costs and shortens cycles, and it also minimizes commercial risk by delivering the earliest technical answers—a means of screening the best concepts—and resolving key issues before going to numerous, and costly, prototypes and consumer tests. (But never forget that the ultimate test remains the real life situation. The two applied in concert are accelerants of winning packaging development.)
Bringing it all together
Knowledge of the market, trends, costs and consumer attitudes and behaviors is gathered by cross-functional internal and external teams. Consumer insights drive the functional design, and consumers themselves often verify the decisions and contribute to moving the project forward. Synthesis and prudent application of such information, though, can be difficult.
Enter digital package development systems: software that is designed to organize, assign, budget, time and ensure accuracy in each state of packaging development: from concept generation to implementation.
For a novice, the idea of a digital packaging system is likely to cause some hesitation; training is sometimes required to make the shift from manual development processes and the cost of change itself is often a barrier.
But it’s hard to ignore the fact that when information is embedded in software, the entire process of development becomes more efficient and measurable, according to Paxonix (www.paxonix.com), a division of MeadWestvaco offering software to manage end-to-end branding and packaging processes.
The benefits are too great to ignore: online process initiation; online review, revision and approval of designs; and rapid collaboration between technical, design, brand, legal, engineering, production, and, of course, marketing teams.
Immediate savings in time and its corollary, money, accrue. Perhaps more importantly, tasks can be easily delegated to the party with the necessary resources to address problems that inevitably crop up. Digital packaging development is project management, but now enhanced by powerful microprocessors.
The growing complexity of today’s packaging processes, and of marketing overall, demands systematization and effortless management so that packages get to market faster and marketers successfully control their development budgets.
Exciting prospects are present, and on the horizon, for tomorrow’s marriage of marketing and technology! BP
The author, Aaron L. Brody, Ph.D., is President/CEO of Packaging/Brody Inc., a consultancy in food, packaging technology and marketing. Contact Dr. Brody at 770.613.0991 or aaronbrody@aol.com.

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