The \"Shape\" of Things to Come?

August 1, 2005
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The “Shape” of Things to Come?
Jennifer Acevedo, Editor-in-Chief
For those of us who remember its humble beginnings, private label packaging might conjure up images of cans with stark white labels and bold, black type. And for those with a bit of imagination, it might also prompt a fleeting thought of the “mystery meat” that might be lurking in those “generic” packages.
Well, private label has certainly evolved. In fact, according to a recent study by AC Nielsen, 77 percent of US respondents agreed that private label brands are a “good alternative” to other brands, and 81 percent characterized store brands as “an extremely good value for the money.”
Take a stroll down the aisles of certain grocery stores and, in some categories, you might have trouble distinguishing the store brand from the national brand based on packaging. There are many retailers—think Whole Foods 365 Organic or Albertson’s Essensia—that are making great strides to change the perception that store brand packaging equals generic. These retailers have realized what those of you on the national brand side have embraced for years—packaging sells product.
But if store brands are beginning to move beyond the price game, what’s a national brand to do to stave off competition from the private label side? At our recent Packaging that Sells III conference, we addressed this very question. You can read the results of a comprehensive original research study, conducted by Perception Research Services, which appears on p. 20 of this issue of BRANDPACKAGING. The article shares valuable insights into the challenge that national brands face and offers practical solutions for the road ahead.
From this research we can take many important lessons, but I’d like to call attention to what I feel is likely the most powerful tool brand marketers can use in differentiating packaging on-shelf: structure. Consider a revolutionary new shape, or an innovative dispensing device or even changing the way that your package feels in the consumer’s hand. Show the consumer that your packaging works for him, and be sure to patent and protect your innovations to avoid your competitors’ “me-too” efforts.
Packaging your product in a structurally innovative and exceptionally functional container can provide the justification the consumer needs to spend that extra bit of hard-earned cash on the national brand. And it’s a game that’s difficult for the store brands, which tend to rely on stock packaging to manage costs, to play.

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