Praveen Jaipuriar

Are Marketers Over Obsessed With The 5th P.

Written by: Praveen Jaipuriar
About the author: CEO at Continental Coffee Pvt. Limited│ex- Head Marketing – Dabur India Ltd



The 5th P that I am referring to here is the packaging. Packaging has undergone huge changes in the last couple of decades. Simple rounds have become curvaceous, adding aesthetics and convenience at the same time, single colour labels have become multicolour with options of a gloss look or matt finish, and so on. 

The ever-evolving technology has made sure that modern packaging is more convenient and more attractive. The design elements have taken a leap as well. Semiotically the packaging graphics has started looking so attractive. Every brand has a massive ‘pick me up’ value. 

The new launches in the FMCG industry (a lot is happening these days, thanks to e-commerce platforms which give a level playing field as far as availability is concerned for the entrepreneurs) have so much of ‘look good’ value. There are design agencies that specialize in packaging design and are doing a wonderful job in churning out great designs. In the good old days, the creative agencies themselves used to do this job for clients which now is being done by super-specialists. Big bucks go behind the 5th P that is the packaging. 

While marketers devote a lot of resources to make their brand’s packaging look good, they probably ignore the real purpose of a good packaging design. The real job of packaging is to deliver the concept rather than just look good. This leads to consumer disconnect and one often wonders why did a brand with such wonderful packaging design fail?

Let me illustrate by example. Parachute is the largest selling coconut oil in the country. It is used by millions of users to nourish their hair and in turn, make it look good. On would imagine a product like this should have very attractive packaging. But Parachute comes in a simple HDPE bottle with no labels but design printing on the bottle directly. Nothing overly flashy but very simple and reasonably good looking. The most important thing, it delivers the brand concept of purity very well. The bottle has a small tamper-proof seal which the consumers need to open when they are opening the pack for the first time. Thus, reinforcing the brand concept without being fancy. 

Let me illustrate by something which was fancy but did not work as well as it was supposed to. Dove launched a hair oil which looked awesome. It almost looked as premium as a perfume bottle. In spite of Dove’s massive equity and Unilever’s distribution muscle, it did not work. Very simply the concept was not clear to the consumer and a fancy-looking pack did not help.


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Is there any success mantra for good packaging? Not really but if one keeps the following in mind it may help.

  1. Communicate the concept and values of the brand Patanjali made a massive splash in the FMCG market and took significant shares in most of the categories they operated in. If you were to look at their packaging, they were pretty ordinary. But most importantly it delivered the concept of Ayurveda well and the look gelled with the concept of honesty and purity. Their packaging looked very honest and simple. One can not have the concept of Ayurveda delivered in fancy-looking packaging. Even if you were to look at some of the exotic ayurvedic brands, their packaging is plush yet very simple. No flashy colours, no curvaceous bottle, etc. 
  2. User Friendly The pack should be user friendly. I am sure RnB would have done a lot of research to get the nozzle of the Harpic bottle angled perfectly. I myself have used some other brands of toilet cleaners and found that the Harpic bottle is perfectly curved to reach the inner rim of the commodes. Dabur Chawanprash bottles’ have perfect orifice diameter to make sure that the last few spoons of Chywanprash can be scooped without any hassle.
  3. Shelf friendly One of the key elements to look for in a good packaging is that it should be shelf friendly. A lot of brands that I have seen have fancy looks but shelf storage is a problem. For example, there is a fancy looking shampoo bottle with an oval cap. Now sometimes because of the height of the shelf, some shops will stack one bottle on top of others, but with the curved cap, it wasn’t possible. So, the shopkeeper would store at some corner where not only it wasn’t visible to consumers but also would be difficult for a shopkeeper to access.  
  4. Brand Visibility A lot of packaging designs look superbly elegant and attractive but one has to search for the brand name. Your brand should be loud and clear to consumers. That’s what you are building.
  5. Category Coding Haven’t you seen many packs and wondered what’s inside it? I have seen many and then I would struggle to read the details to find out what it does. Consumers are very simplistic. One needs to be careful with packaging formats and design, they should clearly cue category codes.  
  6. Instruction to use & Statutory declarations Last but not least one should make sure that the instruction to use is spelt correctly especially if the category is new or the product differentiated. The graphic form of explanation is any day better than the written form. Lastly, it goes without saying that the statutory declarations have to be duly complied with. 

So, I would end up saying that a good-looking pack doesn’t guarantee success. So be more bothered about the concept. If the concept is a winner and your packaging is able to convey that effectively, even a not so good-looking packaging will do well.

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