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Beauty may only be skin deep, but product packing is critical to its success.

How a product is packaged can mean the difference between profits or losses. Don't let Madison Avenue and Fortune 500 braggarts corrupt your thinking - you don't have to be a big guy to act like one! You don't necessarily need a multimillion dollar budget to design and implement a package that will sell itself effectively.

Think about the fact that good packaging attracts and educates. If you think you're saving money and time by going for no-frills packaging on your private-label products, think again. Often the costs of creating an exciting, attractive package are minimally higher then creating an exciting, attractive package are minimally higher then creating a package that's less likely to sell. Research and a little networking among peers should provide you with suggestions for suppliers and designers within your budget.

Follow the lead: While you can't judge a book by its cover, covers do sell quite a few books.

Good packaging is one of the most indispensable sales pitches. Suppliers agree that a product may never see the light of day if the package doesn't prompt the customer to purchase it, take it home, open the package, and use the product. Some companies even spend more money on the package than on the product itself.

There's a lot to know about the packaging business, but there are some basic rules of thumb for top-of-the-line design.

* Work closely with a good suppliers/skilled designer (a good one will love the challenge).

* Stress that you want an exceptional package at a reasonable price.

* Collect samples of your competition's private-label packages of other designs that strike your fancy.

* Provide your supplier/designer with some rough concepts.

* Provide important facts.

* Highlight themes of your packaging is geared for a particular holiday period - for example, a Dickensian format or a Medicci Christmas.

Ask your suppliers/designer to come up with a few ideas. Don't expect one clear-cut, flawless idea the first time through. Always test the designs on prospective customers.

If your company is small or new and you have limited resources, you may want to begin by using a stock packaging instead of custom packaging. When your product shows evidence that it will be successful, you could consider investing in custom packaging. The variety and quality of stock packaging had improved greatly over the years and a semi-custom look can be achieved with a little inventiveness.

Let the stock packaging promote your business. Use the labels and package to communicate sales messages and details about other products and services you offer. Your packaging not only should convey an image, but should help sell the product. The packaging can announce discounts or special offers, supply news about the advantage and features of the product, give the location of your business, provide a telephone number for additional orders, and carry your company logo.

You could also print sales messages on the box or container. Use words such as "guaranteed", "easy to use", "new", "up scale", and "money-saving" to attract attention This is especially important if the product must compete for attention with many other products on the shelf.

In addition, print messages on bags and wrappers. Again, don't settle for ordinary stock item. Print you name and logo on the package and include messages that will encourage repeat business.

Make sure that your logo and address are printed on all your mailing labels. Even better, enlarge the labels and make room for your best advertising slogan. This is a great way to reinforce your marketing messages. Some business owners who do a high volume of mail-order business change the advertising message on their labels every month.

Contemplate designing the package while the product is being developed. Packaging should not be an after thought or a last-minute decision. Think about your product and try to cover all the details that can be involved in the packaging before your start designing the wrapper or container. Will your packaging require bar codes, tamper-proof devices, or product liability of opening, display requirements, and wear-and-tear prevention aspects.

Testing a packaging idea, not unlike testing a product, requires a valuable expenditure of money. Unfortunately, many small businesses find this hard to accept. But testing done economically is actually time and money well spent. Isn't it a shame that smaller companies often feel that they must risk everything that they have because they're afraid to spend the money on testing? No wonder more that 80% of all new ventures go belly up!

When trying out a new idea, you can make dozens of costly mistakes. Don't risk everything if you don't have to. Major companies test all the time-even they can't afford to chance anything when million of dollars are at risk.

Testing is is simple. You can test anything you're about to spend some bucks on. For example, if you have ideas regarding a new product or service, a public awareness campaign, or a fresh presentation, test the validity of those ideas.

Select a target group: customers who are also friends, every fifth customer who comes to the register, solicited customers at the store entrance and exit. See if they would be interested in taking part in an informal survey - give them a coupon book for doing so or a free espresso or latte the next time they shop your store. The larger the test market, the better.

Write down each idea on a 3 x 5 index card. Ask your participants to rank the cards in the order that seems the most important to them. (Don't modify this formula! It has proven quite accurate.) After tabulating their choices, rank the ideas.

The winner is your best bet. Don't fall in love with any one idea. In the end it's more than likely that the customer's choice will make you money, not the esoteric idea that you wrote down at two o'clock in the morning.

Submit plenty of options. Don't show your target group just one idea and say, "Do you like this?" Doing so will imply that they'd better love it or else. Among the ideas shown to your test market, include your most stringent competitions product or service ideas or a cleverly disguised approximation. Your target testing group will let you know how your ideas compare.

Packaging serves two purposes - to protect the product and to convey an image. The packaging of a product can be the critical difference between whether someone selects your private-label item or a recognizable brand name fighting for shelf space and attention.

If your product is not successful in one package, try it in another before you forsake it entirely.

Susan Friedman is a freelance writer and handles promotions, marketing and public relations out of her own company based in Miami, Florida. She was a past editor of Gourmet Retailer magazine.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Friedman, Susan
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Aug 1, 1991
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