The situation is not new; but as timelines shrink and speed to market becomes the driver in so many companies, the creative tension between marketers and packaging people becomes ever more intense. Researchers who query packaging people learn this regularly, especially when packaging personnel are asked about their biggest frustrations. To be sure, the issues that create frustrations arent only marketing demands. Lack of planning, lack of training and plain ol lack of time are other factors that are now frequently mentioned. However, in the interaction between company departments, the natural friction between packaging and production departments has been almost totally replaced by a new friction between packaging and marketing. Thats why I think its interesting to report that at least one very successful marketing executive is publicly acknowledging the growing importance of packaging and, frankly, elevating its position in the marketing hierarchy. Unfortunately, that executive is a full date zone away. His name is Mark Swindon, business manager of S.P.C. Ltd., an Australian food packer reported to have an impressive list of packaging innovations to its credit. As reported by Michael Halley of the Australian Institute of Packaging, marketing guru Swindon spoke at the Christmas meeting of the AIP in Melbourne. Swindon is still a believer in what he calls the four Ps of marketing: product, price, promotion and placement. He noted he isnt certain whether marketing should be considered an artful science or scientific art, but he did add that packaging is now the fifth P in the marketing mix. He applauded the pharmaceutical manufacturers in Australia that pulled products from store shelves in the face of extortion allegations. Presumably, the perpetrators demonstrated they could breach tamper-evident packaging, and at least two customers reported illness after taking analgesic tablets. Even after one manufacturer pulled its products and destroyed them, the threats continued. Other manufacturers did the same. That costly action, added Swindon, improved the credibility of the products and their manufacturers. He advised container manufacturers to allow customers to visit their production facilities and to promote packaging solutions instead of individual products. That, he said, will help both parties to innovate. And he suggests that suppliers need to keep their marketing people current with technology available to customers. After all, his experience shows that suppliers may now have to meet with and persuade customers in up to nine different departments. Swindon also addressed the issue of Australias Packaging Covenant, a government/industry agreement regarding the management of packaging waste throughout the package supply chain. Swindon said he didnt expect the Covenant to become a marketing tool, but he believes it will help packagers stay up-to-date on material changes. He referred to compliance as another drink from the well of goodwill. Halley reports that Swindon acknowledged packagings role to protect products from the environment and the environment from the product. But he demurred with academic experts who feel packaging needs to fit the product. Like a true marketing pro, Swindon stressed that he felt packaging can and should add product value to the consumer. Halley reported that in the Q&A session at the AIP Christmas meeting, Swindon showed he is a strong believer in the free market. He called the governments stance on package tariffs fundamentally flawed. He cited the example of the fact that empty food cans cannot be economically imported under almost any circumstance. His company currently packs about 70% of its foods into metal cans, although he expects that to diminish to 50% as glass for premium products and plastic containers for a wide range of products make inroads. That shift will be caused, he said, by those packaging materials having an easier time responding to Swindons loose definition of marketing: the identification and satisfaction of consumers wants and needs. Halley didnt report on whether any of S.P.C.s packaging people attended the session. Nonetheless, its interesting that half a world away, a marketing leader feels a comaraderie with a group of packaging professionals. That doesnt happen here as frequently as it should.
A marketer in packaging trade dress
To paraphrase an old packaging axiom: In marketing terms, the word revision is virtually synonymous with deadline. Ask any packaging professionalfrom R&D to engineering to the testing lab to purchasing to the packaging machinery maintenance departmentand theyll tell you that the suggestions from the marketing department can be major source of stress.