Charged with identifying market opportunities and fending off competitive threats from rival brands and private-label products, they can tend to go overboard asking their packaging engineering departments for packaging that pops. Packaging engineers sometimes immediately know when an overly ambitious package is not going to fly in the way the creative team initially envisioned it, either from a cost or timeline standpoint or a packaging line compatibility standpoint.
The trouble is, marketing departments don’t easily take “no” for an answer, which can create problems in package development, because most marketers lack a packaging background. In such cases, packaging engineers have no choice but to dutifully create the mockups, do the costing, show the impact on the financials, and let the marketing people reach the conclusion on feasibility (or lack thereof) on their own.
To mitigate the disconnect between marketing and packaging, engineering, and production, follow these simple guidelines.
1. Insist on functional package descriptions. When communicating consumer and brand requirements to the packaging team, brand and marketing managers should provide functional package descriptions as well as design-oriented descriptions. In addition to defining the desired brand image by saying things like, “We need a package that’s soft and flowing,” or “Make it masculine and angular,” objective design criteria need to be articulated as well. Using only subjective terms can make an unstable basis for engineering a package, and can lead to additional design revisions—and additional development time—until the final objective is achieved.
2. Send marketing personnel on plant tours. Some companies schedule regular trips to the plant so that marketing people can see firsthand the realities of production on the company’s packaging lines. This way marketing people may be less inclined to propose an unreasonable idea in the first place.
3. Discuss existing capabilities. Schedule meetings where marketing asks production: “Show me all the things you can make that I don’t know about.” Between all the different package formats, sizes, and shapes, the inherent flexibility in the equipment, or any flexibility that could easily be added, marketing personnel will see a clearer picture about what’s possible.
4. Give production a seat at the table, early on. Whenever possible, marketing should engage production to understand what’s possible and what’s practical. This is especially true when it comes to determining container counts in a multipack. Sometimes adding one more unit to a multipack can slow things down significantly on the packaging line. For example, going from four to six units in a multipack might reduce a shrink bundler or case packer speed by 20%, which might be the difference between a line that runs well and one that doesn’t.
5. Avoid terminology misunderstandings. Strive to have marketing, engineering, and production use the same language and terminology, especially in terms of package dimensions. For example, package length, width, and height may have a very specific meaning in relation to the machines on the line, whereas in marketing people’s eyes, such dimensions are in relation to how the package sits on the shelf. Sometimes the two don’t match up.
6. Walk in their shoes. Both marketing and engineering (whether materials or machinery) can always do a better job at attempting to understand one another’s motivations or needs. Marketers should anticipate the kinds of questions that come from engineers. Engineers should understand what marketers are trying to do, and how they’re trying to interact with shoppers and retailers.
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