Creating competitive advantage with product packaging

Bo Rundh, Department of Business Administration, Karlstad University, Karlstad, Sweden


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to study how packaging and packaging design can contribute to competitive advantage for marketing a consumer product.

Design/methodology/approach – Different influences from actors in the packaging design process are discussed in a conceptual model. A single case study based on five “corporate stories” about packaging development resulting in a new package are presented and analysed.

Findings – The present study demonstrates influences on the design process of a package from external and internal factors. The outcome of the design process is, to a great extent, dependent on the interaction between the main actors in this process. The study argues for the importance of the interaction with customers for planning and conducting the design. The result of such a process is a package that can trigger customers make a purchase and/or re-inforce the brand name for a re-purchase of the product.

Practical implications – The main implications for management are that packaging is a vital instrument in modern marketing activities for consumer goods, for example in the competitive food industry. The study highlights a few factors that trigger a customer to purchase a product by designing a suitable package for the product. Packaging design makes it possible to introduce new and better solutions for diverse marketing and logistic problems in a supply chain.

Originality/value – This paper fulfills an identified need for contributions to more research on packaging and marketing strategy.

Keywords Marketing strategy, Packaging, Product design, Competitive advantage, Food packaging

Paper type Case study


Packaging and packaging design have become an important factor in marketing diverse “consumer goods” and have a key role in communicating product benefits to the customer. Product packaging is therefore also related to other variables in the marketing mix (Czinkota and Ronkainen, 2007). These are within the control of the company and are means of meeting changes within the business environment (Cateora and Ghauri, 2000). However, packaging design is subject to a complex set of influences from the business environment. Among the main influences, new technology, materials development, logistic requirements, environmental issues, consumer preferences and marketing aspects all play a key role for management decisions on marketing strategy (Packaging Federation, 2004a, b). The importance of the different variables varies among the actors through the supply chain, but is also linked with consumer concerns and product safety.

This paper therefore addresses the way packaging design can be used to meet new challenges within a supply chain. The paper describes and analyses factors driving packaging design and thereby derives suggestions for achieving competitive advantage within a rapidly changing and complex supply chain.

In order to reveal such complexity and focus on the role of packaging design, we have first had to discuss issues regarding different driving forces within the “packaging market” and second to develop a framework for analysing the interface between packaging and driving forces within the area studied. The analytical problems are inherent in the “packaging market” since the latter can vary with the packaging material. A change in packaging material at the retail level may be of minor importance, but have a great influence in terms of substitute products or new entries on the supply side of the packaging industry. A sudden change in attitudes among end consumers influenced by the media can therefore lead to a shift in the actual consumption between plastics and paper board materials and have strategic effects on the packaging industry.

In this paper we have concentrated on aspects relating to paper board materials. It is obvious that packaging design and packaging development are subject to dynamic influences originating from many sources and this creates threats but also opportunities for strategic management decisions. In pursuing the aim described above, this paper addresses the following research questions:

  • RQ1. Which are the main actors in the packaging design process of a product package?
  • RQ2. How can packaging design contribute to fulfilling internal and external influences of a product package?

The paper is structured as follows. In the first section of the study the relevant literature is reviewed and a theoretical framework for describing and understanding factors that affect different actors with respect to the packaging design process is presented. The following section takes up five “corporate stories” describing different aspects of product design. The paper then relates its empirical findings to previous research and suggests a model for the design process. In the final section the conclusions and managerial implications are discussed and suggestions for future research are highlighted

A theoretical framework

Packaging of consumer goods is an area where conditions are continuously changing as a result of internationalisation and influencing factors in the supply and demand side of the packaging industry. In this paper we argue that the key factors determining the success of packaging design can be found in the interface between external driving forces and the ability to assess and transform them into attractive packaging solutions. There is little doubt that packaging design and developed packages is subject to dynamic influences from the surrounding business environment. These influences originate from changes in consumer values such as greater convenience and functionality, but also from environmental issues and food safety, for instance (Packaging Federation, 2004b). Other influences are coming from new requirements of the printing quality within the supply chain (retailing side). Even if packaging has become an important marketing tool for many consumer products in a competitive business environment, relatively few studies and little interest has been directed towards the theoretical work in the marketing literature. Some of the early research was done in the area of general characteristics and role of packaging design and as a variable influencing product evaluation (Banks, 1950; Schwartz, 1971). Other packaging-related research includes studies of the communicative role (Nancarrow et al., 1998; Underwood et al., 2001); ethical packaging matters (Bone and Corey, 2000); packaging as a profit (Wills, 1990); packaging design with respect to the use of material (Lee and Lye, 2003); advertisement and package coordination (Garreston and Burton, 2005) and packaging size and shape (Wansink, 1996; Raghubir and Greenleaf, 2006). Another research study exploring the packaging design management process within a food retailer was conducted by Vasquez in 2003. The multi-function of packaging has been investigated by Prendergast and Pitt (1996) and Rundh (2005). Despite these works, little is known about packaging design and its relation to marketing strategy.

Consumer influences

There are a number of demographic and lifestyle factors, documented by scholars and companies, that have resulted in various changes in consumer behaviour (Hogg, 2003). The consequences of demographic factors are an ageing population and an increasing number of people living in smaller households. These changes in household size and composition are mirrored in changes in consumer lifestyle. The number of people eating out has also grown to a considerable size in western society (Packaging Federation, 2004b). New services and take- away facilities are adding to changes in consumer behaviour. “Healthy eating” and sporting activities to take care of your own health are other phenomena in our society. Low cost air-fares and more holidays have also contributed to new consumption patterns. Credit is widely and easily available and consumers are not willing to save before the purchase even if it is a capital product. These changes in household size and lifestyle have important consequences for consumer behaviour, which also affect the packaging industry.

Environmental influences

The environment is an increasingly important issue for all areas in the business. A number of environmental problems have increased the interest of governments, official institutions and international companies around the world in coming up with ideas for solving these problems. Many countries have also introduced legislation or regulations governing the use of certain materials or the implementation of certain trade practices. The European Union (EU) in particular has recognised a need for imposing legislation on the industry to encourage companies to behave in a manner which is more compatible with environmental conservation. This has been declared in a revised packaging directive concerned with the minimisation of waste and the amount of packaging material that should be recycled (EU, 2006). The directive also promotes energy recovery, re-use and recycling of packaging. The packaging directive covers all packaging placed on the market within the EU as well as all packaging waste, whether disposed of at industrial or commercial sites or coming from private homes.

International influences

The consequences of internationalisation and globalisation are several (Young, 2001). One important topic is the fact that international trade has increased and products and services are in many senses becoming worldwide (Dimitratos et al., 2003). Some international products and their brands can be marketed in a standardised way, whereas most others need to be adapted to local requirements, which also affect the packaging (Cateora et al., 2000). Customers are also bringing back ideas and influences from other market areas requesting new products or setting up innovative businesses

Packaging design is a vital factor contributing to product differentiation especially when it comes to export among different market areas.

Logistic and distribution influences

Packaging has provided many new logistic solutions but has also been a key factor for adaptation for logistic reasons. Packaging and packaging design has obviously been a key driver for development of modern distribution systems of dairy products like Tetra Pak and for entrepreneurship within others, such as IKEA with its flat packages. Many packaging solutions have also been developed for pallet size, or for containerisation within the exporting sector.

Marketing influences (aspects)

Changes in consumer demands and requirements of products and services have put pressure on suppliers to come up with new solutions (Hogg, 2003). This has also been reinforced by strong competition in many product areas. Product and market managers in retailing have pushed for new designs and higher quality of printing giving their packages luxurious or prestigious appeal.

Technology influences

New technology and technological development in coating and laminating has contributed to the enlargement of new materials, but also to the combination of materials with better properties. This has been one important factor in the development of many new packaging products. Another obvious driving force has been development and improvements within printing and printing technology. An important contribution to development work in packaging and packaging design has also been made by suppliers of packaging equipment of different kinds. Furthermore development work within the area of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology will create opportunities for many new packaging solutions within diverse distribution systems (So¨rensen, 2006; Widman, 2006). Wal Mart and other big retailers have decided to introduce the new technology, which in turn puts pressure on their suppliers to adopt the technology.

Packaging design (materials, shape, size, colour, texture, graphics)
Packaging design has become an important factor for marketing various products in consumer markets in the area of grocery products, spirits and perfumes. The actual package can be considered as a part of the product since the packaging can contribute to the product’s benefits and in some cases be vital for the use of the product. In some areas the package is the same as the product (George, 2005). For various products the shape of the package has been an essential factor for success in the marketplace, whereas size and colour are important ingredients in other product and market areas (Wansink, 1996; Raghubir and Greenleaf, 2006). Texture and graphics are also variables that can be modified and contribute to a successful package. Another phenomenon contributing to the development of innovations is special showrooms that suppliers of board, for instance, use to develop new packaging solutions in co-operation with their customers. One innovation is the use of web design where customers can see the suggested package on the computer presented, for example, on a shelf in the store or as a point-of-sale aid in the store. The design studio uses the same technology as in a video game. The proposal can also be sent as a file to the customer or be presented on a DVD for later use. The new technology was presented by SCA at the exhibition Scanpack 2006 in October 2006 in Gothenburg. In this paper packaging design includes all aspects of a package before it comes to the customer, including choice of material as well as printing on the surface of the material. The conclusion from this perspective is that different actors will have an influence on the packaging material or the final package. This paper does not discuss the different steps as such since they are dependent on the particular material and the converting steps that are necessary to fulfil the packaging concept. The challenges that packaging and packaging design are facing in relation to different operations in a supply chain are summarised in Table I. At each stage packaging needs to satisfy diverse demands when products are moving in the supply chain from producer to end customer.

A conceptual model

The challenges that are facing a marketer of a consumer product are many due to influential factors in the actual market. The different actors and processes in the design process are captured in a conceptual model in Figure 1. The diverse external variables influencing the process have been described above, whereas the internal factors (depend on) can be described by the actual product and the processes that evolve as a result of the interaction between the actors in the business network. One such factor is the choice of packaging material.

Market-based packaging design The following section describes a case study about packaging design in a company that has used this instrument for developing the product concept for different end-uses of the paperboard product.

Stage in the supply chainChallenges for packaging and packaging design
Packaging supplier/manufacturerEasy to produce and have a low cost for production
Packaging and fillingStrong and suitable for high speed automated
operations. Capacity for cold or hot filling
DistributionMinimum utilisation of space. Low weight for distribution costs. Strong and resistant to minimise losses
Marketing in retail outletAttractive design (silent salesman), transparent, protective and tamper evident. Minimal space for display in retail outlet
Consumer purchaseLow weight, easy and safe to carry. Convenient pack size and option for multiple pack sizes
Consumer storageRequirement for maintaining quality and freshness over a period of time. Necessity to cope with different temperature and humidity
Consumer usageEasy to dispose of after usage. Environmentally friendly. Childproof closure for some product categories
Table I. Challenges for packaging and packaging design in the supply chain

The main reason for selecting paperboard is that “paperboard packaging” is the largest segment of the packaging industry and has significant opportunities to improve its position in consumer goods packaging. In a research project on paperboard packaging led by the Paperboard Packaging Alliance (a joint initiative between the Paperboard Packaging Council and American Forest & Paper Association) focus group participants stated that they like and understand paperboard as a “comfort” packaging material. Other important conclusions from that research (George, 2005) reveals that:

  • in consumers’ minds, the product and package are one and the same;
  • the package helps create an overall product perception and promise;
  • the package is the product until the product is consumed and the package is disposed of, reused, or recycled;
  • older consumers view products in paperboard packaging as familiar and trusted. When executed well, paperboard packaging strikes consumers – younger and older – as contemporary; and
  • the objective in packaging development should be to use paperboard to create winning marketplace product solutions rather than merely creating a great package.

Research design

Case study. The construct of this case study is designed with the purpose to analyse and conduct an in-depth study of packaging design in a supply chain. The case study method was chosen in order to assess and reveal the strength and edge of packaging design. The study focuses on narrating the process at AssiDoma¨n in relation to actors in the supply chain. Data for the case study were collected by analysing documents and reports, collecting media articles and internal video clips, internet documents and information, and previous personal observations at the plant. A main contribution for the case study has been “corporate stories” from the company. The use of “corporate stories” have been discussed among several scholars (Benjamin, 2006; Denning, 2006; Marzec, 2007; Yolles, 2007). Furthermore, we interviewed the marketing director, the communications manager, and sales people at a packaging exhibition. This has provided us with an extensive basis for developing this case. We also rely on experience and the literature in order to present the evidence in various ways using different interpretations and measurements as this case relates to packaging development rather than specific managerial problems. The single case study has five “corporate stories” about development of different packaging solutions. Each corporate story (narrative) was selected carefully so that it predicts different results for expected reasons (theoretical replication). The unit of analyses was the product:

In a single-case study, the challenge of presenting rich qualitative data is readily addressed by simply presenting a relative complete rendering of the story within the text. The story typically consists of narrative that is interspersed with quotations from key informants and other supporting evidence (Eisenhardt and Graebner, 2007, p. 29).

History of AssiDoma¨ n Fro¨ vi (Korsna¨ s Fro¨ vi after the merger). AssiDoma¨n is one of Scandinavia’s leading manufacturers of packaging board material, but the company was acquired by Korsna¨s AB (Sweden) in 2006. The company AssiDoma¨n which is the object for this case study has a history from iron manufacturing since 1558 and paper production from 1889. A new era started in 1981 when Europe’s biggest paper board machine (at that time) was set up. The newly formed group concentrates its production mainly on paper and paperboard products, which are highly processed and specialised, used in the packaging industry. The total capacity is in excess of a million tonnes of carton board and paper per year. The total turnover for the new group exceeds 750 million euros and 1,800 employees.

In order to conduct the research and answer the research questions, five “corporate stories” or narratives were selected for presentation in this case. The empirical context for the “corporate stories” that follow are narrated by Annica Alexandersson – communications manager:

  1. Chokladfabriken (derived from AssiDoma¨n, 2006);
  2. Coleur Carmel (derived from AssiDoma¨n, 2006);
  3. Ballantine (derived from AssiDoma¨n, 2006);
  4. Nestle´ (derived from AssiDoma¨n, 2006);
  5. Jysk (derived from AssiDoma¨n, 2006).

Taken together, these empirical findings reveal how companies operate with packaging design in a competitive environment. The corporate stories reveal the actors that influence the process.

Corporate story 1. Chokladfabriken – sensual pleasure in a sober packaging

Chokladfabriken is a small company in Stockholm that produces hand-made chocolate for their customers. The company is owned by Mr Martin Isaksson a world-class confectioner and a member of the Swedish Chef team with several gold medals. Their chocolates are delicate and expensive perishables that taste heavenly. At Christmas time in 2005 Swedish television broadcast a design program in which a few design students were given a mission to develop a packaging design to promote Chokladfabriken’s products on behalf of the board supplier Fro¨vi. The aim was to develop a packaging design that would reinforce the company’s trademark and image regarding the chocolate. The creativity amongst the students resulted in a design solution where the carton board’s brown inside was used to convey a natural and genuine image. The package design aimed at boosting customer emotions by using additional flaps and tasting notes on the extra print surface with the intention of comparing chocolate-tasting with wine-tasting.

“The students did a great job in capturing our image in the graphic design”, says Martin Isaksson, owner of the company. “There is an obvious trend today, where more and more people long for pleasure. Though quality awareness is more widespread today, people are less sensitive to the price” says Martin Isaksson. “My fastidious circle of customers demands ecological chocolate ingredients and that is why our packaging interplays in symbiosis with the chocolate and our philosophy”.

Interpretation. The design process was driven by the intention of capturing the company’s image in the design by using the carton board’s brown inside to create a natural look. Customers are also becoming more conscious about their health and wellbeing and are asking for quality in different products such as chocolate.

Corporate story 2. Coleur Carmel – it’s about attitude

The French brand Couleur Carmel is growing rapidly and over the past two years it has increased both its turnover and profit four times per annum. Coleur Carmel is still a relatively small company with 40 employees delivering to 1,200 shops mainly in France, but also with export to Finland, Canada, South Korea and Australia. All production is carried out by sub-contractors and future growth is predicted to overseas markets with a target of 2,000 shops. It is a brand with a strong ethical identity – with respect for the environment and human relations – that is attracting an increasing number of consumers. Unlike many other brands the target group is not defined by age but by attitude.

“The packaging is part of the concept” says the co-founder and co-owner Mr David Reccole.“ We are ourselves and communicate a life-style that gives hope and responsibility for the future. The packaging is extremely important in our communication and we always use recyclable materials such as wood, metal and carton board. As far as possible we use unbleached carton board, coated with polypropylene in the products”. All outer packs are produced in carton board. “

The fibres speak their own language and move the target group that responds to this kind of communication” says David Reccole. When the company started, no outer pack was used, but the brown board packaging has become part of the concept and is also necessary for the declaration of ingredients, certificate and barcode. The converter Cartonnages BES with a long experience of packaging cosmetics and other luxury segments often with an ecological image has printed the package in two colours and a hot foil stamp in silver on the brown reverse.

“The whole cosmetic industry is founded on the dream of beauty and success. Over and above our commitment is an attitude that appeals to suppliers as well as customers, consumers and employees with the fundamental idea of harmony with nature and a win-win concept where everybody has something to gain” says David Reccole.

This means for the employees that the company is planning a nursery and also a commitment that for every Euro saved in a special account by the employee, the company adds the same amount. For the shops that buy the products it means a price that allows a generous margin and at the same time an offer to return unsold products without any time limit and the consumer can enjoy a high quality product at an average price. Packaging of make-up products such as a lipstick is often more expensive than the contents and the company is therefore developing a lipstick that can be complemented with refills. The products are extremely luxurious and at the same time very cost efficient in the long run, entirely in line with Couleur Carmel’s policy.

Interpretation. The design process has been driven by the fact that packaging is a part of the concept – It’s about attitude – communicating a life-style of responsibility and environmental concern. On the other hand, for some products like lipstick the package can be more expensive than the content in the package.

Corporate story 3. Packaging crucial for the brand

Whisky has been distilled in Scotland for many centuries and is an important export product for the region. Depending on whom you ask, evidence shows that the art of distilling could have originated with the Celts, Christian missionary monks or Highland farmers themselves. Regardless of its origin, few can argue that the art of distilling spirits was perfected in Scotland. One major global brand is Ballantine, which also is one of the best selling Scotch Whiskies in Europe. The Ballantine’s saga started in 1827, when a farmer’s son, George Ballantine, set up a small grocery store in Edinburgh. As the years went by, he involved his sons Archibald and George junior and opened an establishment in Glasgow where he concentrated on the wine and spirits trade. Ballantine’s Finest one of their brands is an example of how the packaging is targeted at different consumers with a very modern graphic design appealing to younger consumers, whilst the more traditional design targets middle-aged and older people. Ballantine’s Finest has become the tenth largest spirit brand in the world, whereas Ballantine’s 30 YO is the oldest in the product range and available only in very limited quantities, sold, duty free, with a sale price of $200-300. The packaging consists of a glue-laminated paper box and reflects a very rare and high quality product. “The packaging is designed to communicate the quality and value of our brands. We have brands in all categories and obviously for the premium brands a more luxurious carton is used. Global specification and the control of design elements such as colour, font and text ensure that these values are maintained throughout the world” says Duncan Bond, Packaging Improvement Manager. Damaged cartons on the shelf are seriously detrimental to the brand and after having some problems in the distribution chain with a previous board material they switched over to Fro¨vi board two years ago.

“We believe that we have improved retail performance of our cartons, thanks to the strength of the material” says Duncan Bond.

The converter, M Y Cartons Leeds, has made large investments in their premises to be able to take part in the business. They have developed jointly with the producer and each benefits the other. MY Cartons know their filling machines and the speed they run at and can therefore supply the distillery with the right construction of the packs. Marketing alcohol products is a balancing act since the best customer is a healthy customer.

Interpretation. The packaging has been designed to communicate the quality and value of the brands and the company is using different design elements to reach target groups. The company is also using diverse qualities of board for the same purpose.

Packaging has become crucial for marketing the brand with different packaging for diverse customers. The packaging material obviously also contributes to the improved performance in the retailing side of the business.

Corporate story 4

Nestle´ is the world’s largest food and beverage company with 250,000 employees and is active in most countries around the globe. In Nestle´’s product range chocolate production comes second in terms of volume after coffee. The Diosgyo¨r factory in Hungary only produces seasonal products for Christmas, Easter and St Valentine’s Day. The majority of the products are known as hollow figures such as Santa Claus, Easter bunnies and Easter eggs. Almost everything is packed by hand. What is unique in terms of the handling of these products is that the production for each season is carried out over a few intense months. After a certain storage period everything is delivered to stores at the same time and sold during a limited period of time, which also requires a correct estimate of the volumes. One such product is the Advent calendar containing the brand “Smarties”. The magic of Christmas is particularly exciting for children and Nestle´ understands the atmosphere and sell Advent calendars that return in different varieties year after year. The Advent calendar increases the expectations for the secrets of Christmas with each door that is opened and the piece of chocolate inside the calendar increases the experience. The target group for these hollow figures in chocolate is young consumers in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Switzerland. Producers and brand owners manufacture packaging that produces the right harmony among young consumers and their parents alike, since parents are likely to spend more money than usual at this time of the year. “Nestle´ always aims to find the right balance between what sells products and what builds up customer satisfaction – the brand” says Lars Wallentin who has worked for 40 years as Nestle´’s chief designer. Even if packaging is constantly renewed and varies between different markets, a strong focus has been placed on recognition of the traditional brands. Packaging should be exciting and safe at the same time. The same goes for the quality of the chocolate in the calendars. “Nestle´ doesn’t compromise on quality when it comes to chocolate. It is extremely important to tend to the brands at the same time as costs need to be kept under wraps” says Petr Benda, Application Group Manager.

“It is a tricky balancing act, where a certain amount of savings can be made in the packaging. We had a quick look at a less expensive carton board, but don’t dare risk interruptions in production and distribution. There are no available time margins for that. Consistency is extremely important and we have never had any difficulties with Fro¨vi carton board, which we have used for several years. Good printability and run ability in production are a must. At the same time the carton board’s strength ensures that products arrive at the shops in good shape and that the Advent Calendar’s doors can be repeatedly opened and closed for a month without ripping” says Petr Benda. The board material is processed by a local converter Zalai Nyomda Zrt in Hungary.

Interpretation. Even if the packaging is constantly renewed and varies between markets, a strong focus has been placed on recognition of the traditional brands like, e.g., Smarties. The package should also communicate to the particular target group and the actual season like an Advent calendar. Production planning for seasonal products is another dilemma.

Corporate story 5

Lars Larsen is a Danish entrepreneur who opened his thousandth store in Europe during 2005. The first store was established in 1979 with the slogan “Et godt tilbud” – A Good Deal. The core products are in the area of bedding and bedroom furnishing. His motto is “Commercialism, Collegiality, and Esprit de Corps”. That golden rule has enabled a never-ending “good deal” in which the retailer offers appealing high-quality
products and service at a low price. The new package was introduced in Jysk stores for the Christmas season in 2004 and, based on the enthusiastic response of customers and employees alike the winning concept was brought back for Christmas in 2005. A gift package that is suggestive of the occasion and looks gorgeous under the tree stimulates sales and makes handling easier.

“Bedding sales go up in December and the majority of purchases are gifts that have to be wrapped before they are given. That is where this package comes in. It keeps traffic flowing in the store and the customer gets fast check-out and good service” says Senior Buyer Mikkel Simonsen who is responsible for the continual development of Jysk Nordic’s store concept.

The design was created by Pais Design Denmark and the criteria for the assignment of the design was few but stringent. The package had to be elegant, practical, preferably somewhat unusual and naturally economical with regard to production and handling. The outcome of the close collaborative process in which various constructs and materials were tested was the packaging solution using FRO¨ VI LIGHT. “When it came to choosing the material, we already knew that Fro¨vi is the only carton board that could meet the high standards for printing results, flexibility and strength” says Benedikte Pais, president of Pais Design. The company’s environmental awareness and the high proportion of raw materials from certified forests were especially important to Jysk in choosing the board material. Interpretation. During the Christmas season when consumers are inclined to spend more money on shopping even retailers in a traditional business area have been tempted to search for a gift package that was suggestive of the occasion and the contents. The criteria for the package were few but stringent; the package had to be elegant, practical and preferably somewhat unusual. At the same time it should meet high standards for printing results, flexibility and strength. The company’s environmental awareness was especially important to Jysk.

Summary of the corporate stories

Even if the corporate stories are different and describes diverse product concepts a pattern can be established that symbolises influences on the design process. The factors that influence all the actors in the process can be divided in to external and internal influences. These factors influence the design process categorised by materials used, shape and size of the package, colour, texture and graphics. The innovative process is another important ingredient symbolised by the packaging laboratory or showrooms for supporting the interaction between the supplier of the material, designers and customer requirements on the package. All the corporate stories show that the design process and final package is influenced by several actors, e.g.

Retailer-Jysk Nordic Division; Designer-Pais Design Denmark; Converter-Jens Johansen Aps Denmark and Carton Board Supplier Assi Doma¨n Fro¨vi Sweden.

When the packaging solution is intended for a food product, the design process is often a struggle between different actors in the business network, such as the supplier of the base material, the converter, the filler of the content in the package and the retailer. Furthermore structural changes have increased the power of the retailing side. The goal for the supplier of the base material is often to be a full-service supplier of packaging solutions. This requires the supplier to develop innovative products and total solutions in the packaging field. An important issue here is the continued development of design expertise in partnership with customers. Design expertise is a key component when working in close partnership with customers. One successful example of this is how companies develop attractive point-of-sale packaging for in-store promotions. Shelf-ready packaging creates added value for customers by reducing costs when the goods do not need to be repacked for the shelf.


The present study demonstrates the influences of external and internal factors on the design process of a package. These influences form and differentiate the design of one particular package from another. The design of a package also contributes to the communication of value, for instance of a particular whisky brand, or a perfume to the end customer. Furthermore, the product stories show that the package not only protects the product, but even does so it in a better way and therefore contributes to increasing retail performance. The design moreover contributes to performance in the communication between retailer and consumer, helping the consumer to find a product more easily in the supermarket. The outcome of the design process is to a large extent dependent on the interaction between the main actors in this process: the supplier of the material, the converter and the designer who influences the package for the filler of the package. The present study argues for the importance of the interaction with customers in planning and conducting the design of the package. The supplier of the base material can be an important driving force in this process, as he knows the possibilities of the material and can thereby contribute to better packaging solutions. Apart from material and shape, another important factor in the design of a package is the visual image conveyed by the pack including, e.g. a logo, the print font and any illustrations used on the package. Packaging is normally the last marketing communication a company can use before the purchase decision is made, which highlights its important place in the communication mix of a company. Graphics are becoming a vital tool in modern marketing activities. The main effects of graphics on consumer perception can involve the use of a suitable colour and thereby reinforce the brand name or image of the product, e.g. special packs for whisky. An eye-catching graphic will make the product stand out on the shelf and attract the consumer’s attention. Some packages can become so attractive that consumers use them as containers for other purposes. This adds to the aesthetic quality of the product concept. Pictures on the package in the form of attractive situations (mountains, beaches, luxury homes) can contribute to trigger lifestyle aspirations. Christmas packs of children’s sweets or special packs of whisky brands etc. add value to the product, which is worth more to the consumer without adding significantly to the cost of production of the special package. A further effect of graphics can be in the form of colour and printed lines on the package and incorporated cues and symbols. Holograms and combinations of different materials, e.g. lamination with aluminium foil or printing can encourage people to touch the package and thereby be inspired to try the actual product. The ultimate test is visibility, when customers find that the package stands out on the shelf in the supermarket and is stimulated to purchase a product. The package needs also to encompass a print and a texture so the requirements of appropriate information are fulfilled (Figure 2).

The combined creativity of shape and colour together with balanced graphics constitutes the package and should evoke the emotional appeal that is necessary to persuade the customer to buy the product. However, the main issue is whether the package functions well in relation to logistic and marketing factors and can be produced in a cost effective way. The “workability” of a package is the key to market success. This may be expressed through its ability to protect the product, function in a logistically and environmental friendly way, be storable by the retailer and easy to use and produce. In many situations can these factors be trade-offs due to cost of production, or difficulties to store or transport in the supply chain. The package can also be difficult to use as intended by the end customer.

Conclusion and managerial implications

The current study suggests that the packaging design process is influenced by several actors and that the supplier of board material can play a more active role in this process by involving customers in the process. Previous studies suggest a growing role for product packaging as a brand communication vehicle for consumer products (Underwood et al., 2001). These include growing management recognition of the capacity of packaging to create differentiation for homogeneous consumer products (Underwood et al., 2001). Product packaging also plays many other basic roles in protecting products in relation to containment, transportation, storage and information display (Lee and Lye, 2003). As with all point-of-purchase communication vehicles, the primary role of product packaging on the shelf is to generate attention by breaking through the competitive clutter in the store or at the supermarket (Underwood et al., 2001). One important development in the relation between customers and suppliers of board material is “design studios” or technical laboratories where suppliers, converters, designers and fillers can meet and develop new packages. Another kind of technical development combines computer technology with the material used; printing and design is an innovative computer program using technology from video games with the purpose of showing the package. The program enables the supplier of board material to propose a new packaging solution with the actual brand on the shelf in an “experimental shop”. The actual proposal can be shown on the computer or sent to the customer on a DVD for later use. This is an important step in building a deeper customer relationship by actually demonstration and allows interaction with the customer. From a managerial point-of-view this makes it possible to introduce new and better solutions for diverse marketing and logistic problems with a package. The importance of the communicative role of product packaging in the sales outlet has been underscored in the corporate stories in the case study and is also supported by previous research by Underwood et al. (2001). This study also emphasises and underscores the importance of different internal and external influences that participating actors have to consider in the design process. Future research in this field should include packaging’s role in marketing strategy, e.g. the influence on sales of a particular product. Another research direction could be to investigate the role of graphics on sales.

Packaging Design And Trigger To Purchase


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