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What makes you decide to buy a certain product and not another? The price, the assumed quality, the looks? More often than not, we are attracted first by the images that come across from the box for example. The way items are packed and made look attractive play an important role in the marketing of any product and indeed of any marketing strategy. Especially when considering exporting products to other markets, packaging needs to be looked into seriously for various reasons. So, let’s have a closer look at it.
We must be aware that differences in market environments may require special adaptation in product packaging. Different climatic conditions often demand a change in the package to ensure sufficient protection or shelf life. The role that a package assumes in promotion also depends on the market retailing structures. In countries with a substantial degree of self-service merchandising, a package with strong promotional appeal is desirable for consumer goods. However, these requirements may be substantially scaled down in areas where over the counter service still dominates. We experience this in Ethiopia when we go shopping in a modern supermarket as compared to getting the same kind of spices, fruits, vegetables and bread from the shuk or the market.
In addition, distribution handling requirements are not the same around the world. In countries where labour costs are high, products tend to be packed in a way that further handling by retailing employees is reduced. The products can easily be placed on the shelves. In countries with lower wages and less developed retailing structures, individual orders may be filled from larger packaged units, entailing extra labour by the retailor. This can easily be observed at Merkato, where your purchase of coffee beans or flour is scooped from a big bag compared by the half or one kilo bag on the shelve in the supermarket.
Specific packaging decisions affected by the particular foreign market for which the product is designated are size, shape, materials, colour and text. Size may differ by custom or by existing standards such as metric and non-metric requirements. Higher income countries tend to require larger unit sizes because their populations shop less frequently and can afford to buy larger quantities each time they shop. We see the same difference here in Ethiopia of course. While some people can afford to do their grocery shopping once a week on a Saturday morning, filling up their pantry, the majority buy the little they afford on a more daily basis.
Packages can assume almost any shape, largely depending on the customs and traditions of each market. Materials used for packaging can also differ widely. In the Netherlands I usually buy mayonnaise or mustard in glass or plastic containers. When I visited Sweden, I found the same products in tubes. Canned beer is very popular in some countries e.g. the USA, while in other countries including Ethiopia glass bottles are more preferred.
The packaging colour and text must be integrated into the company’s promotional strategy and therefor may be subject to specific tailoring by country or region. The promotional effect is of great importance for consumer goods and has led companies to attempt to standardize their packaging in colour and layout, so it becomes recognizable. For people who travel frequently to different countries, they will thus spot their favourite brands from a distance, even though the text is printed in a different language. Coca Cola in Amharic is still recognised as Coca Cola by visitors because of its recognizable shape and colours.
Consumers and governments have become more concerned about the environmental consequences of the disposal of excess or inappropriate packaging. As a result, companies are expected to develop packaging that is environmentally friendly. The European Union has put tight controls on manufacturers concerning the volume of packaging, including pallets and containers. The expense of waste disposal for packaging materials is also pushed back more and more to the manufacturers.
In conclusion, as a producer or manufacturer, we need to consider packaging as an important part of our marketing strategy. To do this successfully, we need to know more about our clients and how and where they buy their goods and what appeals to them. In addition, we need to be aware of safety, hygiene and environmental requirements are. This is especially important for export but in fact equally so for the domestic market. Much as I would like to, I cannot begin opening different containers of honey in the supermarket and taste them one by one before I choose. So, I go for the looks, the container itself, its label and size and finally the prize. I may even decide to buy the more expensive one, just because of its attractive and solid packaging. Think again.


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