Tactical Blunders in the Packaging Wars


Way back in 1035, a Persian traveler visiting the spice markets in Cairo recorded the use of paper as a packaging material. Other forms of packaging such as baskets, wooden boxes, pottery, barrels, and woven bags had already appeared across many cultures and geographical regions. By the 19th century, metal cans, paperboard cartons and corrugated containers showed up in dry goods and grocery stores. Surprisingly, it was not until 1953 that Michigan State University offered the first university degree in package engineering.

Packaging today has come a long way since that Egyptian spice market. It plays a much bigger role than just protecting and transporting purchased goods. In the hands of skillful marketers, packaging is a powerful weapon, fighting for our attention on retail battlefields. Every day dazzling substrates, mesmerizing colors and cleverly designed structures continue to ambush us from the shelf, demanding us to surrender our wallets.

As in any war, there are often amazing victories and brilliantly executed attacks. Occasionally, however, there are misfires, casualties or simply…tactical blunders. So, let’s play armchair general and see what’s going on in the retail trenches:


Irony – or Proof of Concept?

It seems like hardware stores are full of absolutely amazing gadgets, built to overcome a very specific daily obstacle, no matter how trivial and pathetic the challenge might be. But what if the gadget is packaged in exactly the same “problem” it was invented to solve?


Down the Toilet

Even the most desperate tie-in promotions sometimes reach a point of, well …no return. So, if one day your music career requires this level of advertising, you can rest easy, knowing that you won’t leave any trace of failure. It will be simply flushed away.


Identity Crisis

When it comes to product identity statements, we have to balance marketing objectives and legal obligations. Occasionally these two goals collide, creating a spectacular explosion of wordiness and confusion.

So, how can you avoid tactical blunders like these? We recommend pre-market testing before you embark upon full deployment of your product rollout. Taking the time to show your packaging to focus groups or smaller test markets may reveal holes in your plan of attack. And we’re happy to provide support for that with prototypes, renderings, sourcing and technical consultation.

Posted by Marek Skrzynski, Director of Graphics R&D

Previous Article: