Editorial The pack age

If the expression 'The more things change, the more they stay the same' were to be made relevant to today's marketing community, it might read something like: 'The more complicated things get, the more simple they become.'The hand-wringing and the anxiety...

If the expression ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same’ were to be made relevant to today’s marketing community, it might read something like: ‘The more complicated things get, the more simple they become.’

The hand-wringing and the anxiety expressed by marketing people these days is understandable given the challenges they face, both on an immediate front in the form of new technologies and a vastly fragmented media environment, and in the future with the rapid transmutation of consumers into much more discerning, unpredictable, less brand-loyal shoppers.

But for all of that, the answer, so often, is so simple.

Media fragmentation means an unprecedented opportunity to reach customers. More television services, more magazine titles and more sophisticated direct marketing techniques mean a greater chance to reach prime prospects more efficiently.

Complex technologies, such as those being applied to database marketing, simply mean that marketers will be able to understand and communicate with their customers – as well as identify new ones – as never before.

Marketers are also learning that new product development is simply a matter of creating quality, usefulness and value.

And as far as communications is concerned, whether it is in the form of a television commercial or a direct mail solicitation, the answer is simply: be relevant, be honest, be direct.

Nowhere are these simple lessons plainer to see than in the retail store, where most transactions take place and where, according to point-of-purchase industry estimates, two out of every three consumers make their purchase decisions.

And nowhere is the relationship between marketer and customer more simple – and, in many respects, more intimate – than that moment when a shopper spots a product on the store shelf and begins to absorb its message.

Package design is the point of convergence of brand identity, point-of-sale advertising and product information. And, to put it more bluntly, it is where the sale is closed.

In recognition of the role and importance of package design as a tool within the marketing mix, Strategy introduces with this issue our first annual Package Designer of the Year. This year’s winner is the prestigious firm The Watt Group, a Toronto-based design company that has gained recognition in the international marketing community for its design excellence.

The mechanics of our competition are outlined in detail in a special report that begins on page 17.

The thinking behind it – both in the way the competiton was structured and in the way it is presented in the special report – is to showcase effective package design. We stressed that this would not be a beauty contest, but a competition that would reward smart, problem-solving package design. We tried to make the judging criteria as broad as possible, introducing the perspectives of expert marketers, a consumer and an environmentalist.

In making this an annual competition, we hope to provide a monitor for our readers of the best package design created and produced in Canada every year.