PepsiCo betting on packaging to get an edge in the cola wars?

On a field visit to Navi Mumbai, PepsiCo's chief marketing officer Vipul Prakash gazes with satisfaction at his company's range of beverages, arranged at a vantage point above racks of traditional snacks and finger foods. "I can put up the best TV screen here and people won't see my ads as many times as they see this," he says.
By "this", Prakash is referring to packaging, a hitherto under-utilised weapon in Indian marketing. However, PepsiCo intends putting packaging front and centre. It's the big bet for 2016, which will hopefully trounce the competition in the annual cola wars that play out through gruelling summer months.

The rationale is quite simple. TV audiences are getting fragmented and ad avoidance is on the rise, even if it's not as much of a problem in India as it is elsewhere. Prakash says: "Even if a consumer watches our ad, it's for 30 seconds and a one way story." Bottles on the other hand are held for anywhere between 10 minutes and an hour.

And so PepsiCo is opting for an inversion of its strategy. Previously, packaging would change to reflect a large mass media campaign that broke on TV. "But if the consumer interacts with the pack so much, can we start the story there?" is what the cola giant is seeking an answer to.

While admitting that the full model is yet to be cracked, PepsiCo nevertheless claims to have notched some early successes. For instance 7Up Revive, a variant launched last year in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, set to go countrywide this year, hit the market in distinctive blue glass bottles with its PET variants featuring a full length wraparound plastic sleeve. The new pack helped highlight the features of Revive, going a long way to educating a sceptical consumer. Research later revealed that the No1 reason for trial was packaging.

For its flagship cola, PepsiCo is rolling out a desi variant of its global emoji campaign. A consumer can pick a bottle with an emoji that reflects his mood provided the range is between happy, party, naughty, etc. (Anger or existential despair are not included for obvious reasons.) An SMS code gives the consumer an opportunity for instant gratification with grand prizes like trips to Las Vegas and Ibiza, or net practice with Virat Kohli. There will be a TV commercial at some point, but Prakash believes with 38 emojis over 10 categories, the story is complete using just packaging. Even if the second stage of consumers sending in SMS does not take off to the extent Pepsi would like, he confesses to being very satisfied with stage one; "The visual appeal on shelves itself tells us the first part has worked."

Those expecting a My Can style TV blitz for Pepsi's 150 ml variant have a long wait ahead. As of now the mini can, priced at `15, is going to be pushed only by a series of web exclusive films, built around the theme 'never underestimate the little things in life'.

For Mountain Dew, the second leg of its real heroes campaign is embracing digital media in a big way. Instead of buying pre-rolls or banner ads, PepsiCo is relying on a combination of its bottles and Blippar, a service that links consumers to videos via codes on packaging. Part of the stories about the four real heroes begins on the label, provoking curiosity. A consumer wanting to know more can be taken to a branded video, to be watched when and where he chooses. While digital used to be considered an add on to TV in media dark areas, it's becoming the lead medium says Prakash; "TV reach is minimal but our bottles are everywhere." PepsiCo is working on weekly audio stories with content providers in Uttar Pradesh hoping to net potentially millions of otherwise hard to pin down consumers.

It's quite a shift at a time when most marketers still balk at riding on the consumer's precious bandwidth to deliver their messages. However Prakash believes "It's not about the brand but the story. If they've watched four minutes and enjoyed it, two seconds of branding will do more than 30 seconds of in your face messaging. I keep telling my teams, 'If a consumer has X amount of bandwidth, would he watch a song or your content?' Your content has to be interesting enough to be chosen." Even the Mountain Dew films deal more with the philosophy of risk than with traditional endorsement. "We don't show our real heroes drinking Mountain Dew" says Prakash.

Going for full length wraps on bottles is something PepsiCo has worked on in the past. It invariably got derailed because it was considered too expensive, with marketing and production bickering over who was to pay for it. But things are different now with even the CFO insisting Revive not be launched unless it has a full sleeve. The brand manager on 7Up Nimbooz Masala Soda agreed to pull back on television to accommodate full wraparounds. Says Prakash, "When you get the support from the top it's easier. I thought we'd not be able to do it for three years. But when there's a sales and consumer pull it comes together." The sales force in particular has been galvanised by the new packaging and are pushing for more in store real estate. Even the visicoolers have been revamped to display packs to best advantage.

According to Shripad Nadkarni, founder MarketGate, who has previous experience at Coca-Cola, "Using packaging to drive home the message is a well established practise especially for teen and lifestyle brands.

The use of emojis as a language that's current is a good strategy." However he cautions that, packaging and TV serve very different purposes and one should not be at the expense of the other. When it comes to wraprounds, he believes these are best tactically deployed else they run the risk of becoming first the new norm and then the new clutter. However the biggest challenge which has as yet been inadequately addressed by either player, according to Nadkarni, is finding out how they can play a more powerful role in the lives of teens.

As for whether it's all going to work, Prakash admits that's still something that remains to be seen. Whether packaging is in fact the answer will be revealed if the packs survive the transition from scorching summers to the squelchy humid monsoons.

Granell Coffee


“Granell coffees are roasted next to the Mediterranean Sea, surrounded by the fine weather, sun and scents that shape the Spanish spirit: joy, warmth, passion and spontaneity. In order to take advantage of these values, specially relevant for the international market, we created a unique proposal for them under the claim “Roasted the Spanish way”. We conjointly built a strategy and speech that would leverage on the attractive of Spain and the Mediterranean, that would be then translated into the design of a new website, brochure and a new line of products called “Mediterranean blends”, which packagings were conjointly designed with illustrator Charlotte Molas.”

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Image Packaging is just not what it used to be.  In fact, for most, packaging was just an added cost and support expense that came with manufacturing and distribution operations. You needed a fairly basic receptacle to contain and transport your goods.

Unless you’ve had your head stuck in a corrugated box for the last two decades, you may have noticed that things have changed dramatically in the landscape of packaging!  No longer is packaging just a means of protection, it must now be convenient, safe, clever, eye-catching and environmentally-conscious. Indeed, packaging has become one of the most significant factors to companies’ success. Packaging can actually make or break your product sales given the vast plethora of product choices in the now-global market today.

GTI’s Packaging Engineers and Specialists are key staff resources, constantly providing expert, creative solutions to our clients on how to package their products in a way that will not only help them get their package to its destination intact, but also create a distinguished design that consumers can’t resist. GTI Industries President Steve Zuckerman said, “These staff members combine Madison Avenue marketing tactics with warehouse and transportation street smarts. You need both in order to create the most attractive yet functional packaging. We’ve even laughed about creating a C-level position called CPO (Chief Packaging Officer)—but maybe that’s not too unrealistic given the growing importance of packaging.”

Our team of Packaging Engineers and Specialists recently returned from PACK EXPO in Las Vegas, where we noticed five other trends heavily influencing our industry.

1  ROBOTS - It wasn’t long ago that Mr. Jetson was having it out with Rosie, the robotic maid, on The Jetsons cartoon show. Now, we’re seeing pick and pack robots working the line in greater frequency. Big corporations are moving quickly in the direction to automate with robots which, in turn, pushes small businesses to do the same

2  GREEN – Packaging is increasingly being evaluated for its sourcing, makeup, its weight and end of life—its ability to either break down or get recycled. Companies may also be looking to reduce their own carbon footprint which is greatly affected by packaging and distribution. Consumers are putting the burden on companies to provide green packaging, although they might not want to pay more for it (sigh!).

3  SAFETY – With recent scares of food contamination courtesy of unsafe packaging and the health concern over plastic and other containers laden with chemicals, food manufacturers are particularly concerned with how they contain and ship food safely. A technology called ‘vision inspection’ uses cameras that operate like a human eye looking at markings, tightness of a vacuum seal or contaminants. Packaging can also provide cues to where a product came from and can give a sense of accountability should something go wrong (example, tainted baby formula from China).

4  BRANDING – Companies employ various tactics to stand out on the shelf. These may include celebrating anniversaries, going back to a retro or classic look, rebranding in a new way, limited edition packaging, new flavors or twist on the item, and seasonal or holiday or event-driven packaging.

5  SIZE—As households shrink and folks move back to urban environments and those that are   particularly affected by the economy buy more last minute instead of stocking up, the sizing of packaging has shifted smaller in many instances (despite what you see in your suburban Costco).

GTI Industries has been around the block to know that the second we hit ‘post’ on this blog, a new trend will surface in the industry. In some ways, the packaging industry was slow to move forward in breaking new ground, but its subsequent growth has been exponential thanks to market demands. As leaders in the industry, GTI Industries lives and breathes this stuff every day, enabling us to provide expert advice to customers evaluating packaging needs.