When Mount Everest Mineral Water Ltd drew up a new game plan for its mineral water brand, Himalayan, it was sure that the bottle had to pack more than just water. It had to tell consumers a story about the brand, its iconic source and the link with Indian mythology.
So, at the relaunch of the brand, the sleek new bottle was presented with five different label designs. Each with a little brand message, one of which went like this: “I spent my youth never questioning a destiny that led me from the top of the Sivalik range to the foothills of the Himalayas. Nor the decades I spent gathering the natural goodness of minerals like sodium, calcium… don’t hesitate to drink up. Live natural.”
The message, squeezed on to the label, was used to highlight the brand story. “We wanted the pack to be a medium and vehicle for communication. Of course, what helped was that we had a story to tell,” says Abanti Sankaranarayanan, executive director and deputy chief executive officer of Mount Everest Mineral Water.
Reaching out: Marketing consultants say that as recession spurs bargain hunting, more consumers will take a decision at the last minute.
Her team hoped that underlining the iconic status of the source (Himalayas) would eventually catapult their Himalayan mineral water brand into the premium water space. In recent times, though, various rival brands have been claiming the Himalayas as their water source.
Like Mount Everest, various companies are packing in a brand message on their product labels. So, whether it’s health drink brand Horlicks, breakfast cereal brand Kellogg’s, retail coffee chain Barista, detergent brand Surf Excel, fruit drink Frooti or refined oil and flour brand Saffola, all their product packages carry brand messages dovetailing the ad campaign across different mass media.
“You can call it public relations, consumer education, a need to stand out in modern retail formats or a function of design. But, the fact is that every contact point with the consumer has become extremely important... everything costs and everything counts,” says Debarpita Banerjee, associate vice-president and client services director, JWT India which handles the Horlicks account.
The packaging for Women’s Horlicks carries a message urging women to invest in their own nutrition, because “You deserve it!” Not only does this kind of packaging help the brand stand out, it also makes a final sales pitch at the crucial “moment of truth”, a term coined by Proctor and Gamble Co. which refers to the few seconds it takes for shoppers to make up their minds about a product. Some marketing consultants say that as recession spurs bargain hunting, more consumers will take a decision at the last minute.
“If retail is the moment of truth, then packaging is the last moment of truth,” says David Blair, country head, Fitch India, a design company under WPP Group Plc. He says that packaging has evolved into a new marketing device.
Labels as brand vehicles can even help enhance brand imagery. Retail coffee chain Barista Coffee Co. uses its “origins of coffee” story on most of its packaging. “Every piece of packaging that the consumer comes in contact with carries some element of the brand story… It helps communicate the origins of the Barista coffee chain brand, which is in Italy,” says Prashant Kanyalkar, creative director at Alok Nanda and Co. Communications Pvt. Ltd, a brand consultancy that has worked with Barista.
“Consumers want to make more informed choices. They want a product that suits their needs,” says Banerjee. “So, even if they are loyal to a brand, there’s a good chance that they will pick up another brand in the category and read the pack to see if it could meet their requirement. This is typically what drives dual (brand) usage,” she adds.
With the growing number of modern retail formats, advertisers are focusing more on product packaging to promote brands. Even more so, say experts, in times of rising inflation as advertisers look to optimize their spending on advertising.
“Unlike products, such as coffee or tea, which are prepared before being consumed, packaged water is a very visible category,” says Sankaranarayanan. “So, we are able to stretch our advertising dollar by using the pack as an advertising medium.”
This is also true of categories such as breakfast cereals, where the consumer’s exposure to the pack is longer than any other mass medium. Kellogg’s or Good Earth’s cereal packs are peppered with stories about worried mothers who want a balanced meal for their children, funny animated graphics, little nutrition counters and suggestions.
“The idea is to get the consumer to interact with the pack as long as possible,” says Snehasis Bose, chief operating officer of DMA Branding, a design cell under the Alia Group, citing how a snack food firm wanted to include a snakes-and-ladders game on the back of its pack.