Mumbai: Move over advertising. Packvertising (packaging + advertising) seems to be the new mantra for companies across categories such as food, packaged goods and telecoms looking to make the ultimate sales pitch in a consumer market bracing for an economic slowdown.
As inflation at a 13-year high forces households to pare monthly budgets, companies are airing commercials that give consumers the nitty-gritty—from product pricing and weight to packaging details— rather than just plugging the perceived intangible values of their brands.
So you have TV ads for Vim dishwashing liquid selling for Rs15, a water purifier from Hindustan Unilever Ltd retailing for Rs1,800, a direct-to-home satellite television service from Tata Sky that costs Rs200 and a small pouch of pop-it-yourself popcorn from ACT–II for Rs10.
Of course not all these companies would agree that these ads were led by inflation.
In the past, some media experts called this multi-tasking advertising—a term reserved for communication which, in a single cost-effective swoop, attempts to build brand image while throwing in functional product values.
But they were critical of packvertising’s focus on price, packaging and product description over intangible brand values, which are the hallmarks of more evolved brand-building efforts.
Growing competition and clutter in the consumer market is partly responsible for the trend.
Packvertising also reflects the increasing clout of organized retail in this country, which is catalysing packaging innovation across product categories.
“It’s not so much a commoditization of the brand, as much as it is about communicating any new information, such as change in product size, package innovation which makes it easier for the consumer to use or price the brand has on offer,” says Gowthaman Ragothaman, managing director, South Asia, for Mindshare, a media buying company under the WPP Group.
“Packaging innovation is gaining a new momentum and importance (as much) as every other part of the communication mix and is also being used as a means to enhance imagery of the brand,” he says.
With rising input costs, it is only natural that a brand would use the most cost-efficient method of communicating the change.
A case in point is the Dabur Gulabari face freshner spray. The product was recently launched in a new spritzer/spray format, making it easy to use as well as carry.
Not only did the new form of packaging go a long way in changing the product’s image as an Indian ayurvedic brand but also helped attract a younger consumer.
Hindustan Unilver’s dish washing liquid brand, Vim, recently launched a campaign which exalted the benefits of its new packaging, with a cap that dispensed just one drop of liquid at a time, to reduce wastage.
An important factor considering that the product was competing with low-cost options such as detergent bars.
Experts say that such a strategy is also adopted to broaden the consumer base and be more inclusive.
According to Snehasis Bose, chief operating officer of DMA Branding, a design cell of the Alia Group, a brand may advertise product price and fresh features to encourage newer groups of consumers to buy the product.
“In the case of a premium face cream brand, the imagery is usually slanted towards addressing the aspirations of an urban, working woman. This may not be an image a woman in small town India may identify with,” Bose says.
“So it makes sense to add rationale triggers such as product price so as not to alienate a different group of consumers,” he says, adding that marketers typically adopted this strategy to broaden the market and move to the next lower level.
Some companies such as Tata Sky show an array of product packages and prices in their ads, in a twist of catalogue or direct order advertising.
These forms of packvertising help the company attract customers across various price points and display the choices it offers, according to some experts.
Packvertising also goes a long way in encouraging users to try a product.
And if the commercials tout smaller trial samples, they come under a segment of packvertising called tryvertising.
“If a new brand is doing it (packvertising), there’s a good chance that they are returning to the basics to drive purchase,” says Anand Halve, co-founder, Chlorophyll Brand Communications Consultancy Pvt. Ltd.
“But if it’s an established brand, it could be to encourage trial of the product or the category,” he says, pointing to new product categories such as dish washing liquid where it was imperative to educate users and encourage trial.
“You offer the consumer a chance to buy and sample a smaller quantity of the product, a reassurance of sorts that they need this product, before they actually invest in it,” says Halve.
Asian Paints Ltd, for one, is advertising its sample packs so as to encourage consumers to experiment with different colours especially those that go beyond pastel colour paints, which account for 70-80% of its revenue in India.