Marketing Communications Ink

Putting Words, Images and Ideas to Work

Product Differentiation through Packaging

I recently read one of the best articles on branding that I’ve ever seen — titled, The Power of Differentiation Marketing: How to Stand Out, Even If You’re Not Particularly Unique, which explained that even if it you’re selling a me-too product, like bottled water for example, you can still find a basis for product differentiation created around virtually anything:

  • Name
  • Slogan
  • Logo
  • Color
  • Packaging
  • and so on.

The article, written by Al Shultz of Al Shultz Advertising, originally appeared on CommPro.biz and was shared by Al on a recent B2B Marketing group post on LinkedIn.

So, when I went to the grocery store today, I was on high alert for examples of how various vendors were differentiating themselves on non-product-related distinctions … packaging, for example.

In particular, I was fascinated by a tomato company that took packaging to the next level.

If you remember, cherry and grape tomatoes used to come in small green or beige, square cartons, with plastic over top. Protective, and you could see the product inside — or at least the top row of the product, to make sure you weren’t paying for damaged goods. It was okay, but not particularly appealing.

Then these vendors graduated to a 100% clear plastic, rectangular container, so you could see pretty much exactly what you were getting. Evenly sized and shaped, bright orange, little tomatoes. A step in the right direction.

And now … check out the latest in product packaging from NatureSweet®(Image courtesy of their website.)

NatureSweet SunBursts packaging

NatureSweet SunBursts packaging

Their Cherubs® and Sunbursts™ packaging kind of looks like a party in a box. Elegantly packaged to resemble a multi-tiered cake — which is usually reminiscent of good things: celebrations, birthdays, weddings, and so on. These folks know what they’re doing!

Now, I can’t say definitively that NatureSweet’s Cherubs or Sunbursts taste any better than traditional grape tomatoes, or that their packaging is any more protective, or is even as good as, the typical rectangular packaging we’ve come to know.

At the up-scale price of $6.08/lb. – $3.99 for the Cherubs container, instead of the sale-priced, but already expensive, $2.50 for a competitor’s standard grape tomato in the traditional-shaped container, I’m too thrifty to actually try them out.

Having said that, I will tell you, these packages certainly make their products look appealing.

Furthermore, according to NatureSweet’s downloadable sustainability report, their new product packaging is good for the environment—because they have switched to using #1 PET and rPET plastic, which they say is produced in a more sustainable manner, uses less water and energy, and can be recycled.

So. Looks good and is good for the environment. Can’t beat that.

I will also add that sometimes, good packaging isn’t needed at all. Sometimes all you need is just a great-looking presentation. Look at these luscious-looking fresh veggies I took at a farmer’s market a couple of weeks ago. The “packaging” in this case was just the wood barrels, and their own great-looking vibrant color, and lack of any visible bruises. In fact, look for an upcoming blog on presentation in the next few weeks.

Farmer's Market Veggies

Farmer’s Market Veggies

But Back to Packaging …

To give you a second example, I have been racking my brain trying to remember which vendor once came in with the best packaging I ever saw. It was many years ago, and I vaguely remember they had a sample box that had individual compartments—and each compartment held different laminate or paint samples which fit into the slots with perfect precision.  I don’t actually recall who the vendor was. But, I do know that even though I’d never worked with that vendor before, it was such a professional-looking presentation case, that I put my trust in them, bought from them and don’t recall being mistaken about my decision.

My point? Packaging sells. Hence, of course, hundreds of agencies, vendors, publications and trade shows, dedicated just to packaging.

To take it a step further, going back to the original concept: lacking anything else to differentiate your product, packaging can be your one unique differentiator, whether in B2B or B2C. And, a simple trip to the supermarket is all it takes to prove my point.

An Aside About NatureSweet

I thought you might be as curious about NatureSweet as I was. So, just as an aside — NatureSweet is a U.S company, headquartered in Austin Texas, with growing centers located across Central Mexico. However, according to their website, www.Naturesweet.com, they’re not just an ordinary tomato company.

“At NatureSweet, we’re not just growing tomatoes. We’re growing futures. We are dedicated to increasing the sustainability of the land and the lives of all those surrounding our product.”

Their website talks extensively about food safety and sustainability, specialized seed stock, non-genetically-engineered plants, well-drawn water, higher wages for their workers such that many now own their own homes… plus, the site offers great-looking recipes. And by the way, NatureSweet and Cherubs are registered trademarks and Sunbursts is a pending trademark of NatureSweet Ltd.

And About Al Shultz Advertising

According to his website www.alshultz.com, Al heads a full-service agency, Al Shultz Advertising, which has been in business since 1983.

Al is a Certified Business Communicator (CBC), with vast experience under his belt, including prior work at agencies like Bozell & Jacobs, and over a decade of teaching Business Marketing Association (BMA) seminars. His client list includes companies large and small. And his differentiator:

“When you sign on with Al Shultz Advertising, you actually get the main guy, Al Shultz… And not just in the beginning for show, but all the time.”

I’ve never used him, but hope to have an opportunity to hire him, one day.

And About Me, Suzy Kedzierski

Lastly, I should add that I am not affiliated with nor receive any compensation from NatureSweet, Al Shultz or his agency, nor any company mentioned in this blog. (However, I have, in the past, been an active member of the NJ BMA, and still often attend their very informative monthly meetings.)

So, who am I, Suzy Kedzierski?

I am a B2B marketing communications specialist, freelance writer and consultant.

I’ve got over 20 years’ experience strategizing, conceiving and implementing B2B programs, most notably for New Brunswick Scientific, where my work, in part, helped sales increase three-fold. My colleagues and vendors will tell you I’m creative, hard-working, tenacious, detail and goal oriented, a problem solver, and all-around nice person… but don’t listen to me — see my recommendations at Linkedin.com/in/suzykedzierski.

Like what you see? Let me put my experience to work for you creating an individual project or integrated communications program. Contact me at suzykedz @ gmail dot com.

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7 comments on “Product Differentiation through Packaging

  1. Wendy Sparkman
    December 25, 2016

    Actually, the NatureSweet package is a worst case of deceptive advertising than the tomato package cited in a previous comment. It has a hidden ” bubble” in the bottom of that transparent container you didn’t buy – and at the time this post originally ran not only was the bubble was bigger than the package I bought today, it had a fake bottom so you couldn’t possibly see it. While not quite as deceptive as the examples I found online from 2006-2012, the current package still has a substantial bubble covered by a flat plastic bottom so you can’t detect the bubble by feel. Instead, you have to turn it over and look close to see there is a bubble under the transparent seal. Since the product info is on top and the product is visible, how many people will actually do so before purchase? I would be personally very upset if I hadn’t purchased based on the price (on sale) for the weight.

    • Suzy Kedzierski
      January 18, 2017

      Hi Wendy, Thanks for your note! I reached out to NatureSweet with your inquiry and received the following prompt reply. Apparently there are several advantages, all designed to help the consumer. Here’s an excerpt of their response:

      Thank you for your e-mail regarding NatureSweet® Tomatoes. We are always working hard to deliver the best tasting tomatoes and the package is a key element to this.

      I’m happy to have the chance to explain the reasons for the “dome” feature of our packaging. There are several benefits from doing it this way.

      One of those benefits is that this lift in the base of the package improves the ventilation around the tomatoes at the bottom thus allowing us to maximize the quality and shelf life of the product.

      Secondly, as small tomatoes are quite fragile we found when experimenting with a flat surface that bruising and crushing of the tomatoes increases at the bottom of the package. The dome helps by eliminating hard edges and that flat surface.

      Lastly, this feature helps us elevate the tomatoes toward the top (transparent) part of the package so more of the fruit is visible to consumers giving them a better chance to confirm that all of the tomatoes are intact and fresh.

      We feel all of these benefits help us ensure the highest standards of quality and freshness so everyone can enjoy our great-tasting varieties.

      Thank you,
      Lina Riginio
      NatureSweet® Tomatoes
      Consumer Relations

      PS – Please visit our website at http://www.naturesweet.com

      So, that’s the story and, in total transparency, I’ll add that they were kind enough to offer a complimentary coupon, which I’m happy to accept. I’ve actually recently become a convert, finding that their tomatoes taste sweeter than larger slicing tomatoes, look more elegant in salads, and have longer shelf life as they can remain on my counter without getting mushy. Also, unlike larger tomatoes that I often don’t completely use up in one sitting, these tomatoes never need refrigeration. (As you’ve no doubt experienced, refrigerated tomatoes lose their flavor.) So, better looking, better tasting, longer lasting, and attractive packaging. What’s not to like?

  2. James Donohue
    April 20, 2014

    My gripe is packaging that hide “Contents” like Kraft Grated Parmigiana Cheese
    which was usually 25% empty, (the round container). Recently I see there is a
    transparent panel that allows shoppers to see what they are “Not Getting” for
    their money.. Next, bags of chips, half empty, next, false bottom containers,cherry
    tomato’s in clear plastic containers with tapering tops & bottoms that create the
    illusion of “Volume”, bubbles in the interior bottom displacing space that should contain the product, not packaging technique, and recessed bottoms that are
    hidden when viewed on the display shelf, but apparent when the container is
    turned Up-Side down. Yoplait “whips” yogurt. because it’s whipped it occupies
    more space when packaged, and settles over time to half volume. On & On it goes

    • Suzy Kedzierski
      April 21, 2014

      Hi James – You’re so right about deceptive packaging! It’s everywhere. That’s one of the reasons’s I like NatureSweet’s transparent packaging. But the thing I find most interesting about the packaging is that IT can be the differentiation factor that creates and separates one brand from another. Another favorite example is when Heinz introduced squeezable ketchup bottles that stand “upside down” so the ketchup comes out quickly, doesn’t spurt when you squeeze it, and stores easily. Very clever! Thanks for reading and writing James! I look forward to hearing more from you. Do you have a website or blog of your own?

  3. Kasey
    November 4, 2012

    This is why I fell in love with Marketing a few years ago. There’s no right or wrong way to do it! You’re only limited by your imagination. The turned over wooden baskets is a stroke of genius… gives it a romantic old-world feel.

  4. best article marketing guild
    October 21, 2012

    Aw, this was an extremely nice post. Spending some
    time and actual effort to create a very good article… but what can I say… I
    procrastinate a lot and never manage to get nearly anything done.

    • suzykedz
      October 24, 2012

      Thanks! Writing does take time, but if it’s in your blood, it’s fun to do!

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