Branding and Packaging in the Dairy Category: India vis-à-vis International markets

The role of advertising for fast moving consumer categories ends after creating awareness for a product. In today’s cluttered media space where advertisers are constantly fighting for recall and top of mind awareness for their brands, whether the customer decides to buy a product of a certain brand or not, is more often than not decided on the aisles of the modern retail store or the local kirana store where she actually gets to see, touch and feel the product (packaging). And not at the time that she is exposed to the TV commercial or the press ad. Yet, packaging is still to get its due in the Indian scenario.The dairy category in India however has seen some interesting developments in recent times that are indicative of a new trend.

Branding in the dairy category in India

Over the years with the advent of modern retail, Indian brands have been focusing more than before on the packaging of their products so as to lure the fickle consumer.Dairy is one such category that has been seeing innovations in packaging. Amul and Nestle ruled the roost for a good many years. But with the arrival of other local, national, and international brands like Britannia, Mother Dairy, Go, Danone, Kraft, etc. the competition has stiffened. All brands are fighting for shelf and mind space. Blue and Yellow colours seem to be predominant in the category with most brands belonging to one or the other colour palette.  Internationally, the entire colour palette has been used for the dairy category. Primarily since dairy products there are available in a lot more formats, flavours and varieties than they are in India, the ingredient story is built on the pack very prominently. With the arrival of these newer formats in India, the pack graphic design scene will surely see changes here as well.

‘Go’ as a branding case study is interesting. When it came in with its new packaging, it immediately cut the clutter with its bold logotype and imagery in an otherwise sedate looking category. Interestingly, for its non-traditional dairy products like flavored yogurts and various cheese spreads among others, it went with the name ‘Go’ which is nothing but an extension of the mother brand ‘Gowardhan’. The brand architecture was designed smartly so that the new child brand gained from the equity of the mother brand but at the same time had a distinct identity of its own since it very clearly targeted a different consumer set than brand Gowardhan did.

Understanding usage habits and thereby building convenience in packaging

Along with its clutter breaking imagery, brand Go had come in with innovative packaging – cheese wedges packed Tobblerone style, or cheese spreads in tubes, shredded cheese in convenient to use packs. The dairy category today however has moved beyond processed milk, butter, and cheese. There was a time when
However, the reality is that while brands do spend time on designing the packaging, the approach is restricted just towards ensuring that the pack has a good shelf throw.The consumer or her convenience is usually not the focus. But a case in point is Britannia which has done something smart with its Pizza cheese. The cheese is a block that comes wrapped in its own package. And it is placed in a white plastic container that can be used to store the cheese that is left over from the first time it is used for cooking. This takes into cognizance the effort that the mother or the wife will have to make, to find a container at home that can store the cheese. I know many people who have bought that cheese at least once for the container. The packaging then has done its job - it has induced the trial. Now whether the consumer repeats the buy will depend on the product.
staples like dahi and paneer would either be made at home or brought fresh from the local dairies. While the preference may still be the same –fresh dairy produce - convenience would dictate the ready to consume formats as the way to go.While brands have developed products to suit the consumer’s changing lifestyles, convenience in packaging still has a long way to go in India. I’m not sure if any ready to eat paneer is sold in zip lock pouches to be stored in the freezer and kept fresh for use beyond the first time. Or for that matter if dahi containers come with lids that are not just the untidy looking tear away ones. Once opened, the lady of the house is left to scramble for a lid to cover the dahi container or change the container altogether. Even grapes are sold in zip lock bags these days so why not these staples! Packaging interventions that understand usage habits of the consumer and work to enhance ease of use will go a long way in converting the consumer to a brand.

Primary and secondary packaging–portability and storage

Designer: Yeongkeun Jeong
Dairy products today are increasingly being positioned as the healthy option for the mid-day snack or on-the-go meal. For this to take off, packaging will play a very important role. Marketers therefore should apply themselves to product packaging—how and when consumers will use the product for instance. The more encouraging a package is to use, the more likely a consumer will be to use the product.
For example, if on-the-go juices in tetra packs can come with straws, surely on-the-go yogurts that come in smaller SKUs could come with disposable spoons.This took a long time in coming, but ‘Go’ did it with its
But thought to portability should not be restricted to the end usage of the product alone.With the advent of modern retail stores, and convenience being the primary deciding factor, increasingly Indians are getting used to the idea of storing processed food as against buying fresh food. This holds especially true for the dairy category. For a nation that was used to getting fresh milk every day from the local dairies or tabelas, storing milk at home in tetrapack containers for planned consumption is a big leap. Consider this. A family of four would need at least ten litres of milk a week. However, transporting 10 litres of milk from the retail store to the car or home is seen as a particular challenge. Secondary packaging where a certain number of cartons of a particular SKU can be fit for easy portability is not very evident. These are aspects which are taken care of in the western world, probably because of the prevalent do-it-yourself culture, where the focus of brand marketers is more often than not to work out convenient solutions for consumers. However, this mind shift is happening in India gradually as well. This is proven by the fact that a certain flavored milk marketer, who is a client of the agency where this writer works, is laying a lot of emphasis on easy to carry secondary package design. This is because he wants his brand of flavored milk to find a place in the daily milk routine of the consumer. To enable this, he wants to ensure that carrying and storing large quantities of these packs at home becomes easy for the consumer and that portability and storage do not become a part of the resistance to the product if any.
yogurts. Single serve butter packs can also come with disposable spatulas that can be used for spreading the butter. Since single serve butter packs are usually used in picnics and travels, the spatulas would surely be handy.In fact an in international design firm has designed single serve butter packs with flavoured wooden spatulas that also double up as lids.

Never underestimate the power of the back of pack story

 Advertising can create awareness, but the actual conversion happens when the consumer is out to buy the product. Packaging plays a crucial role here. And while the front of pack will make the consumer pick the product, if she turns the pack and the back of pack information engages her, you have her very close to buying the product.This is an opportunity to sell the brand by providing the consumer with rational reasons to buy it. The back of pack can contain information on areas like nutritional information about the product, ingredients, etc. But very often, the back of pack contains too much or too less information, and since it does not capture the interest of the consumer who is actively seeking information, the product is placed back on the shelf. It is an opportunity lost to make the sale.A very compelling story on the nutritional value of milk was developed by the Breakfast Project which is an extension of the very successful Got Milk campaign in
the US. This is an infographic that communicates very well, the nine essential requirednutrients, and how a glass of milk as a beverage compares on these parameters with other drinks like fortified almond milk, soya drink, coffee, coconut water, soda, and even water! As a BOP story this would win hands down, since it offers compelling reasons to the consumer to pick up the pack of milk as against the can of soda or even the other healthier options like the fortified drinks.Amul Ghee has done a very interesting BOP intervention. The BOP neatly gives the benefits of a spoon of ghee a day which would appeal to the left brain of any discerning consumer.Another case in point is Hersheys Sofit (launched as Godrej-HersheysSofit). It was a soya drink that was seeing abysmal sales. A design intervention was done with indulgence and health as the underpinning that drove the FOP graphics. The other three sides of the tetra pack was used to do a soft sell on the health story. After the design intervention, the brand saw an 80% volume growth in the next two quarters.
Compare this with milk that gets delivered in uninspiring pouches to homes by national players like Amul itself, or local players like Aarey in Mumbai, Aarokya in the South, etc. This is packaging real estate that can be used very effectively for branding. With milk adulteration so proliferated, even some amount of information, be it in the form of nutritional information about the milk that the pack contains, or the wholesome goodness of milk as a food, assures the consumer about the credibility of the brand of milk that she is feeding her family every day. The majority of Indians buy milk today either from the doodhwala who comes to deliver the milk home, or they consume it from pouches. But it is surprising that brands focus only on the packaging design of the packs that are stacked in the modern retail shelves. And here when the consumer has already opted for a certain brand,by virtue of which it is in the consumer’s home every day, it is losing out on every opportunity to engage with her.
Once advertising has done its job of creating visibility for the brand, the packaging of a product is what should ideally take over for not only converting the consumer, but also to be the canvas on which the brand story is built. This can be done by getting the pack to interact with the consumer not just at the touch points which usually begin and end at the retail shelf, but also at the various ‘usage points’ which include the trek with the product to the car, the storage area at home, as well as the dining table or on-the-go where the product will be consumed. This will mean delving into the consumer’s behavior patterns when she interacts with the product and how the packaging design can make these interactions convenient, by alleviating irritants or by adding value.E.g. the lid on the dahi container or the block of cheese that comes with a storage container.
Brand marketers today in India need to comprehend this power of packaging. If they ensure that the pack engages with the consumer throughout the ‘buying to the consumption’ journey,and utilize this well for branding opportunities, they surely have a winning pack design.

Lakshmi Iyer,
VP Marketing
DY Works 

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