September 3, 2008
Predatory packaging it’s out there… and it’s everywhere. It could be targeting you, your family, your loved ones. We have heard those terms bandied about, but just what exactly is predatory packaging?
Predatory packaging refers to using deceptive packaging or packaging that promises one thing and delivers another. Simply put, it’s when any group or person deems a package is using unsavory marketing or advertising practices to lure consumers to purchase their products.
Remember when in 1988, R.J. Reynolds introduced its Joe Camel cartoon icon to market Camel cigarettes? The fervor came from everyone from Ralph Nader and anti-tobacco groups to the Centers for Disease Control and conservative tobacco-state lawmakers. They insisted that Joe Camel on the package, and cigarette ads in general, were created to lure teens into buying cigarettes. The packaging was cool, hip and definitely kid friendly. It put consumer advocate groups in an uproar.
Soon, R.J. Reynolds is launching a new cigarette aimed at female smokers called Camel No. 9. It comes in a pretty pink package (the same color as the breast cancer awareness campaign insignia) as if pink will make women flock to buy them. The package has a hot pink camel emblazoned in the middle of a black box and a hot pink foil cover. Make no mistake that this package is designed to appeal to women, predominately a younger audience. With all the negative publicity surrounding smoking, would you consider this predatory packaging? Was this cool package created to lure a younger generation of female smokers?
Or take the Center for Science in the Public Interests’ claim that the marketing of sweet-alcohol beverages, like Budweiser’s famous bullfrogs, stimulate teenage drinking. In fact, the latest claims about predatory packaging are alcohol related.
A new alcoholic beverage called Spykes is on the prowl for a younger audience or so parents claim. The Anheuser Busch beverage comes in flavors (mango, lime, melon and chocolate) but it’s also infused with caffeine and energy herbs ginseng and guarana. And it comes in a tiny bottle that’s easily hidden from a parent’s or chaperon’s watchful eye. Is this considered predatory or are kids going to drink anyway regardless of how it’s packaged?
Some mothers think so. One writes, “Today’s kids have cash and they are a VERY powerful consumer! Take a look at Axe and all of the new cologne packaging with Warning Instructions that you may be attacked by the opposite sex if you use this product. Sweet Jesus!”
Another new alcohol product that emphasizes convenience and ease of use that has been targeted by parents is the Pocket Shot. Pocket Shot (which I found quite revolutionary in its packaging concept) is a new way to enjoy hard liquor. From their website “No longer will you need to carry full size bottles. Each Pocket Shot is sealed in a near unbreakable, flexible, squishable, pocket stuffable pouch making them perfect for active activities, outdoor adventures, and glass restricting venues.” Will this product lure a younger consumer though ease of use and ability to hide discretely?
Here is another example. In September 2002, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported that false claims were common in weight loss advertising, with many “grossly exaggerated or clearly unsubstantiated performance claims” of particular concern. So what about the weight loss products that continue to tempt us to purchase them despite the fact that most of us know deep in our hearts that they don’t work. I’m personally swayed to buy the NV Rapid weight loss product just because of its intriguingly shaped package, never mind what’s inside. But are they eliciting sales with misleading information on the packaging on the uneducated, ill informed consumer with unsubstantiated claims they can’t deliver?
Last but not least what about all the male impotency drugs out there capitalizing on male psyche? Lots of products purport to help the problem. Take Enzyte for example. If you’ve watched CNN, ESPN or a few other cable channels chances are you’ve seen “Smiling Bob” pitching the pill that supposedly induced his silly grin. But does this product and its packaging really work or is it just another in a long line preying on hopeful consumers. You decide.
Whatever the product, the consumer it targets depends upon a variety factors. What’s predatory packaging for one may be an innovative packaging concept for another. But just in case you are one of the unsuspecting few, be on the lookout for attacks by predatory packaging hoping to lure you into making an unanticipated purchasing decision or sway for example your children to try it out. Remember the old adage, “let the buyer beware!’ But even more important let the manufacturer beware too, the very consumer you are trying to lure may end up rejecting the very product you are pitching.
About the Author:
JoAnn Hines is the Chief Executive Officer at J.R. Hines International, a firm providing consulting services in the packaging industry. For over 30 years, Ms. Hines has been engaged in packaging trends, forecasting, ideation/brainstorming and implementing innovative new packaging technologies.
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