When walking the aisles of any packaging trade show or flipping through most packaging publications, I typically see the same thing featured in booths and advertisements: Machine, after machine, after big, shiny machine…
I understand how proud original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are about their latest innovation. Developing a machine that goes twice as fast as the closest competitor or using technology that can seal materials with less heat transfer are certainly great innovations. But, what does that really mean to a consumer packaged goods (CPG) company? And, how does a buyer know what that machine really can do for them?
The answer is simple: It should be all about the package. That’s the language the CPGs speak.
I see the results of CPGs putting a big focus on the package as I walk through any grocery store, big box chain or my favorite C-store. Those packages compete for shelf space and try to grab my attention with colors, shapes and messages of convenience. As a consumer, I don’t really care, or know, how that package was produced. I care more about the easy-close zipper, convenient handle or how I can just pop the entire package in the microwave. For me, it’s convenience and the quality of the product. That’s my language, as a consumer, and that’s how the CPGs speak to me.
I decided to go back through the past several issues of a few major horizontal packaging publications to see how OEMs are promoting machinery these days. I noticed that roughly 63 percent of ads from machinery suppliers did in fact focus on the machine. Some ads might have had a small image or two of a package, but the main focus was definitely on the machine. Will that truly catch the attention of a potential buyer who flips through multiple publications in any given month? Readers don’t have the time to figure out what the ad is about.
Advertising industry standards say ads typically have three seconds (with extreme luck) to grab a reader’s attention. That’s certainly not a lot of time for someone to think and decipher what kind of machine is being promoted have and what it does.
Visualize with me…let’s start with a half page print ad, which is typically five and a half inches tall by eight inches wide. Now, take a photo of a machine that is about eight feet long, six feet tall and has 2000 parts. Shrink it to fit into that half page ad. Add about eight to ten bullet points, a company logo, website and quick-response code. If we put ourselves in the shoes of a CPG buyer, would we truly make an effort to stop and look at that ad?
According to Bob Williams, former VP sales and marketing, Triangle Package Machinery Co., “I’d venture to say that 80 percent of people have no idea what the machines that actually make the packages look like. In their mind, the machine is just a means to an end.” It’s that end, the package, which hits the CPG buyer on an emotional level.
In a conversation with Jim Pittas, PMMI’s VP of trade shows, he made a statement that really hit home about how OEMs should attract buyers. "When marketing, talk about the solution and end product, not the features of the machine," he says. This especially holds true when OEMs are putting together pre-show promotion programs to drive booth traffic. Pittas adds, "Most Pack Expo attendees decide what booths they will visit long before they arrive at the show." Given they typically have their “visit list” set before the show, and don’t have a lot of time to visit additional booths, getting their attention as they are walking the aisles is key.
And, when I asked what exhibitors can do to differentiate their machinery from competition on the show floor, Pittas stated, “Operating machinery is always the best way to go and will help OEMs stand out. It’s really important for exhibitors to make their message seen from the aisle. Use large graphics of finished product to grab an attendee’s attention.”
Here’s a quick example of how showing the actual finished product can be beneficial at trade shows. During my time at Triangle, we started using displays near the aisle that showed the various package styles produced by our machines. The first show we did this at, someone stopped in after seeing a tri-fold carton in the display. He had no intention of stopping at our booth that day until he saw that our machinery could handle his package style. Shortly after the show, that visitor turned into a Triangle customer. The original conversation started not because we had a bunch of big shiny machines in our booth, but because we spoke his language and connected with him emotionally by focusing on the package.
Williams sums it up by saying, "As far as CPGs are concerned, the process begins and ends with the package. If we prove that we can produce their package better than anyone else can, we earn their business and their trust."
At the end of the day, we should speak the language of our CPG customer. Keep it simple and to the point. We might only have a few seconds. Make them immediately understand what that shiny machine can do for them in a language they understand best – one that’s all about the package.
The Kondracki Group