What a Difference a Purpose Makes
By Robert Mcmath
Sometimes the way you execute a great concept can mean the difference between failure and success.
More than 10 years ago, a regional snack company introduced the Hiland “Bowl Bag”, a large bag that contained potato chips and incorporated a resealable feature on the package.
Apparently, the chip manufacturer had been approached by its packaging machinery supplier, who had developed a machine that could apply a resealable strip along the long edge of a package. The wider, resealable opening could turn the bag into more of a “bowl” than the usual narrower opening on the rectangular package. It was a point of difference, they said, that would set the “Bowl Bag” apart from competitors’ regular chip packages.
But, unfortunately, this approach did not prove successful for a variety of reasons. Principally, the package was offered to retailers in standard shipping carton packs, which left the bags to be placed on regular snack shelves for display. But the package graphics on the front panel were oriented horizontally to emphasize the new “bowl” effect. This meant that, in order to display the packages properly, the retailer had to take up twice the shelf space to sell the same number of packages of Hiland’s chips.
At the same time, there were problems with the strip closure. If it wasn’t “zipped” tightly and closed completely, the strip allowed air to enter the partially empty package, turning the chips inside soggy. With twice the length of closure than traditional chip bags, the “bowl” bag’s incidence of “mis-zipping” happened almost twice as often.
And, once the consumer purchased the chips, he discovered that, to maintain balance, the package needed to sit flat and required twice as much space in the pantry or cabinet.
To top it off, the new package hit the shelves during the summer, well before the fall football season, which eliminated the chance of adoption by its target audience: tailgaters who might not have a bowl handy for serving.
Fast forward to the present day where, in a lesson that may well have been learned from the Hiland package, Frito-Lay markets its Doritos Nacho Cheesier tortilla chips in what it calls the Bowl Bag easy-open, self-standing package. This package, a seasonal offering, specifically ties in with the numerous football bowl games held between Thanksgiving, New Year’s and the Super Bowl, and the specific purchasing opportunities they offer. The bags carry the instructions “1) Tear open at top, 2) Dig in, 3) Remove strip, roll and seal for later. Frito-Lay is an Official Sponsor of the NFL.”
The company offers the Bowl Bags for a limited time, in their own self-display cartons, which can be set up in appropriate snack aisles, in supermarket locations or in other retail channels without taking up twice the shelf space of regular snack packages.
The first package to attempt the “Bowl Bag” configuration failed because it wasn’t convenient for either the retailer or consumer. Its timing was also off. Marketers at Hiland, excited by the fact that their packaging supplier was able to manufacture the unique package, lost sight of their customer and missed the mark.
The new version from Frito-Lay, a limited-run that appeals to the consumer during a specific series of events at an appropriate time of year, clearly has a purpose and demonstrates the difference in potential success. BP
The author, Robert McMath, has been a marketing consultant for more than 30 years. Through  NewProductWorks, he has advised major companies. He is the author of What Were They Thinking, a book chronicling the whys of product successes and failures.
Contact him at 607.582.6125 or rmcmath@cs.com. Visit www.NewProductWorks.com