Increasing the odds that packaged products move in the right direction.
Significant change is based upon a rather simple premise:
Those with little or nothing to lose start revolutions, and those who feel they
have little or nothing to gain resist them. (Or, as Woodrow Wilson said, “
you want to make enemies, try to change something.”)
about the great revolutions of the last 250 years: The American. The French.
The Russian. The Arab Spring. All were started by those who had few resources
and fought by those who had lots of them.
just as true in business as it is in politics. Companies bury new patents if
they might affect the marketability of existing ones. They buy and “digest”
startup companies so they can keep potentially competitive products off the
market. They work through trade associations to create “standards” that keep
the uninitiated on the outside, looking in.
is no different. When I was a young Brand Assistant working on Jif Peanut
Butter at P&G, my first task was to recommend a switch from glass to PET
jars. It seemed like a no brainer to me. The new version was lighter and easier
to carry. And, it didn’t break or shatter when dropped – a big advantage for a
It took P&G 10 years to agree to this
simple switch.Why? Because there was significant risk that choosy mothers who choose Jif
might not choose it in plastic jars. The fear was that there was potentially
more to lose in sales and brand equity than there was to gain in convenience
and safety. Happily, this did not turn out to be true and the business
continued to grow through and after the switch.
rationale helps explain why it has taken so long for flexible pouches to catch
on. No leading brand wants to frustrate, re-educate, or alienate the
considerable consumer franchise it has worked so hard and spent so much money
to acquire. Thus, it usually takes a new product or a new company to create a
brand in which a revolutionary package becomes part of the product’s appeal. If
it’s a new brand in a big company, it will be fought against tooth and nail by
existing, competitive products within that company. If it’s a new product from
a startup, it must run the gauntlet of competitive pressure, retailer
reluctance, and consumer acceptability.
then, can you increase the odds that existing products move to more sustainable
packaging or new products that do so can survive? In a word, you must focus on
building a brand identity around the concept ofperformance. The product must deliver this performance along two
measures: 1.) Functional excellence, and 2.) Sustainable excellence, as
measured by the environmental impact of both the productandits package.
this approach virtually guarantees that there is a built-in desire on the part
of marketers to accept and value change. If you promote a product based on its
functional and packaging performance, you are forced to continually improve
this performance in order to keep your competitors at bay and your customers
from switching to something else. Thus, by making sustainability part of the
brand promise, it will become an important part of the long-term journey towards
market acceptance and leadership.
Robert M. Lilienfeld is a Fox TV environmental commentator
and Editor of The ULS (Use Less Stuff) Report, a newsletter dedicated to
conserving resources and reducing waste. Along with Dr. William J. Rathje, he co-authored
the book Use Less Stuff: Environmental Solutions for Who We Really Are and the
1995 landmark New York Times Op-Ed piece entitled Six Enviro-Myths. His website