Product Effacement

Product packaging, of course, is a kind of advertising, but on certain consumers it's a kind of advertising that's largely superfluous. For example, I happen to be a loyal consumer of Eggo waffles. I know where to find them in the supermarket; thoroughly familiar with their cheap, easy-to-prepare, crunchy, golden-brown goodness, I need no further inducements to buy them.

So for me, their packaging - which features four photographs of waffles and myriad repetitions of the word "waffles" and the phrase "Kellogg's Eggo" - is a wasted opportunity.

Instead, Kellogg's should create a package that devotes only a small amount of space to its actual contents, and the rest to some other product that I, as a waffle-lover, might be inclined to purchase, such as Mrs. Butterworth's syrup. Admittedly, Kellogg's and other manufacturers sometimes engage in a similar practice, using package space to pitch toy race cars or baseball caps that one can purchase by mail. But this really isn't the same as advertising another product that a consumer might likely purchase right at that moment. (In addition, it's a practice that's mostly confined to child-oriented breakfast foods.) Think about it for a moment: surely there are countless other loyal Eggo consumers besides myself who purchase the product on a weekly basis, who don't need further advertising to complete the transaction; in essence, the Eggo box is a medium that's delivering millions of box-views per week, without capitalizing on the advertising potential. While diluting the Eggo brand with other advertisements might be somewhat confusing to impulse-Eggo-buyers, how much business do those fickle waffle-eaters account for anyway? At the very least, it seems, one side of the box, or even the inside of the box, could be used for the advertisement of other products.

To some extent, fast-food restaurants have capitalized on the potential of the package medium, delivering their food in bags emblazoned with characters from the latest summer blockbusters. But why limit this medium to promoting only movies and the occasional sports figure? All sorts of products could benefit from their exposure on McDonald's bags or Eggo boxes.

On a recent United Airlines flight, the potential of the package-as-medium was clearly demonstrated: passengers were given a cookie wrapped in a cellophane package that included essentially no branding at all for the cookie itself. Instead, the front of the package was wholly devoted to the cookie's sponsors, United Airlines and the Buick Regal. (Which, by the way, is apparently the "Official Car of the Supercharged Family." And if anyone can tell me, exactly, who this "Supercharged Family" is, please do.) On the back of the package, which was devoted to United and the Regal as well, there was also the brief explanatory message, "Cookie Inside." Except for that, there was no other information about the cookie, and why should there be? A bored, hungry plane passenger needs no convincing to eat a cookie.

As a final stroke of genius, the package contained, in addition to the cookie, a brochure for the Regal. The only thing marring this innovation, which is described as both an "inseat delivery system" and an INFLITEPAK by its creator, a company called DelysAir, is the ugliness of its graphic design. Apparently, DelysAir was so eager to deploy its great idea that it could not bear to actually spend the time to create something decent-looking.

-- G. Beato

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