Manoj Mehta: “Packaging is the most unadulterated way of establishing a brand's personality”

Manoj Mehta, director, Manipal Utility Packaging Solutions, speaks to PrintWeek India about how today’s packaging is a silent salesman and an important marketing tool for the brands to reach the target groups.

10 Jun 2014 | By PrintWeek India

PrintWeek India (PWI): What are your customers demanding that their graphics and packaging must do?

Manoj Mehta (MM): I would compare today's graphic and packaging demands with those required for being an actor. One has to attract eyeballs, at times perform under extreme conditions, fit in the budget and yet, look good. Never have the times for packaging been this demanding. The gen-next packaging has to be product or brand-driven, smarter, innovative, performance-based, light-weight, economical and environment friendly. If it doubles-up as say a toy or a spatula, it scores more brownie points.

PWI: How important is packaging to brands and print buyers? How do they approach the package development process?

MM: It is extremely important. In fact, it is the brand’s protagonist. Look at it this way, your product packaging is the only marketing vehicle that travels with the consumer, into their homes; the communication on it reminds them about the brand day in and out. Therefore, packaging development is often an offshoot of the brand's communication strategy. Picture Dove and Margo soap packs, for example. Instantly, the mind draws an imagery of two different personalities attracting their own set of audiences. Hence whether it is using a brand colour, font, mascot, mnemonic, USP or a combination of all of these, product package is the most unadulterated way of establishing a brand's personality and attracting the desired target group.

PWI: How important is innovation to a print-buyer's packaging? Which are the areas in which they seek innovation?

MM: Consumers want something new every day. So, innovation in packaging, to me, is not an option. It is compulsory as it is the only way to give your brand an edge over competition. In terms of ideas, design formats, materials, shapes or technologies, printers are exercising innovation at all levels. On the other hand, some conservative packaging materials are also coming back in a big way globally. Like the flexible packaging industry in New Zealand that was a passé is making a comeback. Clearly, Innovation is the future of Packaging.

PWI: Marketers are exploring new ways of positioning products in the marketplace.

What special needs have arisen?

MM: Conservatively, we as humans have two distinct type of needs – basic and luxury. However, our urban lifestyle has even demarcated the basic needs into common man basics and the elite/health basics. These elite/health basics include packaged food grains, organic fruits and veggies, natural honey, olive oil and acupressure shoes among others. So, now, look at the diversity in the basic category and the options we have. Similarly, luxury merchandise brands have also mushroomed from celebrity endorsed to attitude driven. Needless to say, marketers have to clearly understand their audience, needs and position these products in a way that best attracts the target group.

PWI: What are the new technologies that have been developed to meet these needs?

MM: Like they say necessity is the mother of invention. Many new technologies have been launched to combat modern packaging needs. This is a classic example, for developers of Dr Miracle's No-Lye Relaxer, the challenge was to come up with packaging that positioned the hair product as glamorous while retaining its natural, home grown appeal. Great Northern Corporation provided the solution with a breakthrough technology that allows cost-efficient, high-quality process printing on paperboard StrataGraph. This web offset process combines the best in packaging performance with the best in high quality printing capabilities. Dr Miracle's thus used breakthrough packaging technology for impactful positioning.

PWI: New guidelines for product security and ingredients disclosures are being introduced on a regular basis. How have these impacted the business?

MM: Today’s consumer is smarter, better informed and choosier. He wants to know if his toothpaste is 100% vegetarian, if the cosmetic is animal-tested, paper is recycled, etc. The guidelines make his task of selecting easier. The impact they have on our packaging business varies from industry to industry.

PWI: What's the "next big thing" that you see is coming for graphics and packaging/labelling?

MM: The next big thing in packaging is not big. It is nano. Nano-technology is not completely new; but newer technologies are adding fineness and edge to its output. Recently I read a report which says, owing to advantages galore like greater food shelf-life and protection, bio-degradability, versatility, etc, in 2004, nano-related food and beverage packaging reflected sales of USD 860 million. The total nano-enabled food and beverage packaging market has grown to over USD 4 billion in 2009 and is forecasted to grow to over USD 7 billion by 2014. Currently, active packaging technology represents the largest share of the market, and is likely to continue doing so.