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Hitting the Sweet Spot

February 11, 2011

I want to continue describing some of the experiences I had in my career that influenced how I feel about packaging. Today’s post is about another project from my packaged goods days.

I was recruited into Cadbury Canada to work as the brand manager on CARAMILK, an iconic confectionery brand in Canada and a fun brand to work on.  One reason I was brought into Cadbury was that market share CARAMILK had been steadily declining over a 7-year period and the brand was in danger of losing it’s spot as #1 chocolate bar brand in Canada.  The other reason I was brought in was to oversee the launch of a new format for CARAMILK.

The parent company of Cadbury Canada, Peter Paul Cadbury as it was known, was launching a counter display of a miniature version of CARAMELLO – the international brand on which CARAMILK was based.  The concept behind this was to increase trial of CARAMELLO by introducing a miniature/sample sized bar through a counter display that stimulated impulse purchase.  The product was to be priced at 10-15 cents to further induce impulse purchase.

The US CARAMELLO product was to be produced at Cadbury Canada’s plant and a special line was installed there exclusively for this product.

I have to admit I wasn’t impressed when I saw the packaging for the US product.  The individual pieces were flow-wrapped in an OPP film and placed in a standard bin type box whose lid would form a header when opened and folded back.

This product was targeted for gas stations, C-stores, restaurants and so on and was meant to be situated on the counter near the cash register – an area operators normally like to have uncluttered and for which the space is really valuable.

We chose to go for a different format from the US version.  Our goal was to design a self-contained unit that was so easy for the customer to use that it became hard to refuse to purchase one.

The Original CARAMILK Changemaker Counter Display

First, we designed the unit to stand vertically, rather than horizontally, to minimize its footprint and make it easier for customer to find a place for it on a counter.

Second, because the pieces were small, we designed the unit to be gravity fed so, regardless of the amount in the box, it was always forced to the bottom and front of the box so the consumer could always see and be tempted by it.

Third, we used a corrugated litho laminate construction to ensure it was durable and had strong branding.  We felt this projected a better image than using a unit made from folding paperboard.

Fourth, instead of using an outer shipper, we simply used a plastic band to seal the unit as it went through the distribution channel.  All the retailer had to do was snip the band and pull open the flap at the bottom.

Lastly, when the retailer opened the unit, he found two pressure-sensitive labels with two different price points – 15 cents or 2 for 25 cents – that he could place in a designated area on the box.  We wanted the consumer to be reassured that the price being charged was fair by using something that was clearly pre-printed, so the consumer would not feel the retailer was being arbitrary or unreasonable in pricing the product (which they probably would do in pen or marker).

For the primary package, we selected a metallized OPP film which we gravure printed in the CARAMILK colors – white, brown and gold.  We made the gold a transparent color so, with the metallized film in behind it, it looked sparkly to help ensure it caught the eye of the consumer.

When we presented our launch plan for the product, we were told our forecast sales would only require about 13 shifts on the line installed by the US parent company, so it should be possible to have the capacity available for our needs.

When we launched the product, it sold beyond our wildest dreams.  We sold our entire Year 1 budget in 13 weeks.

CARAMILK Gravity-Fed Counter Display for regular-sized bars.

The success prompted us to find other uses for the molds used to make the miniature product.  We came out with a DAIRY MILK version soon after, and saw an opportunity to make the miniature format the version we should use for the Halloween program for both the CARAMILK and DAIRY MILK brands.  The concept of a gravity feed display unit also led to Cadbury using it at one point for the regular size parent CARAMILK bar. I’ve included a photo of this to illustrate.

In the end, the Canadian requirements took over the bulk of the time on the production line while still leaving enough time to fulfill US requirements.

One of the things I learned from this experience was that making your product easy to use can be a huge influence in getting customers to purchase your product.

Another was that it can be worth the incremental investment to make the product look truly appealing. The additional cost of metallized  vs. non-metallized film paid off. Not only did it offer better shelf life, but the product took on a premium look because of the metallic effects.

Admittedly, CARAMILK is a brand whose reputation has been built through advertising (and great advertising it’s been).  However, we never promoted the counter display and I think it sold on its own merits – trusted name, great presentation and ease of use.

A footnote to all of this is that, a little over 10 years later, I became Director of Sales and Marketing for Norampac’s Lithotech Division.  This was the supplier I worked with to develop the original counter display unit.  Having experienced the power of litho laminate packaging, it was not hard for me to sell this concept to other customers, and I was able to help Lithotech grow from a money-losing business to the most profitable in Norampac’s stable of companies.

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