The hitherto Silent Salesman has raised the pitch and can be heard the loudest now

A wide variety of chocolate bar packs designed like greeting cards with amusing messages is offered to suit every mood and every occasion
A wide variety of chocolate bar packs designed like greeting cards with amusing messages is offered to suit every mood and every occasion

Did someone say packaging is a Silent Salesman?

Have you taken a walk down a supermarket aisle lately? Or even looked at the crowded store shelves in your neighborhood bazaar? For that matter, have you even glanced at the overflowing garbage bins? Modern packaging is not silent. It is loud and wears brightly colored trade dress. It shouts at you from the shelves: ‘New’; ‘Fresh’; ‘Save’; ‘Now With’; ‘Extra’ and so on and on. It glitters in the colors of gold or silver. It sparkles and catches your eye in bright colors even while decaying in the garbage dump!

With the gradual disappearance of conventional advertising communication into online and electronic media, pesky ‘noisy’ packaging has emerged to intrusively make a constant pitch for our attention. Packaging is being designed to aggressively grab eyeballs. Each product is on a Mission Impossible – to be the first to get our attention within the 8-10 secs available to successfully activate our buying impulse.

As we all know, the consumer product markets today are fiercely competitive. There is little to differentiate among competing products in terms of real quality attributes. Most retail platforms have moved to self-service or online buying where there are no sales people to push sales. In such an environment the role of branding and persuasive on-pack messaging is critical to forcefully activate buying impulses.


The rules of persuasive messaging have changed drastically in our increasingly digital, bits and bytes environment of media and noise. The messaging of the past, which worked then, seems woefully ineffective today. Several schools of thought have evolved over time to learn from insights into behavioral and neurological research about what will really grab attention and kick-start the buying intent. An interesting article in Packaging News, UK mentions the SAUCE test that can help to determine how effective an on-pack message can be. It lists the ingredients of the SAUCE as: Simple, Appealing, Unexpected, Credible, and Emotional. It mentions a 15 question SAUCE test process by which “unconvincing messages can be transformed to compelling copy.” It even suggests a Heat Gauge by which the persuasive impact of the messaging can be precisely measured. Such insights and market research help to emphasize how important it has become for packaging to help products break through the ‘white noise’ of the market and engage the head, as well as the heart of the customer. ( – Getting the Message Right – 23.04.2014)

Getting to the heart of the customer turns out to be an even stiffer challenge when, not just the market environment, but the nature of consumer society has altered. The willful Millennials are here. Social Media wildfires rage around the world. Ideas are expressed in characters. Feelings have become emoticons. Issues have become Memes. Packaging can no longer stand silently outside this raging maelstrom of voices. Due to the intimacy with which it shares our lives it must also speak up in a way that really reaches our heart – preferably with topicality and humor!


There is no dearth of examples on shop shelves to suggest that the ‘tone of voice’ of on-pack messaging is undergoing a refreshing change. This is more apparent in the latest offerings from start-up ‘challenger brands’ that aim to dislodge huge established brands and win niche market share by mind-games. The loud, maximalist label designs with huge branding, star-bursts and banners in gaudy colors is giving way to calmer, more minimal designing with clever appeals to the psychology of target consumer groups. The example of Paper Boat beverages with their unique packaging and play on nostalgia of ‘days gone by’ is by now familiar. As a blog in Bizongo aptly puts it, “How can someone reject a drink that reminds you of the scorching sun, summer holidays and a loving mother? The design on the packaging successfully echoes this theme using bright colors, graphics, unconventional bold fonts and mischievous content.” Appropriately, the same theme and content is then reinforced by social media campaigns to bring the product high on brand recall. (

Another noticeable example of beverage packaging noticed recently is the Almond Milk packaging and communication launched recently by start-up Raw Pressery. Designed by dCell – a unit of Mullen Lowe Lintas – the labels simply describe the almond milk as, ‘Not Milk. Nut Milk.’ This kind of tongue-in-cheek humor is obviously aimed at the upwardly mobile, milk averse young buyers of such niche products.

The gifting, confectionery, wines, tea, coffee and wellness product shelves these days abound with examples of topical, tongue-in-cheek and emotive appeal on-pack messaging. There are amusing examples of ‘Love Bars’ by Rage Chocolatier by popular confectioners, Theobroma. A wide variety of chocolate bar packs designed like greeting cards with amusing messages is offered to suit every mood and every occasion. As described by Rage, ‘the bars come in a variety – from monument, quirky, smart, festive to our very own Signature collection.’ The idea no doubt is to connect the product to the heart and emotions of consumers – young or old.

Other notable examples of on-pack messaging that appeal to the heart as much as the head can be seen for example in baby food products such as Slurp Farm and others. In fact there is a rather amusing example of organic baby food branded Wutsup Baby Food – obviously aimed at catching them young!


However, in addition to tugging the heartstrings with their packaging labels many brands nowadays are seen to be plucking the strings of social conscience too. As mentioned on the website of Rage Chocolatiers, a large section of society nowadays is keen to ‘Save planet Earth. It’s the only planet that has chocolate.’ Consequently, sustainability, environment protection, prevention of cruelty and veganism are among the recurring themes seen on modern packaging. But the effectiveness and visibility of sustainability or other such logos remains a subject of debate unless they are followed up with effective social media campaigns.

Recognizing the limitation of effective content capable of being carried by on-pack messaging it is no surprise that marketers are beginning to open up new frontiers. Label messaging enhanced by Augmented Reality is already being seen. With AR (Augmented Reality) technology users of smart-phones (which are ubiquitous now) can view an extra layer of inter-active digital content on the packaging. (The recent worldwide craze of the Pokémon Go video game was an example of the potential of AR.) AR equipped packaging could thus easily devastate the competition when it comes to capturing the imagination. In addition to these possibilities we are also beginning to see prototypes of ‘touch stimulated’ printing inks that would start to glow when the package is held.

For example, at PackPlus 2018, New Delhi, for the first time perhaps ‘printed electronics’ on carton graphics were displayed by Saralon. As mentioned by Steve Paschky, the CMO of the company, “Saralon have developed various functional inks (Saral Ink) to print electronic applications comprising of printed batteries, sensors and printed illuminated displays for Smart Packaging. Our current approaches are for Consumer Engagement branded as SaralLight & SaralIllu.” It is claimed that any packaging manufacturer can use such inks on their existing production lines and print various disposable electronics to be integrated into different types of packs or labels. The effect achieved is remarkably startling and to be seen to be believed. (Do visit: or

By all this it is clear to note that the Silent Salesman has come a long way. Now his trade-dress is sharp and he speaks a modern lingo. Not only that, he is ready to come at you with all the bells and whistles that you will find hard to ignore. This salesman will – inform you; promote new products; suggest new uses and offer an overall delightful user experience.

Say hello to the Socially Integrated Multi-tasking Salesman!

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An engineering graduate from BITS, Pilani and a Post-Graduate Diploma from Milan, Italy in Human Factors Engineering. Over 40 years of work experience in branding, packaging design & development. Worked as Head of Packaging at Oriflame – Silver Oak; Dabur India and Ranbaxy Laboratories. Currently - an Associate with The Packaging Consortium – a packaging development consultancy. Worked closely with Jindal Polymer Films for Application Development of Specialty Films for flexible packaging. Now a packaging consultant for some reputed companies. He is also an Associate Director with Firstouch Solutions – a design company providing services in Brand Comm, Packaging, Exhibitions and Branded Retail Environments. He is closely associated with the Indian Institute of Packaging as a Member of the Northern Regional Committee. He is also active as a contributor to Packaging South Asia magazine and other journals and at forums and conferences. Has been writing articles on packaging design and marketing for Packaging South Asia since 2007.


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