Salt & Pepper March 2017: Is Supplier Packaging Worth the Cost or Just a Nice Throwaway?

NOTE: Salt & Pepper is intended to foster intelligent dialogue between professionals. This is not a dagger throwing contest. Be honest and authentic, but please also be kind and keep it classy.


Suppliers continue to seek ways to differentiate in the marketplace and packaging has become one of new darlings of the promotional products industry. In other words, is packing worth the money and resources suppliers pour into it? This month, Kirby “Salt” Hasseman and Bill “Pepper” Petrie debate the value of packaging to both distributors and end users.

Salt – Kirby Hasseman

While I appreciate the time, effort, and cost of producing “retail” packaging, it’s mostly lost on the eventual end user of the products. Sure, there’s the nice “wow” moment when taking a product out of packaging that is clever and/or cool, but that moment is quickly forgotten. Even worse, if a supplier is solely focused on packaging the overall product tends to suffer. I’ve seen several examples in our industry where it was clear that the packaging of the product was more important than the product itself and that’s a fail for everyone.

I’m not suggesting that packaging isn’t important to the overall experience, but I don’t think it should supersede everything else. Packaging is nice but I would much prefer suppliers spend their valuable time and resources on things that truly move the sales needle: quality, delivery, and overall value. At the end of the day, the end user will remember the product and the brand that’s on it far more than the packaging. Let’s not forget that we sell products, not packaging.

Pepper – Bill Petrie

As end users become more sophisticated, they crave more robust experiences - a critical part of that experience is the packaging itself. Candidly, the days of a client accepting the experience of receiving branded merchandise in a plain box loosely wrapped in a polybag are gone – and that’s a good thing. Those flimsy boxes and questionable polybags did nothing to elevate our industry and had that not-so-awesome “tchotchke” feel.

Think about the first time you opened an iPhone (and I have no doubt that you can recall it vividly.) Every detail was about creating an experience for the end user: the thickness of the box, the tight fit so the bottom would slowly drop from the top, and the interior that had to be unwrapped to get to the earbuds. All those details made the iPhone feel special and unquestionably enhanced the perceived value of the device.

The same can – and should – be done by suppliers in the promotional products industry. The companies that are already doing it and doing it well (Origaudio comes to mind) are delivering the client experience that our buyers have come to expect. Suppliers that don’t invest in creating the packaging part of the experience will see their sales suffer as distributors flock to the ones that truly understand that desires of the marketplace.