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Packaging Decisions

19 January, 2016 - 17:13

Another set of questions to consider involves the packaging on which a brand’s marks and name will be prominently displayed. Sometimes the package itself is part of the brand. For example, the curvaceous shape of Coca-Cola’s Coke bottle is a registered trademark. If you decide to market your beverage in a similar-shaped bottle, Coca-Cola’s attorneys will have grounds to sue you.

Figure 6.8 Sometimes the package itself is part of a licensed brand. Coke’s curvaceous bottle is an example. 

Packaging has to fulfill a number of important functions, including

  • communicating the brand and its benefits;
  • protecting the product from damage and contamination during shipment, as well as damage and tampering once it’s in retail outlets;
  • preventing leakage of the contents;
  • presenting government-required warning and information labels.

Sometimes packaging can fulfill other functions, such as serving as part of an in-store display designed to promote the offering.

Primary packaging holds a single retail unit of a product. For example, a bottle of Coke, a bag of M&Ms, or a ream of printer paper (five hundred sheets) are all examples of primary packages. Primary packaging can be used to protect and promote products and get the attention of consumers. Primary packaging can also be used to demonstrate the proper use of an offering, provide instructions on how to assemble the product, or any other needed information. If warning or nutrition labels are required, they must be on the primary packaging. Primary packaging can be bundled together as well. Consumers can buy bottles of Coke sold in six-packs or cans of Coke in twelve-packs, for example.

Secondary packaging holds a single wholesale unit of a product. A case of M&M bags is an example, as are cartons of reams of paper. Secondary packaging is designed more for retailers than consumers. It does not have to carry warning or nutrition labels but is still likely to have brand marks and labels. Secondary packaging further protects the individual products during shipping.

Tertiary packaging is packaging designed specifically for shipping and efficiently handling large quantities. When a Coca-Cola bottler ships cases of Cokes to a grocery store, they are stacked on pallets (wooden platforms) and then wrapped in plastic. Pallets can be easily moved by a forklift truck and can even be moved within the grocery store by a small forklift.

A product’s packaging can benefit the customer beyond just protecting the offering while it’s being shipped. No-spill caps, for example, can make it easier for you to use your laundry detergent or prevent spills when you’re adding oil to your car’s engine. And, as we have noted, secondary packaging (and also tertiary packaging) can serve as part of an in-store display, thereby adding value for your retailers.


A brand is a name, picture, design, or symbol, or combination of those items, used by a seller to identify its offerings and differentiate them from competitors’ offerings. Branding is the set of activities designed to create a brand and position it relative to competing brands in the minds of consumers. An important decision companies must make is under which brand a new offering will be marketed. A brand extension involves utilizing an existing brand name or brand mark for a new product or category (line) of products. Cannibalization occurs when a company’s new offering eats into the sales of one of its older offerings. It is something to be avoided in most cases, but it can also be a sign of progress because it means a company is developing new and better products. Packaging protects products from damage, contamination, leakage, and tampering, but it is also used to communicate the brand and its benefits, product warnings, and proper use.


  1. How do brands help companies market their products?
  2. What is the purpose of a brand extension?
  3. Name the basic types of packaging used in marketing.