Marketing has become a key factor in the packaging industry. It is developing dynamically and redefining itself at the same time. In our article, we explain and evaluate the five most important marketing trends in the industry for you. It’s about strategic marketing, positioning, market intelligence, new customer acquisition and platform economics.
Trend 1: ‘Marketing’ is being redefined. Strategic marketing is gaining in importance
When the packaging industry talks about “marketing”, it predominantly associates it with operational, external communication activities (also known as “operational marketing” or “marketing communication”). This is usually still the focus of marketing work. But the importance of “strategic marketing” is increasing. And that is no coincidence.
Operational marketing has the short- and medium-term goal of supporting sales, promoting products, and strengthening the awareness of the company as well as establishing its brand image, if necessary. Operational marketing supports sales and is intended to secure sales in the present.
Strategic marketing focuses on sales in three to ten years. Its foundations are corporate strategy and positioning. Positioning ensures that all subsequent marketing activities have the greatest possible impact.
- drives the development and establishment of market orientation in the company and ensures the necessary change,
- considers the dynamics of the packaging value chain,
- is based on a thorough analysis of the company and the market, and
- aims for long-term, sustainable success.
Strategic marketing includes
- the long-term planning and controlling of strategic market development,
- company and market analysis for long-term strategic planning of all targeted marketing activities as well as
- the definition of the competitive arena, i.e. the conscious selection of current and future markets and a corresponding definition and implementation of the strategic orientation.
In an industry where the competitive landscape is constantly changing and faced with rapidly evolving customer needs, strategic marketing is essential to consolidate market positioning.
Trend 2: Positioning replaces the classic 5-year strategy
Whereas in the past it was the classic 5-year strategy, today a solid, market-oriented, and strategic positioning serves much better as a compass guiding every aspect of a company while providing the necessary maps for navigating in times of disruptive change.
Positioning also ensures that a promise made to the customer matches the service provided. A strong brand reputation is based on trust. Only when communication and performance reliably match can long-term relationships be built, loyalty won, and success achieved.
Strategic positioning is not a knee-jerk action, but a process. It involves a long-term orientation that uses the strengths of a company to meet customer needs and offer clear added value over the competition.
The central requirements for a market-oriented and strategic positioning are:
- relevance to the targeted clientele (and not necessarily to the overall market).
- differentiation and distinctiveness (i.e. not operating in the shadow of the competition),
- authenticity (i.e. credibly following one’s own claim) and
- communicability (so that the message is visible and gets across).
Success in the packaging industry is based primarily on understanding industry and customer needs and overcoming industry-specific challenges. A market-oriented, strategic positioning allows a consistent focus on these needs.
Trend 3: Market-oriented companies rely on market intelligence
In addition to strategic marketing (Trend 1) and strategic positioning (Trend 2), market orientation also requires an organisational engine: market intelligence.
Market intelligence is based on a holistic view as well as analysis of the market and focuses mainly on external information. In the words of Bill Gates: “How you collect, manage and use information determines whether you are a winner or a loser.”
Market intelligence can be generated by companies themselves via a separate organisational unit. However, the effort involved is considerable. Alternatively, market intelligence comes from outside and is transferred into the strategic decision-making process via pragmatic processes.
Decisive parameters for the value and success of market intelligence:
- Think back from the end consumer!
- Do not lose sight of the market environment!
- Know the competition and know yourself!
There is no alternative to entrepreneurial market orientation and no way to get there without market intelligence. Among decision-makers in the packaging industry, Market Intelligence is considered one of the greatest opportunities for the future, according to a B+P survey. This is no coincidence.
Trend 4: Digital and content-based new customer acquisition replaces cold calling
Acquiring new customers is a challenge – across all markets in all sectors and segments, regionally, nationally, and internationally. The effort required to acquire new customers through cold calling is continuously increasing while the output is decreasing at the same time.
The COVID 19 pandemic has accelerated this change. A large majority of B2B buyers now define their needs online first before speaking to a sales representative.
The solution lies in digital and content-based new customer acquisition. Large parts of the industry have already embraced the topic. This trend will continue to grow with the increasing digitalisation of the buying process.
Key elements of digital and content-based new customer acquisition:
- In the digital world, customers must be addressed in a way that is appropriate to their target group. This is only possible through thematically relevant and high-quality content. But search engine optimisation and the targeted addressing of target groups through advertising are also part of the toolbox.
- Sales and marketing must intensify their cooperation and create decisive synergies.
- Operational marketing takes over the “cold calling” for sales and sets up qualified leads that can convert to sales.
Performance marketing is more than just an add-on for digital and content-based new customer acquisition.
- It allows the monitoring of marketing initiatives, the measurability of key KPIs and the alignment of each marketing activity with the achievement of specific goals through quantitative performance measurement.
- Critical success factors such as visibility and reach, but also the quality of the content provided, and user interaction can be specifically collected and evaluated. In this way, optimisations can also be derived, and the ROI determined.
Marketing is becoming the engine of new customer acquisition. The playing field of the operational marketer is becoming increasingly digital and is changing radically. Traditional sales channels such as cold calling are increasingly leading to a dead end. Digital and content-based new customer acquisition has become a must in order to be visible and generate new leads that often result in new customers.
Trend 5: B2B platform economy & online trading are changing the shopping playing field
The B2B platform economy and online (wholesale) trade for packaging is growing rapidly and fundamentally changing the traditional way companies source and buy packaging. What’s more, where companies can quickly and easily connect, collaborate, and trade goods and services via the platforms, entirely new markets can emerge.
Characteristics of the platform economy:
- It offers extraordinary flexibility,
- facilitates business transactions and cooperations,
- increases market reach and enables access to new markets, customers, and suppliers,
- provides a platform for the development of new products and services,
- increases the process efficiency and
- streamlines procurement, production, and distribution with automated processes,
- thus saves time and resources,
- enables more rapid introduction to a new market and
- leads to higher profitability for packaging companies.
According to the latest market monitor by ECC Köln, Creditreform and Intershop, every fourth euro in B2B trade is already being transacted online. The total e-commerce turnover including revenues generated through digital data interchange (EDI) amounted to 1.3 trillion euros. Wholesalers in particular were able to gain market share in B2B internet trade and already achieved 15 per cent of their revenues via online shops and marketplaces in 2022.
The digital age is changing the rules of the game. Platforms are establishing themselves as the future model of the industry. The development is disruptive, and the change has consequences especially for those who underestimate it. Even companies for which agility is a central concern are still wrestling with the issue.
Marketing has acquired a new dimension of strategic relevance. It no longer acts as an isolated function, but has become a central element of corporate strategy. Marketing is not an accessory! It is an indispensable instrument for innovation and growth. And it is precisely as such that it must be anchored in strategic corporate planning.
As a rule, companies convince through sustainable growth and profitability when they
- have a clear market orientation,
- proactively adapt to market changes and
- position themselves accordingly in the market.
Have you identified a trend that could be relevant for your company? We will be happy to present to you without obligation how you can approach the topic. Please just get in touch with us!