Why cardboard isn’t dead

Sarah Green, director of marketing communication agency, Dialogue141 tells why card point of sale displays are a cheap, effective and environmentally-friendly way to get brand messages into the shopper journey.

Sarah Green
Sarah Green

Look around. You’ll see cardboard in every walk of life – in supermarkets, restaurants, cinemas, hotels and coffee shops. Cardboard is omnipresent. We use it for our packaging, point of sale, leaflet dispensers and even our take away coffee cups.

In recessionary times, as brands look for more cost-effective ways to shout about themselves, cardboard offers a cheap, effective and environmentally-friendly way to get their messages into the shopper journey.

The path to purchase is often complex, and identifying ways to get a brand message into shoppers’ hearts and minds, and ultimately influence their purchasing behaviour, is crucial. Cardboard POS has been proven to boost sales in a supermarket by up to 20 per cent* (POPAI 2007). That’s why, as a nation, we use nine million tonnes of cardboard each year and in the UK the development of POS is continuous.

However, the convergence of cardboard with ’interactive’ elements is increasingly predominant in POS advertising, including QR codes, digital screens, augmented reality and holographic technology – all in the bid to allure, educate and ultimately convince the shopper to buy.

Lego’s use of cardboard packaging with digital technology really hits the mark and demonstrates that it’s not so much the material that’s important, but the message and the medium used to achieve a brand’s objectives. Some retail stores now have Lego’s Digital Box Kiosk, which uses augmented reality to show shoppers what each Lego model looks like from all sides when fully assembled. When the box is held up to the Digital Box Kiosk’s screen, it lays the box’s real-time 3D graphics on top of video footage as if the 3D graphics were in the same space. It had my boys transfixed and as it kept them quiet for more than 10 minutes – I was sold.

But will the digital revolution completely eradicate our love for cardboard as a medium? It’s unlikely, particularly in the grocery and FMCG marketplace where volume, price and logistics are at stake. Even brands at the forefront of digital technology have a reliance on cardboard – my local Apple store still uses cardboard display and point of sale, but it sits comfortably alongside great interactive touch-screen technology too.

Cardboard also now sits at the heart of new design. Puma’s ’Clever Little Bag’ is a redesign of the classic shoe box and bag carrier. A cardboard and recycled polypropylene mix provides a reusable branded carrier that uses 65 per cent less paper and looks cool – designed by leading designer Yves Bѐhar – as a consumer statement of choice rather than a tree-hugger label.

Underpinning this is the three Rs – the Right message, Right medium, Right place. I show my age, but remember the impact that cardboard standees of Ryan Giggs, who demonstrated ’how he ate his Cadbury’s Crème Egg’, had in lifesize cardboard form. A sell-out in CTNs throughout Wales with young teenage boys and girls. David Beckham standees for the launch of Gillette’s Mach3 Turbo razor marked a new wave in minor in-store hysteria – with grown men stopping to have their photo taken alongside ’him’ before trying to ’borrow’ him to take home. The sales effect was phenomenal, too.

So, understand your shopper, understand their ’shopping mission’ and target your message accordingly. And if cardboard is your medium of default (which for most mass-market brands it is), remember its limitations, but don’t forget the scope you have to complement it with digital technology.

So cardboard is not dead – it’s still the key medium for communicating to consumers, whether it be brand packaging, display or point of sale. Long live cardboard.



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