there’s packaging, and there’s overpackaging

6 03 2014

living in Japan for the last 8 years, I have almost become accustomed to the Japanese habit of overkill on the packaging front. at the convenience store, the earnest and gushing staff attempt to bag every single item I buy. ‘would you like a bag for your can coffee?’ (that I will undoubtedly consume immediately, right in front of the shop, so that I can dump the container in their can recycling bin).

it’s overkill right? granted, if there are a few items, I might conceivably need a bag. but usually their bag goes right in the bin (for burnables). so more often than not, I need to protest and say ‘please, I don’t need a bag’. sometimes I might need to say it twice, as if those words don’t register. 

and then there are the overpackaged products. don’t even get me started on those! a packet of biscuits – it comes in a glittering film package….inside the sealed bag we can find another series of sealed bags, each containing a single biscuit! I know that the humidity can get a little overpowering in the summer but really? does the average biscuit buyer open the main bag and then eat a single one every day? 

I suppose that in a way, it’s ‘adding value’ to the product, by making each individual item seem more attractive. not to me! I just want to eat the biscuit…

but this seems to be a good parallel to selling any product – in my case it’s photography. I subscribe to various mailing lists from photographers here in Tokyo. photography ultimately is a product, and I firmly believe that a lot of consumers actually can’t tell the difference between products, so what differentiates one from another is the packaging. in one email I received recently, there was a whole raft of gushing text,  followed by examples of the product (example photos). it kind of turned me off; i thought to myself – there are too many words, what are they trying to hide? – there was nothing wrong with the photos, but the packaging seemed too fancy – perhaps there’s an inverse relationship between the amount of packaging and the quality/value of the product? perhaps not, the company from whom the email originated appear to be catering to ‘strictly high end’ customers, perhaps they appreciate the extra padding.

I looked at my own product and saw that in packaging terms, I was the equivalent of a small plain brown paper bag, or worse still, NO PACKAGING at all! horrors! so I’m wondering if I have made a terrible error. I would be the first to admit that my business skills are nowhere near the level of my photography skills, in all frankness. 

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