Several years ago, we encountered some peaks and valleys when marketing a line of gourmet nut snacks in Japan. Our product line included fresh-roast cashews, a "daSport" mix (pictured) with a soy sauce flavor, honey-roasted almonds, honey-roasted peanuts and sesame nut mix.
Once the product line was developed, we discussed potential brand names with Japanese business people. The name Chicago Treats emerged. That name might not "fly" in the United States, where the term treats conjures up thoughts of dog food. But, the Japanese equate treats with something unique and special.
The next focus became the package design. We decided against using the tin can, which is traditional packaging in the category. Instead, we packaged Chicago Treats in a composite can that was more environment-friendly and lighter. That reduced our shipping costs. The can included a vacuum-pack that protected the product from extreme temperature changes. The 18-month shelf life gave Chicago Treats plenty of time at retail, after shipping/distribution time of up to nine weeks.
Package size proved to be a "live and learn" proposition. We introduced Chicago Treats in Japan using the standard American 12-ounce size for the category. But sales of the package in Japan were somewhat slowed by the can's size. I learned the Japanese prefer a much smaller size can.
We should have introduced the can in the size you find in your hotel rooms, but it was cost-prohibitive on our end. The package used a four-color, wrap-around label containing a photograph of the product in the container. A different color plastic lid differentiated the five varieties in the line. We introduced another design element to differentiate our brand from competitors. A neon banner, color-coordinated with the lid, swirled around the lower part of the can. The label was printed in English. The Japanese insisted on this because this style of label showed it truly came from America. While Japanese consumers found the can a bit large, they did express, at that time, overall satisfaction with the product and the package.
Now to your business. Let's say you've selected a target country for your brand's expansion. How do you determine whether to redesign your package for that new market? These tactics can provide answers.
Know the competition. Study packages for competing products in the target country. Observe both successful packages and those that don't resonate with the local consumers. If you cannot visit the country and scan store shelves yourself, contact the American Embassy. The government may provide help in determining which products are comparable to yours.
- Determine the feasibility of extending to a new country by estimating whether anticipated sales will outweigh the expense. Another point: How long will it take to recover your product adaptation costs? You may find it more realistic at first to export your products to countries that will accept them "as is." You can expand later. But, focus on the long term. If you're willing to make strategic changes, you can open the doors to more international markets. The risk is minimal compared to the risk of maintaining the status quo.
Meanwhile, should you decide to redesign your package, be sure to check out "How To Prepare Your Product for Import/Export."
Photo courtesy Laurel Delaney