Dear CMO:

The holidays are over. Time to end the fiscal year, hopefully with a sprint to the finish, and then move on to planning for next year. And, as I can see the Band Aids peeking through your French cuffs, you’ll no doubt resolve to do your part in the coming budget cycle to Solve World Packaging. Namely, banning the clamshell.

The clamshell is the landmine of packaging. It maims non-combatants while failing to deter “evil doers”.

Unfortunately, the clamshell exists for a reason. It prevents theft in self-service retail environments. People steal stuff out there. Retailers “request” that suppliers figure out how to deal with “slippage”. Thus, the clamshell.

Cuban wrote in his blog many months back about his rage at a Seagate 5GB puck in an impenetrable clam. Let’s face it — a hundred dollar storage device designed to fit in your pocket sold at Target? Think that might find it’s way out of a store? Maybe.

When I think of clamshells, not much compares to the Bunker Buster, below — my son’s new airsoft gun, as you see, has a half-inch wide heat seal running the entire perimeter of this three foot long behemoth. Behold the monster:

After ten minutes, several well delivered expletives, and a near miss that would have sent me to the Intensive Care Unit at Dominican Hospital, we had it open. I almost gave up twice.

A question — was someone going to walk out of the store with this? It’s three feet long. It’s merchandised behind a counter. A locked counter. With an alarm.

Church of the Customer relates what they describe as a “good” clamshell story here. This shows a Sennheiser headphone in a state of semi-unpack. For the record, your honor, this is fine at a retailer like The Good Guys, where helpful store personnel outnumber customers on a good day, but it doesn’t play at Walmart. (Neither does Sennheiser, to be honest, so it’s OK).

* * *

Key Takeaways:

> Yes, clamshells are a necessary evil. But they don’t have to be packages of mass destruction. Spot sealing every six inches would have not only secured the product, but it would have made it more exciting than a Chinese New Year to open in the store.

> Packaging should present your product as king in the most aspirational, informational way possible. That and it needs to keep evil doers from stealing it in the stores. Part of this is your responsibility and part is the retailer’s. RF and magnetic chicklets work in chain drug, mass merchants and many consumer electronics outlets. You want a good customer experience, they want to eliminate slippage. Work it out with your retailer.

> Remember that these blog things might just stick around and lots of angry opinion leaders complaining about your packaging might (just might) begin to find their way to the inbox of the guy who your manager’s boss works for. Memos like these travel at near terminal velocity on their way to your “to do” list, just so you know.

* * *

New budgets are times of hope and renewal. All things are possible. New programs, new products, new campaigns, and new packaging all spring to life in your budget deck. It’s like Springtime in Paris for finance people.

So please fix your clamshell packaging next year. Do it for the kids.



Copyright (c) 2007 Stephen Denny