2020 was a challenging year for us all and saw many brands having to make huge changes to adjust to the difficult climate, none more so than FMCG brands who have had to adapt to significant changes in the way consumers shop. Whilst we’ve seen exponential growth in e-commerce sales in the years building up to the pandemic, this has certainly accelerated at a great pace across the past 12 months. Perhaps the hardest hit has been the impulse ‘on the go’ brand categories such as confectionery, crisps and drinks because people simply aren’t out and about as much and are more inclined to stock up on multipacks on their weekly online shop. Whilst this is still contributing to strong sales, there is undoubtedly less of a platform for brands to stand out and make noise about their latest NPD or on-pack promotion – a small ad banner on Tesco.com will never have quite the same impact as a fully branded gondola end and consumers are perhaps more in control of their purchasing decisions if sat at their desk vs. being in-store and seeing the product right there in front of them – tempting them to buy.

So how has the pandemic affected on-pack promotions?

For any fellow marketeers who work in Sales Promotion, you might (or is it just me!) enjoy a good stroll down the aisles on the hunt for the latest on-pack offers, and although I haven’t been able to do this as much as I would have liked over the past 12 months or so, I’ve noticed a common theme for the on-pack promotions I have seen. Cash!

With restrictions still very much in place, brands have opted to steer clear of the more typical promotional offerings.  Prizes like holidays, cinema tickets, festivals and experiences are out (for now at least) and have largely been replaced with cash offers. The obvious reason for this is mitigating risk. Offering a holiday or tickets to an event might make for an exciting on-pack offer, but if consumer confidence is low and there is no guarantee that you can honour the prize, cash seems a much safer bet.

What can you win right now?

There are some great cash promotions running currently, including Uncle Ben’s Lucky Red Envelope (189 cash prizes, including 4 £1,000 cash prizes up for grabs) KitKat Break From Bills (£50 an hour giveaway plus a chance to win £10,000 with 8 lucky bars), Nescafé’s Win a Salary promotion (1 of 3 £30,000 salaries for a year to be won) as well the Maltesers Bunnies Promotion. The Find the Bunny & Win the Money national promotion offers consumers the chance to win one of 69 cash prizes ranging from £50 to £1,000, plus an exclusive in Co-op with a top prize of £10,000.

What on-pack promotions can we expect to see in the coming months?

Whilst cash offers are a great short-term solution, (and probably something that everyone wants to win right now), brands need to be thinking about how they can reconnect with their consumer as lockdown starts to lift, focussing on offers that will capture a shopper’s attention, encourage trial, and ultimately convert consumers to loyal advocates.

By identifying key passion points (for example film, sport, music, travel and gaming), brands can create topical and relevant on-pack offers that will resonate with their consumer helping to build brand advocacy and ultimately drive sales.

In the coming months we are excited to see what on-pack offers emerge as lockdown restrictions are lifted. One certainty is that brands will be spoilt for choice when it comes to partnering with movies. It has been a rocky year for the film industry, with release dates constantly changing and cinemas closed for business. However, Q4 2021 and beyond will see an abundance of delayed tent pole releases including Bond – No Time to Die, Spiderman 3, West Side Story and Mission Impossible 7 to name a few. There has never been a better time to find the right film to partner with for your next on-pack promotion.

We also expect to see brands reuniting with major events to capitalise on the boredom that we’ve all experienced these past 12 months. In particular festivals, gigs and sporting events will be top of the list.

The future of on-packs

Whilst we do not anticipate the appetite for on-pack promotions to dwindle (in particular those promotions aimed at gatekeepers), there are some alternative channels that brands are using to communicate competitions to help engage and unlock the hard-to-reach Gen Z audience. We’ve seen (and are working on) more promotions running off the pack, utilising the brands digital/social channels. There are so many ways to run a successful social competition these days with all the major players (Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Tik-Tok and Twitter) offering brands the opportunity to create engaging content and mechanics that appeal to the Gen Z social natives, who, let’s face it, are not doing a big family shop in Tesco. However, there are pitfalls to be aware of when running competitions on social channels, and marketeers need to know the rules and requirements to avoid consumer disappointment and complaints.

And finally, the Elephant in the room is of course how the HFSS rulings will affect on-pack promotions in 2022 and beyond – but that’s perhaps worthy of a separate article – watch this space!

Lime Communications are a specialist Partnerships and Sales Promotion agency, based in Soho London.

Tim Hook: Head of Brand Partnerships. Contact: Tim Hook tim@wearelime.co.uk