At the recent West Africa AGOA regional webinar, there were five key reasons given explaining why West African businesses have been unable to take advantage of the AGOA agreement. For the unaware, AGOA (Africa Growth & Opportunities Act) was signed to stimulate growth between Sub-Sahara Africa and the US. The act has 3 key objectives:

  • Increase trade and investment between US and Sub-Sahara Africa with initiatives like duty free export
  • Increase access to opportunities and investment for US investors in Sub-Sahara Africa. Supported by a USAID co-investment fund
  • Promote economic development and reforms in Sub-Sahara Africa including creating 40k jobs, half of which should go to women

The 5 key reasons for the lack of trade are:

  • Lack of quality packaging and labelling
  • Lack of sufficient product quantity
  • Limited finance
  • Lack of market knowledge
  • Lack of capacity

I want to address the first reason because without resolving that, no amount of marketing, money or product volume will result in a trade transaction as it illustrates the lack of market knowledge.

In Western markets where supermarket shelves are crowded with lots of the same products by different brands, you have to stand out from the crowd. Brands spend significant amount of capital to do just that to attract customers. When a new brand hits the shelves, it's the packaging that attracts shopper curiosity. Price is a secondary factor. That's why packaging design is a multi billion industry.

Let me clear, packaging is not just a thing you wrap around your product, nor is it an after thought. It's an integral part of your brand story, identity and marketing strategy. It is intentional.

R&R Luxury

I came across this brand at the Ghana Investment & Opportunities Summit in January. Everything about the packaging says quality and luxury. Made in Ghana and distributed in Nigeria, this skin product looks like it belongs on the shelf of the health and beauty section of any Western store.

Colours - from the dark brown bottle to the subtle use of gold as a frame around the logo and product name, everything has been carefully thought out. The product name is also in gold, making it stand out. The colours beautifully complement each other giving it a luxurious look and feel alongside the matt finish of the bottle.

Fonts - only two fonts have been used. The main font for the majority of the text is clear even when small, keeping the label clean, clear and easy to read. The product name is in a different, complimentary font that doesn't clash with the logo.

Design - The small size of the bottle connotes careful use in small amounts. The clever design of the pump with the cover and the feel of the bottle all reinforce the feel of luxury.

Logo - I can't emphasise enough how important a brand or product logo is. The brand name lends itself well to a font style logo. R&R is a term meaning rest and recuperation. This is clever thinking based on a clear understanding of the target market - women who want to take time out to pamper themselves. This bottle certainly wouldn't look out of place in a spa or luxury hotel bathroom.

General information - information about the manufacturer, distributor, product ingredients, instructions for use and storage and, recycling are very clear. And off course, it has the all important barcode. Stock management is a digitised process in the Western markets so no barcode, no trade.

R&R have an outlet in Accra airport's departure lounge. The highend, luxury feel is continued in the design of the space. Next time you're passing through, go have a look to see what I mean.

Guaman Infusions

Another Ghanaian brand manufacturing organic teas, operating in an extremely saturated product sector with some well established global brands.

Whilst there is nothing particularly designed about this packaging, their use of brown paper bag with a rip zip at the back and reseal to keep the contents fresh whilst also giving the triangular shape just goes to show packaging doesn't need to be expensive to stand out. The brown paper bag also reinforces their natural, organic stance and care for the environment appealing to environmentally conscious buyers. What you can't see are the faint Andrinka symbols dotted around the edges of the labels. A very subtle way of declaring the tea as a Ghanian product. And it has the barcode off course.

The tea leaves are sourced from an aggregation of rural farmers, this story has being incorporated on the package for socially conscious buyers. Brewing instructions are clear as well as full contact details of the manufacturer.

The practice of making unscientifically proven health benefits is not only wrong but it will result in automatic FDA rejection. Instead a medical advice note has been added at the bottom with a clear statement that their products are 'meant for the promotion of wholesomeness'.

To clean the label up, I'd suggest the following:

  • Ingredients, weight and content number should be moved to the back
  • Use two font only. The flavour and word 'infusions' are in two different fonts. The body is and should be a different font making it three different fonts in use
  • Remove the green boxes with green text. Not only do they clash colour wise and look out of place but they're unnecessary
  • Keep the same shade of deep red in use throughout. Make the green border around the product story on the back black and make it the same thickness as the border around the manufacturer information
  • The logo should be revisited with a bolder illustration and fewer colours. Something that would work when printed in a small size

Despite the need to clean up the label, this product would not look out of place on Western organic food store shelf.

You can even get creative with the boxes or bags your products come in. With product packaging, you are telling a story without words, creating a feeling and immediate infinity with the customer without them ever having tested, used or tasted your product. On a crowded shelf in Western supermarkets where products jostle for space and attention, and you haven't paid to be placed at the buyers eyeline, packaging and labelling is all you have to catch the customer eye.

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