Des King salutes the imaginative thinking behind Total's Packaging Innovation feature

Go to any exhibition or conference and you pretty much know what to expect. Hopefully then, it’s not jumping the gun to welcome the confident first steps towards a wholly new kind of approach in selling the packaging industry.

The Packaging Innovation feature at last month’s Total exhibition knocked spots off just about everything else at the show. And why? Well, partly because it represented something of a welcome relief for anyone with a marketing bone in their body but also because it elicited a genuinely interactive response – something other than being demonstrated to or indeed talked at. Truly, that mythical third way. And if you missed it, then more fool you.

This is not to detract from the high presentation standards achieved by many of the other 1200 or so stands that made up the event. Far from it but boy did they look pedestrian and predictable compared with that 200m slice of Hall 3.

This column has for some time been calling for some positive PR to endorse packaging as a potent element within the marketing mix. Well, now we’ve got it.

That said, where do we go from here? Pre-show, Reed might well have preferred the project’s packaging manufacturer supporters to have committed to conventional stand space. As things transpired, it will be grateful the money was put to better use for the greater good. In the meantime, full marks for backing the bright spark who came up with the initial idea and letting them run with it.

As a centre of excellence, PIS certainly merits a life after Total. The concern is that its disparate consortium of sponsors might want to define that future evolvement in terms with which they individually feel most comfortable. Ownership and funding is key.

Somebody, preferably without a vested interest, must determine who and what is included. Developing it as an exhibition in its own right and making it pay will inevitably hatch a curate’s egg. Position it as a conference, for instance, and we’ll end up pandering to the same old bums on seats.

The first flush of euphoria at the show was all for taking it on the road. Loosely translated that probably means implanting it into other generic packaging exhibitions, whose organisers would no doubt be delighted to have it.

Well, that’s OK to a point. But assuming the purpose is to elevate packaging’s status on the marketing agenda, better surely to site it at events focused upon application markets. Hoping to attract serious marketing clout from say the cosmetics and toiletries sector to what is predominantly an engineering event is always going to be something of a wing and a prayer proposition.

Take the message to the market. Don’t necessarily expect it to come to us.