Off-pack promotions may work out to be dearer than their on-pack counterparts, but they can be liberating, as Cordelia Brabbs reports.

Q: What is an off-pack promotion? This is an offer that is communicated to consumers via any medium except the package itself and which encourages consumers to interact with the brand. Consumer or trade press, online marketing, door drops and direct marketing techniques can all be used.

Q: What is the main objective? This depends on the client's requirements.

It could be one of many. Brand awareness, trial, purchase, penetration, weight of purchase, loyalty and traffic tend to be the main ones.

Q: What are examples of good off-pack promotions and results? Black Cat created a campaign last year for Heineken to tie-in with the rugby World Cup. Rather than following in Guinness's footsteps by sponsoring the tournament at great expense, the agency persuaded the lager brand to sponsor the fans, who were paid to promote Heineken on cars and houses.

Another push came from Smucker's, the ice-cream toppings brand, which negotiated a full-page space with The Funday Times in return for the competition prize of a holiday for four in Florida. The campaign, created by Liquorice, was extended to a six-week programme of Smucker's-sponsored events for the Nickelodeon "Red Hot Lobster Tour", guaranteeing live TV coverage and other exposure.

Q: What types of brand are suited to using off-pack promotions? They are especially suited to FMCGs. Most important is that the promotions are visible, appropriate to the brand objectives, fitting for the brand and supportive of the brand proposition.

Q: What are the pitfalls? These are similar to those for on-pack promotions.

The most important considerations are that the prizes must be appealing to the target audience and the promotions should be clear, simple and easy for consumers to participate in.

"Brands must also set clear standards for the cost of the activity in relation to what the retailer will deliver in terms of visibility, says Stephen Callender, managing director of Black Cat. "Many a brand has invested huge amounts of money in the set-up costs of a promotion and its communication, only to find the retailer doesn't deliver on its promises."

Q: What are the advantages of off-pack? You can be instinctive and run tactical initiatives to coincide with sporting, music and news events that create a positive brand message, says Dan Fernandez, director of Liquorice. There is also the chance to be more flexible with timing and promotional content. Off-pack can be more appealing to new users.

Q: What are the benefits of cross-promotions with other brands in off-pack? They can save money and increase a brand's credibility. With the increase in budget, you are able to increase exposure.

Q: How long do you need to plan an off-pack campaign? According to Fernandez, a strong tactical press idea can be conceived, developed and implemented in a week. Callender says that any off-pack campaign can be produced within a fortnight, but believes three to six months is more realistic.

Q: Does it work better as a stand-alone mechanic or as part of a bigger campaign? A bigger campaign is always better - the wider the communications, the more consumers will be drawn to the product.

Q: How much does it cost? There's no rigid guideline - the only guarantee is that it will cost more than on-pack promotions because the pack belongs to the brand and is therefore free.

Q: How does the premium differ from one used in on-pack promotions? "The premium should be selected against the objectives, the brand fit and proposition, and the budget, says Callender. "An off-pack offer will usually redeem at a lower rate than an on-pack one, so its value can be higher."

Q: How can you be creative with the traditional off-pack mechanic? As with on-pack, there is great scope to turn existing ideas on their heads and create a campaign that really stands out. But with off-pack, creativity can be extended into the media used to promote the promotion as much as the content of the promotion.


All these legal points apply to off-pack promotions too

- With money-off-next-purchase vouchers, remember the VAT issues. For example, VAT is only payable on the net sale price rather than on the face value of the voucher. After lengthy litigation, it has been established that VAT is payable on multi-redemption services provided to retailers by specialists such as High Street Vouchers

- Don't forget the Trading Stamps Act 1964, which comes into play when any voucher or other docket is provided in connection with a purchase and the voucher entitles the holder to any benefit, such as 20p off the next purchase. The 1964 Act imposes a number of legal obligations on the issuer. These include an obligation to redeem for cash the aggregate face value of such vouchers if this adds up to more than 25p. So that's why those petrol tokens say "cash value 0.0001p - Remember that all off-pack and on-pack promotions, including those run online and in emails, must comply with the CAP British Codes of Advertising and Sales Promotion

- Tips courtesy of Stephen Groom, head of brand legal, Osborne Clarke.