I stood for some minutes at the popular Abakpa Texaco Bus-Stop (in Enugu metropolis) to admire the prowess of the numerous commercial bus conductors around the area. I observed the different ways they call out for customers. If you don’t listen attentively you may not understand what they were saying and the route they ply. But I noticed something different about these conductors. There are the young men with their spectacular hairdos: some with dreadlocks, some with bushy hair and others with clean shaves and bushy beard.
And then there are the elderly men, all carrying normal ‘African gentleman’ hairdo. I found out that most of the young men wore torn jean trousers and T- or round-neck shirts while all the elderly men wore pants and button down shirts. The remarkable thing about these people is that the young men do not have difficulties attracting passengers into their buses, unlike the elderly ones. If you ask me, I’ll say that the elderly ones do not look like bus conductors, so they had hard times convincing customers of their profession. Their packaging speaks something different.
Packaging here is talking about how an outward appearance tells the inward quality. It is about how things are seen by people based on how it was presented to them. The packaging I’m talking about here isn’t just about how goods are packaged and presented, but also how a person presents himself to others. Packaging is a very simple act which can either attract or repel the right people.
I know that a lot of people think that the outward appearance doesn’t really matter. These set of people believe that the most important thing is the content of the package. Yes, the content is very important, but, as the Igbos say, the eyes will eat first before the mouth. This is to say that if the thing isn’t appealing to the sense of sight, the desire to consume it will not be there. I will give some insights on why good packaging is necessary.
First of all, good packaging creates a very good impression when seen for the first time. People will be very impressed with what they observed before trying to find out what it contains. For example, I will not be impressed if I enter a banking hall and see shabbily dressed staff giving shabby services in shabbily equipped offices. I don’t think I will want to entrust my money to them. They will have to do a lot of work to convince me of their competency.
The second reason is attractiveness. Has anyone else ever wondered why biscuits are packaged in beautiful shiny wrappers? If nothing else, it attracts buyers who have it somewhere in their mind that what is inside that packet will be as good as what is outside. This is also the same thing with people who packaged themselves properly. They always give out positive aura which endears them to people.
Good packaging breeds trusts. Ok, so I walked into a school to make an enquiry and the first teacher I met couldn’t speak two complete sentences without committing a grammatical blunder. The first thing I will tell myself is that the school doesn’t employ qualified teachers, and is therefore not good enough. This is also the case with electronic machines packaged in inferior cartons. The buyer will believe that if the producer isn’t rich enough to afford a good packet, he wouldn’t be rich enough to create a good machine.
Good packaging brings respect. There is this viral meme about a lawyer wearing a robe with holes and a torn dirty wig. I don’t think that sort of a lawyer will be respected by his clients and society no matter how good he is.
Ok, we have seen some reasons why we need to package ourselves and our goods properly, let us look at some ways we can achieve that.
- One important thing to look into is on improving the general outlook of our offices. The first impression people have when they walk into an office matters a lot. They will take in the neatness, arrangement of furniture, type of furniture and other aesthetic features in the office. If I walk into a hairdressing salon, for example, and it looks unkempt and shabby, I will beat down the price of the hairdo to the minimum. I won’t accept to pay a high price for whatever services I receive there, even if they were good. This attitude will of course change if I find myself in a well furnished and equipped salon (here, I’ll be praying that I can afford whatever they call out).
- The wrappers and packets of goods should be durable, as well as attractive. There is a need for this because people are easily attracted to goods’ packets. A good example of this is the way goods are packaged in pastry industry. If you have noticed, a lot of people are into chin-chin making but only few supply theirs outside their locality. This is because most of them packaged theirs in cheap poly bags, which makes it unsafe and inconvenient to move the goods from one place to another. Besides, people believe that foods packaged in sealed and high quality wrappers are more hygienic.
- The language we use says a lot about our occupation, social class and identity. There is need for us to work on our choice of words. Take the examples of the commercial bus conductors, the young men among them have this slang they use that the elderly ones do not. This gave them the edge needed in their occupation. This should also be the case with other professions. Speak the way that shows who you are. Work on your use of language. You can do this by standing in front of the mirror for five minutes every day to talk to yourself. I will come back later in another article to throw more light on this.
- The saying that we are addressed the way we dress should also be considered here. I am not saying we should spend all we earn on clothing. At least we should look smart and decent. And also, our dressing can tell our profession. So, wear outfits that are suitable for your profession. Our society has actually chosen outfits for every occupation. Which one is for yours? Remember, it is all about packaging. You are trying to tell what is inside you from your outward appearance. If you are a teacher and you dress like a dancer, people will treat you like a dancer. Don’t confuse people with your dressing.
- Our attitude says much about us too. Some professions require politeness while some require rudeness (lol – that’s Naija for you). Honestly, it is hard to see a commercial bus conductor that will not rudely demand for the transport fare. People are used to that, anyway. So, let your attitude depict who you are. If you give people the attitude that is contrary to that which is expected of someone in your profession, they will place you at the levels you may not like. Be polite and nice to people irrespective of what is inside you.
- There is need for companies to invest in their staff. They should organise in-house trainings and seminars for them so as to aid their professionalism. If it is possible, companies should make soft loans available to their staff so they can easily sponsor their further studies and provide for their basic needs. Companies that are rich enough can provide car loans for their staff too. Honestly, prospective customers also check out staff of companies. I know I do that a lot. A company with happy and good looking staff is worth making business with. I mean, if they can take care of their staff, they can take care of your investment.
Ok, so we have seen what packaging can do. This is not just for businesses. Workers too need to package themselves. The unemployed need that too (you can’t go into an office to seek for a job if you don’t have a good front).
However, I am not saying that we have to spend all our money on beautifying the outside while the inside is rotten. Work on both the outside and the inside. The truth is that the outside is what brings in the business, or the job, but the inside is what keeps it.