Nov 06

The FreakyTrigger Top 25 Brands: 23: PANINI

Blog 7 + FT + TMFD8 comments • 1,388 views

One of the great – though cynical – goals of marketing is to encourage consumers to waste stuff. Not in the enviro-friendly sense of extra packaging – the brands put that shit on their products when it was fashionable and they’ll take it off as soon as consumers start fussing enough, no problem. No, the idea is to do two things:

A: get consumers to buy more than they need.

B: make sure they don’t save the stuff they don’t use.

Tick both these boxes and riches will be yours. The classic example is mustard – Mr Colman (and his fellow condimenteers) made their profits from the stuff that gets left on the side of the plate, not the stuff that gets eaten. Soft drinks companies would much rather you bought a single-serve bottle of diet coke a day and left it unfinished than put it back in your fridge for tomorrow – and since hardly anybody does put it back in their fridge they’ve obviously got the positioning right. But with these products you know on some level you’re wasting part of it, and certainly you don’t feel any better for it. Imagine a brand which incorporated waste as part of the appeal, and which encouraged you to waste more and more, and which in fact made the flagrant level of wastage a BADGE OF PRIDE for the buyer.

Welcome to the world of Panini stickers.

Panini stickers are collectables, but collectables with a difference. With most collectables the act of collecting and hunting for missing items is fairly low key, because when you make a purchase you know what you’re getting. It might be hard to find a particular ceramic owl, or scarce variant comic or limited edition single, but you know what it looks like, and you certainly wouldn’t be induced to buy, say, a sealed box of ceramic beasts, which might or might not even be owls and even if they are may well be species you have three times already. But this element of mystery is what Panini thrives on.

The essential genius of Panini as a brand can be summed up in one fact: at a certain point in the collecting process it is more exciting to buy a packet with two stickers you need than it was to buy one with five. If you can’t relate to this then congratulations – this is not the brand for you.

Panini collecting brings free market capitalism into the playground. Not only in the sense that an exchange rate for ‘rare’ swaps, shiny stickers, etc. develops – but in the sense that every collector finds themselves ‘playing’ the Panini game. There is a minimum level of money a collector actually needs to spend: (n/s)*p where n=total number of stickers, s=number in packet and p=price of a packet. This is assuming very unlikely market conditions: 1-for-1 trades and transparent and complete information on who has what swaps. (It’s also assuming free postage.)

There is also a level of money spent by a single collector, assuming no swaps, where probability would suggest that you would be able to complete the collection on your own. I have no idea what this second number is but it’s likely to be really high.

If everybody did trade perfectly, sticker-for-sticker, I would guess Panini might actually lose money. But of course they don’t – as well as all sorts of unfair deals, collectors invest a lot more than they are likely to get returns on. There’s a third number in the Panini equation – the level of stickers remaining at which an individual gives up buying new stickers and relies on trades to complete the collection. This figure varies from person to person, but obviously the lower it is the more money Panini is going to make. And the more stickers you’re going to end up with. But the lower this level is, the more you probably love the Panini experience. Now that is branding.


  1. 1
    Pete Baran on 22 Nov 2006 #

    But does this explain why Merlin stickers are rubbish?

  2. 2
    Tom on 22 Nov 2006 #

    No! But the yoof apparently don’t think they are given how they infest every newsagent.

    Merlins are rubbish because they include less stickers per album (from a customer’s outlay POV this makes them better, but it means they have less premium positioning for the brand), and also they include too many stickers of the same thing – viz at the World Cup Wayne Rooney gets more stickers than the entire Ecuador squad combined.

    Obviously this means they reflect the actual level of national interest (as filtered through tabloid/media coverage agenda) more, but brandwise they lose points for authenticity and move still further downmarket.

    And probably the glue they use is rub, or something.

  3. 3
    Kat on 22 Nov 2006 #

    When I saw the title of this article on the rss livejournal feed I thought you were talking about the toasted sandwich. “That’s not a brand!” I thought. “But it is quite a successful coffee shop marketing tool, well done them for spotting it.”

    I am going back to bed now.

  4. 4
    Andrew Farrell on 22 Nov 2006 #

    I also thought what Kat thought.

    Also Merlin (in the shape of the Dr. Who stickers) are rubbish because their shiny stickers are a) of completely different dimensions to the regulars and b) one every pack, meaning they were actually relatively more common than the non-shinies.

    I do not understand the crucial sentence. Is it supposed to end “… back when you were likely to get five in a pack”? If I got my last five all in the one pack, the sound could be heard from the moon.

  5. 5
    Andrew Farrell on 22 Nov 2006 #

    (please to have random googlers turn up and get excited by the pictorial evidence of Tom’s spares)

  6. 6
    tracerhand on 22 Nov 2006 #

    This has been the mechanism behind baseball cards for at least 70 years.

  7. 7
    CarsmileSteve on 23 Nov 2006 #

    yes, i’m sure that’s where panini got the idea, although cigarette cards were popular up to 100 years ago, BUT they were more a free gift than the product itself i guess…

  8. 8
    Doctor Casino on 28 Nov 2006 #

    “Magic: The Gathering” and its various ripoffs surely take the category from either baseball cards or these sandwich-themed sporty stickers? By making the product part of a game, they add the compelling possibility that the next pack you buy might contain a card so powerful it lets you beat even the smug rich kid whose dad bought her all the good ones. They might as well announce Golden Tickets being packed in the things!

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