In the current age of consumer brands, packaging is an experience it and of itself. It’s more than a sturdy box or bottle -- it’s a greeting to your potential customers, and a window into your values and vision. And to stick out in a crowded field, ambitious brands need to speak up.
According to a 2018 study, 72% of consumers said that packaging design can affect their purchasing decisions. As interactive and smart packaging becomes the rule rather than the exception, a new brushstroke on your logo might not cut it. The very idea of packaging is evolving -- so when thinking about your next box, outside-the-box thinking is encouraged.
Research shows a correlation between packaging and the customer emotions related to a product, as well as the sensory experience with a product. Our want for the bold and different is at play with our growing awareness of our environmental footprint, our health, worker conditions, etc. Not to mention, the product inside the box has to deliver the goods.
In the past several years, we’ve seen packaging reflect these overlapping customer standards. Recent sustainability efforts go hand-in-hand with modern aesthetics and tech plays such as smart barcodes (and coming soon, edible barcodes).
Every detail, from the origin of materials to the label-printing technique, is now an essential consideration for branding and supply chain teams. To juggle these factors, while also piquing the interest of a picky shopper, is no small task. But one look at some winning examples of package design can show that it’s not only a worthwhile challenge, but a unique opportunity for expression and creativity.
For brands with packaged products or those planning to enter the space, the packaging itself should be mulled over as much as any single feature of the product. The following are some key considerations for package design as we head into 2020.
1). Sustainability: The most inventive packaging design can have failure to launch with today’s consumers if it fails on the sustainability front. Earth’s oceans and landfills are overrun with discarded plastic, and global climate concerns are directly tied to our wasteful habits as consumers and producers. The world’s largest brands are taking note by addressing the carbon emissions and waste production related to their products. Examples include Hasbro and Kraft Heinz, who plan to eliminate single-use plastics from their products by 2022 and 2025, respectively. Upstart companies have the chance to start on the right foot with eco-conscious packaging, rather than face backlash and contribute to these environmental issues. Whatever brilliant design you concoct for your next product line, sustainable materials and processes should be the first priority to establish trust with potential buyers.
2). Originality: Crafting an original design may be easier said than done, especially when taking eco-friendliness into account. With that said, our idea of packaging -- what it can be, what it can do -- is changing by the hour. Before sending a new product to market, today’s brands have the freedom to experiment with their concepts and create a striking first impression. Packages can serve multiple functions, have quirky shapes, or be art-forward in ways that may have shocked our grandparents but seem entirely reasonable to the modern consumer. To take advantage of this and pull off an original design, you should hire a product development team that is forward-thinking, adventurous, and artistic -- while being experts in your industry and the competition. You might also work with a third-party branding or design agency that can offer an outside perspective and their own twist on your ideas.
3). Interactivity: Originality in packaging is made all the more possible with interactive designs, which have breathed life into the B2C space over the past decade. Check out this blog that showcases some nifty examples of interactivity in package designs, for an idea of the possibilities (e.g. boxes that turn into plates, bottles you can draw on). More recently, the term “interactive packaging” has taken on added meaning to include apps, websites, and experiences that customers can activate after purchasing a product and scanning special barcodes or downloading related apps. You may create an augmented reality (AR) program or a contest that encourages customers to interact with your product in new ways. For example, Kraft recently launched “the largest intelligent packaging program in history” -- a scratch-and-win game that is activated upon scanning its cheese products, with different content based on in-store or in-home interactions. Not every company has the resources to be as crafty as Kraft, but the campaign is a sign of things to come with how brands engage with customers beyond the expected ways.
4). Smart technology: The Internet of Things (IoT) and intelligent tracking technology are further accelerating innovation in consumer goods. Soon our products will be communicating with the stores we buy them from, the other products on the shelves, and connected devices in our homes. A recent Deloitte study revealed that the smart packaging industry will near $40 billion in 2020, almost doubling in value from 2015. These advancements will intersect with the interactive potential of AR and other mobile-enabled tech plays that are pervading the conversation. The benefits of weaving smart technology into packaging range from increased customer engagement to improved quality control and protection from counterfeiting. Distributors can also optimize their supply chain, with seamless monitoring of deliveries and the people handling each product. It is worth researching the smart packaging movement -- this 2018 Deloitte report is a solid starting point -- and considering how it may play into your own packaging strategy moving forward.
5). Content: Words carry weight, especially with a choosey consumer. An artful, sustainable design can be made or broken by the copy you present on your product labels and the package itself. You have one shot to communicate a great deal of information about your product and your brand, and the wrong content can be a costly oversight on an otherwise perfect package. Branding agencies or content writing services providers can help fill in the blanks with your packaging copy to ensure the right message is delivered. Effective copy might include ingredients, health benefits, slogans, and product backstories. More and more, it can entail jokes, playful dialogue, and calls-to-action about causes that are important to the brand. Each letter you chose -- plus the font, style, and the way you choose to situate it -- should be a labor of love, and will speak volumes about the intentions, integrity, and personality of your brand. You should be strategizing copy well before the box is completed, to see how it will steer the rest of the design and to ensure the message is delivered for optimal results.
Clearly, the packaging game is not what it used to be. Product packages are a canvas like never before -- for innovation, humor, and building a relationship with your customers. Smart technology is poised to change the game even further, with sensors and chips that turn packages into business assets. A box is no longer just a box. So take it seriously, while having some fun in the process.
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