Packaging is an important moment of truth for a brand for many reasons.
First, packaging interacts with the consumer on more than one occasion – once when they see the product on the real or virtual shelf, and then again when the product reaches the hands of the consumer. Second, packaging serves to drive awareness and consideration for the product prior to purchase. Finally, packaging can also enhance the overall consumption experience throughout the product use-cycle and hence also play an important role in driving repeats.
However, the standards of what consumers will find interesting and attention worthy have gone up considerably in recent years. Today a brand needs to attract a consumer who is navigating through an ocean of choices and has a low attention span.
In such a scenario, there is a much higher onus on packaging to help a brand stand out from the clutter and capture consumer attention.
So, what are some key considerations that packaging should deliver on to better connect with today’s savvy consumers?
1. Packaging needs to be optimized to stand out both on-Shelf AND on-Screen:
With omnichannel purchase journeys becoming a norm, brands today are often discovered online, regardless of the eventual channel of purchase. Hence, it is important to adopt online-first thinking in packaging design to optimize it for mobile screens- which is where potential consumers are most likely to interact with your brand for the first time.
In fact, it’s a good practice to stress test the packaging on a standard mobile screen to ensure everything that the packaging intends to communicate is effectively conveyed on the screen. This will require the brand to rethink a range of packaging elements including colour combinations, text legibility and aesthetics, including art and graphics.
Second, for a time starved consumer browsing through a virtually infinite digital aisle, front label is becoming the new back label. It is important to arrest the attention of consumers in the first few seconds by placing product USPs right on the front of pack- concisely and aesthetically.
Be it claims, authenticity or ingredient integrity, if it’s consumer relevant, it needs to be told upfront, on the front label. Consider using devices like icons and call-out boxes to optimally utilize the front of pack space.
An interesting example of this thinking is the packaging of D2C brands and a good case in point is Yoga Bar Muesli. The brand effectively utilizes the front of pack real estate to talk about key ingredients, benefits and claims in an easy-to-read format, justifying its premium pricing and effectively capturing the attention of a health-conscious consumer:
2. Packaging can be leveraged as a category disruptor and trial driver
In an environment where brand loyalties are falling and repertoire usage is becoming a new normal, it’s important for brands to give their consumers talking points that can become an additional reason for brand preference. Thoughtful packaging can deliver these talking points.
Incremental innovations in packaging that enhance product functionality or experience can become another reason to choose the brand. For example, inducing an aspirational element in packaging can up the premium quotient by several notches and can positively impact both brand perceptions and margins.
For instance, Tuborg’s ring-pull cap was a simple yet powerful packaging innovation that not only created a massive consumer buzz but also became a creative tool to bring alive the brand story through the line (“Open for fun”). Another interesting example is that of Indulekha, a hair oil brand that added a comb applicator to its oil bottle for easy application, and this gave a major boost to brand trials.
Of course, when talking about disruptive packaging, it’s impossible to not mention Apple.
Apple transformed packaging rules in the consumer electronics category with a packaging that made electronics items look like luxury products. They introduced the phrase “Unboxing Experience” to the otherwise staid and functional world of consumer gadgets.
3. Packaging should deliver a shareworthy experience
The new age consumer thrives on external validation in the form of likes, shares, and comments. They want their every acquisition to add to their social coolness factor or give them social talking points. Delivering a share-worthy experience through packaging would not only elevate consumer experience but also go a long way in generating organic “word-of-mouth” around the brand. And in today’s day and age no brand can afford to miss riding on the power of these unpaid, organic, and authentic endorsements.
Hence, the age of functional, cluttered packaging design is slowly coming to an end. New age brand designs need to be insta-worthy, designs that entice consumers to click pictures and upload them onto social media. As a result, modern design sensibilities like minimalism, pastel shades, or dominant colours that pop on screen are becoming an important part of the new-age packaging toolkit.
Further, brands have an opportunity to deliver a compelling unboxing experience by ensuring that every part of the packaging- from primary to secondary- has a clear role to play. Enabling delightful discoveries through packaging can make it truly share-worthy.
A case in point is the packaging of The Whole Truth bars- where every aspect of packaging leads to new discoveries, inspiring the consumers to lovingly talk about the brand and endorse it both online and offline.
4. Packaging needs to satiate the information needs of curious consumers
Search is an intuitive behavior today. From personalities to products, consumers increasingly want a slice of behind-the-scenes action. Packaging can double up as a brand spokesperson that satiates their intrigue and tells the brand’s POV- concisely and convincingly.
Packaging is a great opportunity for brands to be upfront with consumers about essential information like ingredients, nutritional value, functional benefits and even disclaimers. This can help brands to come across as credible, transparent and by implication, desirable.
A good example is Minimalist, which leverages its limited packaging real estate to transparently reveal its ingredients, something that beauty brands aren’t really known for doing. In the process, it has successfully established a new category of ‘active-based’ skin care products that stand well-differentiated from the usual clutter of ‘Natural’ claims in the category.
5. Packaging can bring alive your brand’s story
Used cleverly, packaging provides brands with a great opportunity to engage with consumers and create emotional bonds with them.
Brands can use packaging to tell stories that bring alive the brand’s purpose and its intentions. Seen in this sense, the packaging is effectively a media that can be leveraged to communicate the brand story to every single consumer.
Vahdam is an excellent example of a brand that has leveraged packaging to bring alive its story- right from the inspiration behind its name to the community impact it has created. And this story seamlessly links up to Vahdam’s core proposition around ‘Freshness’, providing a strong reason to believe in its product superiority.
6. Packaging can be leveraged as a tool for consumer engagement
While product formulation is sacrosanct, packaging is an opportunity to keep the brand consistently fresh. With the right moves, packaging can be leveraged to give the brand a sheen of dynamism- a brand that’s open to challenge the status-quo and evolve with changing consumer needs.
Using tools like co-creation (Moonshine), personalization (Heinz/Nutella/Coke) or engaging content (Indigo), brands can use packaging to break category monotony, challenge the established norms and in the process, create highly engaged brand evangelists.
For example, Moonshine Meadery, a beverage brand that makes honey based alcoholic beverages, crowdsourced its packaging design through a social media contest among artists. The brand generated a lot of organic social media chatter and product intrigue among the right circle of influencers and creators.
Coke launched a series of bottle designs in India that celebrated family and social relationships in 12 different languages. Each relationship was accompanied by an exciting descriptor (Grandad – Old School, Yet Cool. Grandma – Scolds Me, Spoils Me, etc.)
In the category of air-travel that’s traditionally considered uptight, Indigo lives up to its ethos of a disruptor. And this is also reflected in its food packaging which, with its interesting content, serves as a great tool for engaging travellers and providing a welcome respite from the monotony of a flight journey.
It doesn’t just bring a smile to the face of travellers but also becomes a talking point long after they have got off their flight.
7. Sustainable packaging to match consumer values
Consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of the environmental impact of their purchase decisions and brands have seen this as an opportunity to garner consumer affinity by making all the right claims (carbon neutral, plastic positive etc. on their website and packs).
However, consumers today expect brands to walk the talk when it comes to sustainable solutions – and packaging is a very visible, tangible proof of this. Brands that are able to demonstrate this would be rewarded with consumer loyalty while brands that do otherwise are equally likely to be called out.
For instance, Chai Point is famous for its sustainable innovations in the beverage delivery business. Chai Point pioneered the innovative Chai Flasks with eco-friendly packaging for online delivery.
Two Brothers Organic Farms is another example of an upcoming startup that uses eco-friendly, zero plastic packaging, even for intercity deliveries.
8. Smart packaging to appeal to smart consumers
An emerging though niche trend, smart packaging is a combination of specialized materials, science, and technology that enhances packaging functionality by allowing brands to offer a more personalized and tailored experience to consumers.
While today most “Smart Packaging” moves use simple tools like QR codes printed on the packaging or Augmented Reality (like Bombay Sapphire gin), future innovations could unleash the full potential of this trend when a smart blend of tech and packaging would enable consumers to virtually interact with products before purchase, know more about the products without having to research online independently, and can even be entertained by the packaging.
It’s important for brands to keep an eye on this rapidly evolving trend.
9. Delivery-friendly packaging that retains the brand experience
With the advent of online commerce, delivery has become an important part of the purchase journey. Channels like Amazon, Big Basket, Nykaa and Flipkart have become an integral part of the distribution network for every brand.
Hence brands need to ensure that their packaging can withstand the wear and tear that accompanies delivery and still give that curated brand experience to their consumers.
This could call for using sturdy yet flexible materials, eco-friendly void fillers, and packaging that reduces the overall weight while still keeping the products snug and tight with no spills or damage.
For instance, a new-age D2C shoe brand Plaeto, that takes pride in its sustainability credentials, uses reusable cloth bag (as opposed to traditional cardboard shoe boxes)- and in the process makes a telling statement about its product quality, community impact and commitment to its sustainability claims.
In summary, packaging plays a critical role in delivering an exceptional brand experience, especially in today’s world where consumers expect and demand the best service from all brands. Like a lot of these trends show, despite its challenges, the new consumer paradigm also holds many opportunities that were hitherto not available to brands.
Brands that keep an eye on these trends and incorporate some of them in their packaging strategy are likely to enjoy an inherent competitive advantage.
What are the interesting forms and functions of packaging you have seen? Let’s keep the discussion flowing at email@example.com. We read all your emails.