Brandspeak: Why Packaging Matters, More Than Ever

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Packaging that Sells conference 2017 - Gil Horsky of Mondelez

What does your package say about your brand? This was the main question addressed at BRANDPACKAGING’s 2017 Packaging That Sells conference. Held in Chicago, IL each fall, this event attracts speakers, sponsors and attendees who understand the key role of packaging in enhancing a product’s branding in order to deliver a message that resonates with consumers.

The roster of presenters this year included a mix of brand owners, agencies, academics and suppliers, offering a unique set of perspectives spanning the package design industry. Despite this diversity, a common thread that wove the vast majority of the content together grew evident throughout the three-day event.

It’s no secret that the world is in the midst of a period of rapid change. With no signs of slowing down, these changes impact the marketplace and consumers’ role within it, a trend that comes with many implications for brands. The growth of e-commerce, the influence of social media and its impact on word-of-mouth, the cheap and easy means of outsourcing and distribution costs have made today’s environment ripe for startups to break through and become a viable threat to leading brands.

Kroger Simple Truth private labelLong gone are the days when private-label brands could serve as the cheaper, lower quality me-too brands. Private brands have become manageable brands with enormous appeal to today’s consumers. Kroger’s Simple Truth line of packaged foods, for instance, has grown into a $1.6bn brand.

These new entrants and private labels, as well as countless national brands, make up the approximately 100,000 SKUs found on a typical grocery store’s shelves these days. Online, consumers have access to countless products, but, according to PRS research, the average shopper only scrolls 3-5 times before making a purchase decision. How does a brand cut all this noise to maintain a predominant position in the minds—and hearts—of consumers?

According to Nielsen, 64% of consumers are persuaded to try a new product by the packaging, while 41% of consumers said they became repeat purchasers because they liked the package. The packaging really does matter, and brands are taking more and more money out of traditional advertising budgets to invest in creating beautiful, simplified design that is centered on the consumer.

Customer-centric design is not only about the shopper’s preferences and desires. Understanding the why behind their shopping behaviors is just as important to understand in packaging. Hotspex, a global market research firm, shared that packaging needs to “say and convey”: what it says speaks to a shopper’s conscious rationality, while what it conveys intrinsicially appeals to the non-conscious emotional decision making.

While there is an age-old idea that brands need to focus on increasing loyalty, that is no longer the case. Now, companies need people to pick their products up off the shelf. According to data presented by Terri Goldstein of The Goldstein Group, touch leads to purchase 61% of the time. Brands need more people to buy more often, and this growth in achieved through maintaining both physical availability and mental availability.

Gil Horsky, global innovation lead of Mondelez International (at top) shared how the launch of Cadbury Glow in emerging markets transformed gifting by making packaging the hero. Mondelez is a product-focused organization, but Glow’s appeal for consumers was delivered through the delight created by its innovative packaging, which created gifting occasions more so than the product itself.

In the digital world of today (and tomorrow), it is a key to focus on the intersection of the physical and digital purchasing environments. Many consumers’ shopper journey crosses between both mediums, and brands need to start designing to adapt to the challenges presented by the e-commerce environment first.

There is a big difference between the two environments, and consumers process information in a different order between the two mediums. There are many opportunities in e-commerce still needing to be explored, such as changing the shopping context to be more like the physical experience. In the meantime, online presents a more even playing field, with large national brands lacking the advantage they have enjoyed, such as billboarding.

When reconsidering packaging, brands need to ensure they are visible and stand out at shelf; visceral enough to elicit emotional reactions; and memorable enough to be remain in the consumer’s memory even after they leave the aisle. To achieve these characteristics, brands must push true innovation in packaging to be distinctive at shelf.

The reality is most products in a category actually do the same thing, and so the key to success is to stand out from the crowd. Whether it’s on a store shelf or on a mobile screen, brands need to build an emotional connection with consumers at the First Moment of Truth; otherwise you won’t have a brand.

In the words of presenter Christopher Durham, brands need to “differentiate or die,” and packaging is the main impetus to achieve this needed change.


Jessica ShvartsJessica Shvarts - Interbrand Consumer Retail and Brand Experience marketing manager in Cincinnati is the marketing manager for Interbrand’s Consumer & Retail Brand Experience team in Cincinnati, Ohio. Follow the team on Twitter: @InterbrandCinci.

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