Packaging is a product in itself


Joe Cook, Vice President of Delta Global USA, explores how packaging has become a fundamental part of a product, if not one in its own right.

While in the FMCG market, brands are competing on various points, with value for money being the most significant purchasing motivator. In luxury fashion for example, perceived value rather than commodity has enabled high end, functional goods to remain resilient to the challenging market conditions, as consumers are seeking to get more out of their purchases.

And while the product’s quality, functionality and use all play an important role in creating this value, to really stand out among competitors, brands are beginning to consider what other aspects of their offerings can be improved or innovated in order to give their customers more.

We’re increasingly beginning to see brands add additional features and functions to their products’ outer shells and inserts. Consequently, packaging is becoming a fundamental part of a product, rather than simply a means to transport it from manufacturer to end user safely and conveniently.

In this sense, packaging can be considered a product in its own right, with its own set of functions, features and uses. But to award it this status, first, thought must be given to its quality, composition and design.

A product for the planet 

One of the first, and longest standing trends in this area is environmentally friendly packaging. For some time now, brands have been considering the materials and recyclability of their packaging, with worldwide plastic bag charges or restrictions being just one example of action being taken to combat unsustainable practices.

As well as governmental constraints, many brands have taken it upon themselves to eliminate other unsustainable packaging elements, including swapping polythene bags for FSC approved boxes, or digitising order and delivery documents to reduce paper wastage, for example.

While these actions are a positive change, they have become an expected part of packaging for more ethically aware consumers, and no longer a way to add value or stand out.

Instead, brands winning in this field are those taking sustainability a step further, encouraging creative ways to reuse packaging through innovation, rather than simply ensuring materials can be recycled. This way, packaging is really beginning to play a role in creating a circular economy.

For example, innovations in the way in which a brand’s boxes are composed, including the quality of materials and their designs, can improve their reusability. The higher their quality, the more useful they’ll be for the consumer, and the better they look, the more likely they are to be kept.

MATCHESFASHION’s iconic marble boxes for instance have been built from good quality materials, and the way in which they can be made up and flattened using an innovative magnetic closure system, affords them durability. This, paired with the unique, yet stylish marble design encourages customers to reuse boxes for at-home storage, without them looking out of place or shabby.

Other sustainable value-adding innovations include the embedding of seeds between biodegradable materials. Makeup brand EcoTools, for example, has really taken positive steps towards clean beauty by using plantable paper as a key element in their packaging.

Or, gym wear brand, Sweaty Betty recently introduced reusable pouches, made from recycled plastic bottles, to their packaging, with zips that double up as hair ties.

These packaging innovations are ways to give customers more from a purchase, whether that be through offering them a storage solution or a whole new product, at no real additional price. Although, even if prices were to increase due to the extra materials or manufacturing costs, it has been found that over 70% of consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging. 

Packaging experiences 

Another way to add value to products through packaging is by tapping into the experience economy. In the digital-first, and COVID-19 stricken world in particular, this can be an incredibly effective way for brands to give more to their customers.

It comes down to packaging being the first physical point of contact customers have with a brand, especially for the increasing number of online sales. In these cases, packaging should offer customers a positive and unique brand experience, right from the second it has been received. And while this might not be a product in the traditional form, the experience economy is on track to becoming much more powerfulthan simply buying and owning material objects.    

Now, there are a number of ways this can be done, with quality of materials and packaging design not to be forgotten. But again, those that are seeing real success in this are brands creating personalised experiences through tailoring their services, communications and entire customer journey to each individual consumer. This way, when a package is received, customers are already feeling a sense of connection to it, with its quality, design and the item inside only reinforcing the overall positive experience.

For example, for mystery box brands such as Heat or Scarce, experiential marketing is embedded in the entire sales funnel. From the limited luxury box drops, high quality packaging and then the mystery of not knowing what’s inside, experience remains pivotal. This encourages customer engagement and investment at all stages of their journey, evoking those all-important emotions that set apart brands that are desired from those that are simply bought for commodity. 

We’re at an exciting point. More and more brands are looking for ways to better target and retain customers, and recent changes in consumer sentiment and market conditions suggest packaging will begin to play a significant role in their success.

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