It’s hard not to observe that with every new day, many of the predictions from the previous day fall to the roadside, as COVID-19 changes the way we conduct business. Consumer packaging is not exempt from this haze of confusion as markets redefine themselves and reorganize their responses to business pressures and consumer concerns.
The complexity of distribution channels makes this a critical time for manufacturers to reduce packaging costs – and to the greatest extent possible – ensure product safety as goods move through the channels. It’s also an important time for manufacturers to reevaluate the number and size of the SKUs they deliver. Fewer, better value products delivered across multiple channels require teams to reduce and control packaging expenses. While production costs are critical to control, gaining and holding consumer attention is tremendously important. In this morass of activity, packaging has to focus on reinforcing the value perception manufacturers want to own in consumer minds.
As you analyze your product and packaging landscape, I encourage you to consider these four points:
Branding: Consumers, being both flooded with and limited in retail choices want and need to know what it is about your brand that will make a meaningful difference in their lives. In spite of the pressures and changes in the market, once consumers secure a brand preference they tend to remain brand loyal, and it’s imperative to sustain that loyalty. Colors and images used in package design, package structure, and security, as well as storytelling on the package and in marketing messages (particularly those that demonstrate a shared commitment to social realities), are critical. Frequently, changes or disconnected brand messaging coupled with a failure to deliver a product that meets quality and value expectations only fractures what brand strength you have achieved.
Value: While recall and recognition of visual brand elements are critical to the success of packaged products, at the end of the day “value” is what the consumer demands. Consumers have to feel that the product they select has value in comparison to all other products, along with how it effectively meets their in-use demands. While advertising and marketing go a long way in communicating and reinforcing value, what has to be a consideration at this time is how value beliefs have been and are being influenced by current market disruptions. Is value-based on quantity versus cost, or quality of ingredients? Define how this impacts your package structure and graphic design systems, and what is critical to creative design decisions.
K.I.S.S.: Keep It Smart & Simple – deliver packaging design and production recommendations that are flexible, simple, and cost-effective and that work in partnership with downstream partners to create the optimal visual impression. Don’t let anyone tell you that effective package design always has to come with a high price tag. Help manufacturing partners by creating cost-saving solutions, and by collaboratively on effective visual designs that can be consistently reproduced. All too often response to keeping things smart and simple is translated into cheap, generic, or graphic novel approaches to visual package design that only serve to disconnect with or overwhelm the consumer. You cannot create or tell a brand or value story on a package that is devoid of compelling consumer-based visual elements, nor can a package that is packed seam to seam with every conceived marketing message be effective – especially if the consumer is not able to define what the foremost messaging is.
Live your channels: You have a brand, you know what your value proposition is, and you have a package design ready for production. Are you sure? I cannot stress enough the importance of ensuring your packaging team understands all the environments the product will utilize. For example, I have not been able to find a specific product in any local retail outlet. As a trusted brand name, I found the product I wanted online from a reputable source. The product came as promised – BUT – every single container leaked into the shipping package. If you are deploying a creative team to help you meet the demands of new market channels, make sure they have a deep understanding of performance limitations for the packaging they will be delivering to the consumer. If you were in my place, what would you think of the trusted brand I ordered? Did this happen because the package was sealed to be effective only on a retail shelf? Was it because the delivery driver dropped the packages on my front doorstep?
In this time of confusion, look for a packaging partner that has the experience, insight, and practical knowledge to deliver packaging that keeps your brand and value message front and foremost in the consumer’s mind. Too much is at stake to make any other choice.
If you need help navigating your packaging decisions, contact us at [email protected] Throughout our 65 years of supporting customers with consumer brands large and small, we apply our experience and expertise to the entire process to create efficient and effective solutions.