I have a sense that we are entering a significant new period in the design of mass-market CPG brands. It could just be the first major change in approach since the 1950s.
For the last 50 or 60 years marketers have worked to optimize their packages for the shelf, and everything we did as designers was meant to support the retail presence of a brand. If a package “jumped off the shelf” or “grabbed your eye” it was considered a winning design. In many CPG categories, this on-shelf boldness and brute strength was often considered the primary test of design success.
There was virtually no thought given to whether the package could become an active participant by enhancing the shopping experience, or make the home use experience richer. This is clearly no longer the case.
Marketers are beginning to realize that the experience we have “living with” a brand is much more important than the experience we have “shopping for” the brand. Package design is in the early stages of reflecting that shift in attitude, and there are three very powerful forces driving this change.
Let’s call them – greener, easier, smarter. And two presentations showed how radically these forces are changing the retail landscape.
Rudi Becker, Director of Packaging at method, reviewed the creation of their new method laundry detergent. It is an 8X concentrated liquid product (3 to 4 times more concentrated than most national brands), which significantly reduces the size of the package. And the bottle, roughly half the size of a typical detergent jug, is manufactured from 50% PCR material.
We are moving inexorably towards more sustainable packaging. And though we are all aware of this, it was made even more evident, in talk after talk, that retailer incentives (WalMart) are driving much of this movement.
This can be seen with smaller sizes, lighter weights, higher percentages of post consumer recycled materials, and of course just less stuff of all kinds. Secondary packages are disappearing and manufacturers are reducing the sizes of primary packages in lots of creative ways.
Method and others also discussed their use of ethnographic and human factors research to identify real consumer benefits and ease of use features. This is leading to products optimized for in-home consumer use and not just the retailer.
Their use of an airless pump to dispense a measured dose of detergent is a clear example of this trend. It is easier to use and much less messy. The design of packaging with a demonstrable consumer benefit is beginning to trump other in-store packaging priorities.
David Javitch, VP of Marketing at Scanbuy, spoke about the packaging use of their ScanLife technology on smart phones to interact with retail packages and download promotions, recipes, nutritional information, coupons, and more.
As anyone who has read this blog knows, I believe this technology will revolutionize the shopping experience, and soon. Just click here for the “augmented reality” tag, and you’ll see several previous posts on this subject.
I came away from the conference with a feeling that smart marketers now realize the relationship we have with brands doesn’t start or end at the store. As I said, our experience “living” a brand is becoming much more important than “shopping” the brand.
That’s why our packages are beginning to be greener, easier, and smarter.