There’s only a few days left in the year, and we’re reflecting back on trends that have held strong through 2016. The world of packaging is evolving as materials and consumer tastes change, leading to some incredible innovation. We’ve also noted consumers’ refined taste and de-sensitization to marketing messages, as well as the parallel between brands that engage consumers on a more personal level and consumers’ expectations for packaging to deliver that experience.
All of this has cultivated new challenges and opportunities for those in the packaging world that we’ve captured in 5 trends from packaging in 2016.
Technological advancements has given rise to the surge of personalization as we have begun witnessing in the last couple of years, with Nutella offering personalized jars, Heinz’ running a competition to win a personalized bottle of HP sauce for Father’s Day and, of course, Coca Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign, which brought the trend to the fore of global mainstream and proved to be extremely successful.
Some companies have experimented with interactive ways of personalization, allowing consumers to feel they are putting their mark on a brand to the point where it has entered the realm of co-creation. For example, Spirits brand Whiskey Blender set up a website where people could create their own blends from up to seven variants of the spirit and then design their own label for the bottle. Likewise, Heineken allowed customers to personalize six-packs of its beer in Europe.
Giving consumers the chance to customize products has the potential to create a new source of revenue; interestingly, almost a quarter of Chinese customers said they would pay more for personalized packaging (Mintel), and 61% of US customers feel more positive about a brand when marketing messages are personalized (Forbes).
Taking personalization one step further, we will likely see brands looking at how they can better use big data for personalization within particular target markets such as specific demographics, geographical area and interests.
2. Multi-Purpose Packaging
In a world where we already have to separate out waste into plastic, glass, paper, wood and compostable materials, it’s no surprise to see a shift toward the idea of product packaging that can be re-used within the home after the product itself has been consumed.
For this purpose, packaging is moving from having simple kerb appeal – the ability to stand out and sell the product on the shelf – into the realms of keep appeal. Product packaging that is aesthetically pleasing, and can work standalone as a piece of home decor is a potentially very marketable product differentiator, so understandably package designers are exploring this idea with fervour.
Even fully-disposable packaging is competing for a place on cupboard shelves, so designers are increasingly looking to make their products look beautiful in the home.
3. The Packaging Experience
Packaging design has become dominated by the need for brand recognition and variant identification and information. Consumers are increasingly looking for brands to entertain and engage them.
This is also showing up with regard to mobilization in packaging. Mobile-engaged packaging is on the rise as mobile technology is allowing for information to be communicated in both simple and smart ways. Now that the vast majority of consumers are smartphone savvy, brands are exploring Bluetooth LE and near-field communication (NFC) as new ways to present information and engage consumers. Beverage company Diageo has introduced NFC technology onto printed labels on liquor bottles. This technology works by sending signals over a short distance and thus can wirelessly speak to consumers’ smartphones.
Mintel’s Luttenberger says: “Brands and manufacturers are innovating packaging to keep global customers not only engaged, but to develop brand loyalty, which is becoming more and more tangible in this modern age where consumers have more choices than ever before across all packaged goods.”
4. Clear & Concise
It’s a theme that’s common to many fields of design, but perhaps no more so than packaging, that there’s a bent toward the idea of simplification. By reducing elements to their core purpose, a clarity of meaning and intention is conveyed, and the inherent beauty of the medium used can really shine. This tends to translate into text-heavy, bold and straightforward messages that quickly communicate the product’s benefits or features.
This approach plays well with the end consumers of products, helping to install trust in a brand, and creating a sense of power especially when viewed against competing products on store shelves.
5. Environmental Responsibility
As brands are searching for environmentally responsible packaging options, consumers are putting the onus on brands to do right by doing good by the Earth. The difficulty is that while consumers want it all, they generally aren’t willing to pay more to get it, and even basic recycling is too difficult for many. But two key initiatives are beginning to resonate: a focus on alternative package material sources, and catering to the 63% of U.S. consumers who’ve stated that reusable and repurposable packaging is a key purchasing driver. Going forward, brands cannot afford to ignore this “ecologically friendly” purchasing driver as they develop their brand positioning and marketing strategies.