Packaging used to serve a purely functional role—it stated its purpose, carried the brand logo, product name and instructions on how to use. However, the internet has created a marketplace for the unique; for artisan and products with personalities to cater to our individual needs. We increasingly expect something to be more than just one dimensional, to be dual purpose or to tell a larger story. As a result, we now see packaging taking on an additional role and being used to connect with consumers in a novel way that delivers that the depth and value we have come to expect.
Some of the current techniques being used have been around for decades, but with development in printing methods and the introduction of new technologies, CPG brands can now add a unique spin. The result is a delightful connection with consumers that provides another channel to engage, helping brands create a deeper emotional connection and build a more personal relationship.
So, how can brands use their packaging to create this new bond?
Not a new trick but when done well, it can be incredibly effective. Brands have long been working with the latest films, fashion labels and celebrities to create limited-edition versions of their products — just think of all the cereal boxes you’ve seen throughout history and the variety of Disney characters that adorned them. But when there’s a really good brand fit, this doesn't just become a marketing tactic, it becomes a part of the brand story. Tic Tac did exactly that with their partnership with the “Minions” movie and their Minions packaging. Through social listening, they discovered that fans were already taking their product, which are coincidentally shaped very similar to those lovable characters, and drawing on the pieces to create their own inedible Minions. Tic Tac took it one step further and printed the characters directly on Tic Tacs so they would still be edible, ultimately creating the must have CPG product of summer. Not only did the product sell out and cause a bidding war on eBay, but their social channels were flooded with fans going crazy for them.
Another example of clever licensing this year was when Barbasol and “Jurassic Park” ignited nostalgia by reviving the tie-in between the brand promise of a close shave and the movie theme. Playing off the placement in the first film, where the Barbasol can was used to smuggle dinosaur embryos, they created limited-edition collector cans featuring the different dinosaurs these embryos became. They sparked collectibility with a call to action to capture them all before they’re gone.
Personalization provides a way for the consumer to easily connect with the brand and even turn an everyday product into a gifting occasion. Coke has paved the way for personalized packaging, but brands like Nutella and M&Ms do a great job as well. Recently we saw Snickers create their own version, extending their “You’re not you when you’re hungry” campaign into a participation platform-centered around their packaging printed with hunger symptoms like cranky, grouchy, confused and irritable. These candy bars serve a dual purpose, a bit of self-vindication as well as creating a humorous excuse to connect with friends and colleagues, but perhaps using the less insulting ones like rebellious, sleepy, princess or goofball.
Smart packaging is on its way and I don’t mean QR codes. With the increased use of Apple Pay and digital wallet usage, consumers are becoming more familiar with NFC technology and it’s ability to communicate through mobile. When applied to packaging it will undoubtedly open a new media channel. Currently, tech in packaging is restricted to larger experiential usage like beer brands using RFID in their bottles, but soon, thanks to improved printing techniques, we will be able to use NFC in almost any packaging to instantly communicate with our customers by telling a story or providing an offer, instructions, suggestions. We’ve already started seeing it on Johnnie Walker Blue Label and Remy Martin bottles to reassure customers that their bottle is genuine, never been opened while also communicating their brand story.
Packaging represents a huge opportunity for brands to tap into. With the right application and insights it can be turned into a powerful media channel that communicates and appeals to a diverse audience, enhances your brand message and leverages whatever is relevant in that moment. We increasingly expect more from brands and what they can deliver, so why should packaging be any different?