Showing posts with label Packaging. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Packaging. Show all posts

Friday, February 2, 2024

Imposter Packaging

Personal care product packaging that evokes emotions associated with popular foods and beverages may not hold water.

You reach for those bars of soap and sniff on them, and they remind you of your favorite foods – enough to want to take a bite. There are liquid soaps filled in cartons which at a glance look like fruit juices. I recently spotted a brand of shaving cream labeled as ‘Coffee Shaving Cream’ that is probably trying to find appeal among the caffeinated.

It’s the real-world equivalent of click-bait, gimmicks in the appearance and other sensory aspects of a product such as fragrances, shapes and colors. While they might catch one’s eye in a store, they risk not being taken seriously. They also may be an accident away from being abandoned or becoming a legal or public relations nightmare, no matter what the fine print on the package says.

What can marketers learn from such imposter packaging? There are probably many unwritten commonsense rules in product differentiation through packaging and their sensory experience. Let us consider a few.

  1. If a product that’s not meant for ingesting can be mistakenly consumed as a drink or food item because of its packaging, placement or appearance on a retail store shelf, tell your designers to not go there with their design. The color of liquids in clear bottles is equally important – absolutely do not make it look like a popular drink, and hope that your customer is not color-blind.
  1. Do not assume that all your customers will read and understand labels on your clever packaging. Task your designer to come up with graphics, signs and symbols to communicate warnings or usage instructions on the packaging. Run your designs by children – they have a refreshing way of looking at the world without biases. Show the design to the elderly; they have seen too much of the world. Find a happy medium between those two opinions.
  1. If you want to differentiate your product, create a unique design for your packaging that becomes your brand’s signature. Do not cut corners by using milk cartons to package soaps, chemicals and oil-based products. Not only is that deceptive to the customer of a soap, but also disappointing for the connoisseur of milk or juices.
  1. One way to differentiate your packaging is to make it easy to be opened by arthritic customers with perhaps a self-contained opening tool, and child-proofed where needed.
  1. Make art that doubles as packaging so customers will covet it. Make it reusable for multiple purposes so that empty packages do not end up in landfills. Give your packaging a life beyond the expiration of the product it carries and your return on branding investment will improve dramatically.
If you are in the business of selling non-food products that smell like popular foods, consider adding a warning label for your customers: “This product may cause hunger pangs in those you meet. For best outcomes, avoid meetings before lunch hour.” 

Monday, May 29, 2023

Rethinking outside the box

Ecommerce companies ought to redesign their services for the last mile first and stop boxing shoppers into a corner.

Our penchant for instant gratification through ecommerce has resulted in an issue that is not discussed enough. Homeowners Associations (HOA) are grappling with an interesting direct-to-consumer business (DTC) induced problem (and a new revenue opportunity) – shipping boxes thrown in the trash without being broken down can result in penalties for homeowners.

Retirement communities seem to be facing this challenge because the elderly or those with arthritic limbs are physically unable to break down shipping boxes. There is at least one recycling company that offers a service to break down boxes for something like $3 per box, as I recall. Free shipping isn’t free because of this lurking lingering cost.

Some of the boxes are nearly indestructible, making for a mini-workout every time you try to break them down – both physical and mental workout because if you want to be effort-efficient, you must deconstruct the box in your mind before you can flatten it for disposal. Some trash collection services are refusing to accept unflattened boxes. Mobility-impaired residents, especially in retirement communities must wait for stronger neighbors to do them a favor and help break down shipping boxes. Boxes build bonds.

Amazon got rid of many vacuum sealed products that required industrial strength tools to unpack. Still, 43% of their deliveries are in boxes. Their Frustration Free Packaging (FFP) initiative seems to focus on materials being recyclable, not on the ease of their disposal.

How does one effect change when online shopping is a way of life? The industry should have focused on the last mile delivery first. Changing that would be difficult in the west, though ecommerce stragglers like India seem to be getting it right because home delivery has been prevalent long before ecommerce.

There may be some unexplored solutions. The packaging industry could raise awareness through conferences such as Pack Expo, the premier industry conference by Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute (PMMI), the trade association for packaging and processing technologies. One-touch collapsible boxes must become the norm, not just one click shopping.

Simultaneously, social commerce influencers could talk about box disposal after a shipment has been received, including ergonomically sound ways of breaking down a box.

Changing shopping culture is not easy but educating buyers may be possible if reviewers who post unboxing videos could append a segment on box disposal after they unbox products.

The other stakeholders who could help with the remnants of an ecommerce delivery could be the shipping company. Offer a haul away service for empty boxes the following day and repurpose the boxes. Offer unpacking services and same day haul away.

These changes in the supply chain will require stewardship from ecommerce leaders like Amazon and Walmart, packaging industry advocacy groups and last-mile delivery organizations.

Until then, box breakdown businesses could be the new newspaper route for DTC era kids or an additional service for their lawn moving clients.