Oct 18, 2017

How the functional and strategic role of the packaging changes


In the past, the most important purpose of the packaging was to protect the product during shipping and storage.

In a world where choice on the shelf was limited and the online distribution channels did not compromise the dominance of the offline channels, the functional role of the packaging was to be a strategic and differentiating tool, capable of clearly communicating product's properties, with a colour and design that made it appealing to consumers.

Today, not only has the strategic role become increasingly important but also its functional role has gained new significance.

From product integrity to increased convenience

Consumers have become more and more in-tune and aware, and consequently more attentive to every detail: they select products according to the way in which the packaging makes the product easier to carry, open and use. Its functional role is no longer just "business-centric" but consumer-centric. The packaging protects the products more and more efficiently from exposure to external factors and is the key to optimising logistics. But not just that: most importantly, it has become the fifth pillar of marketing, that makes the product convenient to consume anywhere and at any time, in line with consumer habits.

Amcor PushPop combines fun and functionality in a single, easy-to-open package: a convenient snack for any time of the day.

Domino's Pizza has made the box for its pizza an element of entertainment, designing it based on the consumer habits of its users.

From conveying a message to incorporating it

Its functional consumer-centric role is all the more significant when the packaging becomes the differentiating tool amongst the information noise from the products on the shelf (online and offline), not only capable of conveying a message, but also incorporating it. The packaging is now part of the products themselves and is increasingly playing a crucial role in enhancing the value of the product. It supports our lifestyles and consumption choices, and strengthens the identity value of the products. The ability to use packaging as a marketing tool is now a well-known principle, but today more than ever, the packaging is the message; it is the story of the product and the brand's values.

For the labels of its bottles, Leeds Juicery, a brand of juices, uses paper made of sugar. The objective? The freshness and the composition of the product. To remind you that Leeds Juicery products are fresh and preservative-free, and that they need to be consumed within 48 hours and kept away from the light, the label says that "sugar paper also has the beautiful characteristic of changing in prolonged sunlight, just as the ingredients of the product".

Saltwater Brewery is a microbrewery founded in Florida in 2013 by "sea-lovers". Each artisan beer has a name inspired by the ocean to reflect the lifestyle and passion of the Founders. The objective of Saltwater Brewery is to minimise the impact of the beer packaging on the sea. A great step forward has been achieved with their creation of the first six-pack rings to be biodegradable in water and nutritious for marine creatures.

This Too Shall Pass has launched packaging made of agar-agar algae gel and water. Once open, the packaging will decompose at the same speed as its contents.

Packaging still continues to play a functional and strategic role for the products it contains: if its functional role has changed focus, its strategic role has gained momentum. Functionality has increasingly shifted towards the consumer, and the form has become the substance itself: the product message and information is no longer merely "conveyed" through the wrapper, it becomes its basic ingredient.

Today, more and more, it is a case of the form being the substance and the packaging being the message.

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