Posted by: SGK | Date added: Wed 14 Mar 2018
The first bite is with the eyes, which is why big brands spend millions on creating compelling packaging that earns its space on shelf and appeals to target demographics.
Packaging has always been the final and most immediate opportunity for consumer engagement and brand presence, supporting above- and below-the-line marketing spend.
With the continuing extension of marketing channels — thanks to online and social platforms and innovation made possible by new production technology — the scope for creative, game-changing approaches to packaging strategy, design and delivery has never been greater.
The need for a consistent, joined-up approach from strategy and concept through to finished product on shelf has also never been greater. At Equator, we have pioneered the under-one-roof concept to packaging design — first in the UK and Ireland, now in the U.S. — challenging both the packaging sector and the world of brands and retail to rethink definitions of quality and consumer engagement.
The creative connection
A key benefit of designing packaging for brands or retailers in the digital age of consumer-driven content is that there is so much potential for integrated campaigns and amplification of the pack across multiple channels to aid consumer recognition and pull-through in store.
The flip side of that, however, is the level of white noise in the consumer’s consciousness, creating a need for compelling packaging that appeals to the target demographic at every touchpoint, especially on shelf, in store.
Consequently, connectivity between strategy, design and delivery is vital to developing packaging that works for the brand or retailer and appeals to all target demographics. Research is indispensable both to establish the wider landscape of decision-making factors for the consumer — such as lifestyle, dietary concerns and social influences, for example — and to determine the competitive context and relevant trends that will drive current and future buying habits.
Traditionally, one of the major issues for product managers has been the disconnect between the research process, strategy development and delivery. Firstly, the research has to be robust enough to push back on client assumptions, even if that assumed knowledge is widely accepted and entrenched within their organisation. That pushback may even mean challenging the client to think outside their comfort zone and interrogate their brand footprint.
Secondly, the research has to be analysed by experienced packaging strategists and designers to translate those insights into a strategy and concept that supports the product or range — be it nationally or privately branded — and engages effectively with consumers. Knowledge lost in translation at any point in the delivery chain is an opportunity overlooked, and Equator’s under-one-roof model has been created to edit that possibility out of the packaging development process.
The retail revolution
While Equator’s under-one-roof approach has been closing the gaps between packaging development and delivery processes, integrating disciplines to ensure marketing, commercial and practical consideration are aligned, the retail landscape has seen extraordinary change. And that change is still happening.
Over the past 20 years, Equator has rewritten the packaging rulebook in the UK, helping retailers to challenge brands with exciting private brand ranges that achieve standout on shelf and generate high sales volumes. We’re now igniting the U.S. market with that experience, aided by the growth of discounters in the States and a cultural shift, driven by millennials, that is increasingly prompting purchasing choices based on price and quality rather than brand loyalty.
As a result, retailers have an opportunity to drive sales through tactical creation of products and ranges that appeal to growth demographics and challenge the dominance of major brands. The goal for private brand products is to create something aspirational, quirky and/or niche enough to appeal to consumers without taking the concept beyond the boundaries of buyers’ purchasing habits or above a cost threshold that would prevent it being commercially viable for the retailer.
Again, Equator’s integrated approach from research and strategy through to concept, design, photography and production enables these varied and potentially conflicting considerations to be factored into a single, successful creative process.
Meanwhile, technology is enabling us to challenge traditional norms in the way we design and produce packaging, from the use of materials to limited-edition runs and personalisation of packs. Consequently, we can challenge both brands and retailers to think creatively with their packaging strategy, introducing more seasonality into the range, for example, to drive sales opportunities for calendar dates like Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, or creating packaging-based campaigns with on-pack promotions.
Product strategy integration
In the UK, the appetite for rapid change on shelf, transitory special or seasonal products, and range extensions is already well-established across the brand, retail and consumer communities. We’re now seeing those same trends in the U.S., and Equator’s integrated, interdisciplinary, transatlantic team is able to offer valuable insights and experience on both sides of the pond.
For example, we’re already seeing tiering of private brand ranges across our work with Aldi in both territories, and our SEG projects in the U.S. have confirmed this as an established trend in the American market. As the discounters continue to gain ground in the U.S., this focus on private brand looks set to continue, and this seems likely to act as a catalyst for innovation in packaging strategies for branded goods too.
Our aim is to work with retail and brand clients that are bold enough to involve us with their customer engagement and sales strategy, rather than seeing packaging in isolation. In this way, packaging becomes part of the product strategy, using the target demographic and the trends influencing that demographic to input into elements as diverse as recipe and nutritional content all the way through to colour palette and typography.
The crest of the wave
This partnership between product and packaging development will characterise the standout ranges for both brands and retailers going forward. Working with a packaging specialist that can advise on current trends and anticipate future developments will set apart those brands and retailers that truly place strategic creativity at the heart of their product development process.
And with so many emerging trends to work with, these are exciting times in packaging design across all categories. From the humanization of pet food to the rise of the “free from” aisle for special dietary needs and affordable aspirational products for lifestyle-focused millennials, categories are expanding and diversifying.
Packaging is playing a major role in prompting consumers to engage with products that defy established buying habits, and Equator’s under-one-roof proposition joins the dots between market insight and project delivery, taking projects from design to shelf without compromise and making us uniquely placed to help brands and retailers ride that wave successfully.
Gary Flynn, Managing Director, Equator, is a 30-year veteran of the packaging industry. Gary held progressively senior packaging roles starting as a designer with UK retailer Co-op to setting up his own creative agency GJ Creative with a business partner in 1997. He opted to merge with Equator in 2012 to drive growth across the UK, US and Ireland markets. Equator is a design agency with subject matter experts in grocery retail and CPG brands, with the rare capability to take brands from creation to shelf with the under-one-roof model, which is replicated successfully across all locations. The company became part of the leading global brand development group, SGK, in 2017.