Packaging Design Trends: Where Brand Identity Meets Economies of Scale
by Liz Abrams, CaseStack Marketing Manager
The carton, jar or tube propped on that drug store shelf provides the first impression of your product to the consumer. Everyone knows then, that your packaging is critical to the success of your product. Its color, shape, even texture helps define your brand, so as your company image alters, so should your packaging.
But there is another side to that jar of whipped blush your shopper is considering, perhaps more now than ever. They want sustainable goods with less environmental impact, and are clamoring for them during a slow economy. In essence, your shopper has adopted the idea that less is more, making your goal to reduce waste and reduce price. Forward-thinking executives know packaging should take into account both environmental and logistics costs. If done correctly, beauty, sustainability and cost can all be accounted for to create a beautiful and inexpensive ‘green’ product that saves you money and increases sales.
Beauty: Please the Eye
Undoubtedly you’ve noticed the recent packaging evolution of your favorite cosmetics and fragrances. Instead of intricate, detailed and often overworked tubes, labels and logos, companies are streamlining their look and projecting a clearer image of their product to their shoppers in the process. The reasoning goes that consumers equate simplicity with good taste and high quality.
MAC and NARS cosmetics follow this trend succinctly. Simple, white logos on black packaging make for a professional and therefore, high-end look that rivals that of more expensive brands. The message here: “Let the product speak for itself.” The more involved the packaging, the more difficult it is for the consumer to discern what it is they are buying – pretty packaging or a sound product. In some cases, consumers even equate intricate labels and signature shaped compacts to lower quality goods, relying on the theory that your product lacks sophistication if the packaging does not project that professional look.
This trend toward simplicity is emerging throughout the consumer product goods industry. Not limited to health and beauty items, consumers are watching as their favorite food and beverage brands undergo makeovers to look more streamlined. Labels and even company logos are making the transition from demonstrative to demure in an effort to project a clean, fresh and more economical image.
Sustainability: Please the conscience
After determining your look, you are on to form and function, a perfect place to become more sustainable. Remember though, that your shopper demands economy in addition to sophistication in her products. This is essential to embracing sustainability, as the truly green product will naturally cost less to produce as a result of waste reduction. Shoppers are savvier at discerning truly sustainable goods from those simply nodding their head at going green. In line with the idea of simplicity over opulence, consumers now prefer natural over synthetic. The number of sustainable products grew 79 percent between 2007 and 2008, and 66% of retailers are transitioning to sustainable products, according to the TerraChoice 2009 Greenwashing Report and the Retail Industry Leaders Association, respectively. What does this mean? Shoppers want true sustainability reflected in their purchases, so don’t make an inauthentic effort at going green.
Remember packaging must be durable, flexible and light. Review your product: Does it tend to lose its scent if left out for an extended period of time or does it tend to absorb the scents of products around it? Is it delicate, requiring several layers of packaging? What about damages? Is your claims rate on an incline? Enlist key people from each point in your product lifecycle: development, production, sales, marketing and operations.
Consult industry associations with experience. The Sustainable Packaging Coalition endorses several packaging methods. Consider both reducing and revamping your packaging materials. Alcan Packaging Beauty, for example, offers three lightweight eco-friendly tubes. Their Access Denied tube has a tear-off band integrated into the cap, so that it is naturally tamper-resistant and eliminates the need for a shrink sleeve.
Also speak with expert logistics providers with knowledge of your product line and ask them about increasing pack out. You’ll save on outer packaging and also cut back on transportation costs, getting increased density per pallet. Remember that becoming sustainable also has marketing benefits. The world’s largest retailer uses both its Sustainable Packaging Scorecard and its Sustainability Product Index as litmus tests between suppliers. Rating well enhances your relationship with your retailer and offers the chance to market yourself as truly sustainable.
Logistics: Please the wallet
Now that your product has a fresh face and a lightweight more compact design, it’s time to find a logistics provider to safely store and ship your goods. Logistics costs account for 6.9 percent of consumer product goods company sales. Of that, 38 percent is associated with outbound customer transportation, according to the Grocery Manufacturers Association. Can you afford to not review ways to save money on transportation and warehousing? Relying on your shipping department to call around for the best quote is no way to efficiently ship or monitor your product. Consider outsourcing to a logistics provider with longstanding relationships with hundreds of carriers. Their large shipping volume will dictate a much more competitive rate.
Also look for someone with experience shipping similar products. Find a provider with a solid stock rotation program and a web-based ordering and tracking system that keeps the manufacturer in control of inventory. Freshness is critical with cosmetics, skincare and fragrance items, so you’ll need to be able to monitor your goods’ best buy dates in real time. Retailers order quickly and stock smaller and smaller inventories, so providers must be able to cross dock and handle the occasional pick and pack order as well. And don’t forget to ask whether they routinely keep strongly-scented items apart to prevent cross contamination.
Finally, you also have an opportunity to cut transportation costs and keep rising fuel costs at bay. Level the playing field between you and your larger competitors by joining a retailer consolidation program like those at CaseStack, Hanson Logistics and Millard. As part of such a program, your product is combined with other products all requested by the retailer in a master purchase order. Your would-be less-than-truckload order is then shipped on a full truck, affording you truckload pricing instead of costly LTL rates. You also shorten your delivery times, improve your lead time, and reduce your damages. The resulting savings can be applied to shelf price, showing your shopper that you not only believe in reducing excess, but you believe in passing the savings on to them.
Suppliers and manufacturers experience conservation in the form of reduced transportation costs and you no longer have to sacrifice service levels. Dan Sanker, CEO of CaseStack, explained, “That old mantra of cutting quality or distribution for the sake of transportation costs is over. When you join a consolidation program like ours, the provider works directly with the retailers. We transform LTLs into full trucks, cutting costs by 20 to 40 percent. On-times increase 20 percent and we take millions of pounds of carbon emissions out of the equation. Plus, our customers’ sales increase as well.”
Advanced Beauty Systems, a CaseStack consolidation customer and beauty care supplier, has saved thousands of dollars in damages and cut more than 67.7% of their carbon emissions. With consolidation, you guarantee both monetary and environmental benefits. The emphasis of going ‘green’ stems from the need to do more with less, and your packaging is a perfect platform upon which to show that you understand and appreciate the way that concept has affected your consumer. By retooling your packaging’s look, structure and delivery, you stand to simultaneously improve your consumer’s first impression, save money, and improve sales.
The above article appeared in the April issue of Global Cosmetics Industry.