Recently, a colleague asked about my thoughts on “naked” packaging. To be honest, I had not given it much thought because it seemed somewhat antithetical to the entire concept of packaging. So as I started my search for a recognized definition of “naked” packaging, I quickly discovered there is no definition in the context of an industry standard; if it does exist, it does so in the sense of a concept. It could refer to a total absence of external packaging, to an “un-packaging” of products reducing a conventional package to its minimum form, or to packaging that could be reused or recycled resulting in a zero negative environmental impact.
But I still wrestle with the question, is “naked” packaging something that can or should be achievable in consumer packaged goods (CPG)? CPG is a broad and diverse category covering packaged goods for cosmetics, foods, beverages and household care products – products that consumers use and replace with regularity. In contrast, durable goods or products are regularly used but infrequently replaced, which may also require packaging in some form. In further considering naked CPG food packaging, one has to factor in the issue of storage, sanitation, and hygiene – food safety – that ultimately will drive any modification or elimination of packaging. Consumers are not going to care about how many times you handle garbage bags but they will be concerned how many times their fellow consumers are in physical contact with something they eat.
BrandPackaging Magazine recently ran an interesting article on “naked” packaging, highlighting the work Lush, a U.K. based retailer has achieved in creating a “naked” or packaging-free product line. The re-visioning or reformulating of its product line was a high-risk proposition challenging the belief structure of its consumers, and transforming liquid shower gel products into solids that no longer require any form of packaging. The remaining products that have not been converted still require packaging in the conventional sense, and do so using reusable and/or recyclable materials. This represents a major shift in thinking – a commitment to challenge existing belief structures and effect positive change, and still create product satisfaction and brand loyalty.
While the notion of a “naked” product is intriguing, based on the Lush example, I should point out some important factors about being “naked” or package free that require consideration:
- Is your product compatible? Some products will always require packaging and not all products positively benefit from reformulation.
- If your product is not compatible either in composition or in package structure, how can you be as minimal as possible and still be environmentally aware?
- Minimal or environmentally neutral packaging isn’t an excuse for bad design. Marketing and creative teams must share an equal commitment to packaging reduction and still create superior design work with materials and techniques that complement the purpose of being “naked”.
The time is right. Consumers have started pushing toward the idea of “nakedness” with an increasingly critical awareness of product origin, composition, content, and preservation techniques. They are asking for products that are “naked” in the sense of being organic, non-GMO, free of additives or preservatives, practice humane treatment of animals, and that conserve resources and are actively seeking to reduce waste. Now is an opportune time to examine your products and consider the kind of process the Lush team worked through, challenging conventional thinking on how you formulate your product and packaging to minimize waste without any compromise to your brand image. If you can’t be “naked” in composition, at least make sure your packaging is as good for your consumers and the environment as the product.
Remember, “naked” or not, how we respond to a product is driven first by the perceptions created from the package it is in.
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