A New Decade for Packaging: What’s Next?

Posted on Jan 9, 2020 by

On January 1, we not only celebrated advancing to a new year but also the conclusion and the arrival of a new decade. While the end of the year has traditionally been an occasion to evaluate where you have been and where you intend to go, the new decade brings the challenge of a longer look to the future – not just an examination of what you want to do but how you do it and remain relevant as the world is changing around you – at ever accelerating rates. And, packaging is no exception.

While we may wistfully long for the past and the way things “used to be”, the truth is those times are behind us, gone. How do we respond to change? How do we bring the best of ourselves to the process of change, and with it the flexibility required to navigate the upcoming decade? We can’t stop change, we can only respond to it – but how?

1. Resolve to Learn – While the core concept of packaging or product containment is to a great degree fixed, what is done with the containment systems and its environmental impact is changing. There is so much to learn that everything from CBD to plant-based and sustainable foods, sustainable packaging materials, private-label competition, and packaging’s fusion of digital, online and shelf-based packaging is being examined, analyzed and the information shared. Failure to understand such things as the materials used in a package structure along with the implications of the type of printing and finishing required will directly affect the quality of the end product. The more you have at least a working understanding in any of these areas, the more effective you will be in creating packaging and design solutions that will allow a product to succeed in this volatile market.

2. Learn to Listen – You cannot be an expert in all things but tapping into the power of experienced voices can help keep you aware of what markets are doing in response to consumers. The thing is, you have to listen to these voices, especially those of consumers who are using the power of their voice to influence the market in greater and greater ways. You should recognize their “power” is in demanding greater accountability for recyclability and sourcing for sustainability in both products and packaging materials, asking for far more transparency on the origin and processing of the products they consume. Be aware of what the markets are doing in response to consumer voices – if you aren’t listening even your best work won’t save you because it will fall on deaf ears.

3. Know Your Market  – If you haven’t guessed – learning and listening include knowing your market – you need more than a basic knowledge of your consumers and the competitive forces in the markets they face. To understand the consumer, you must have a solid working comprehension and awareness of the rising challenges of the multiple channels used to reach them. It goes without saying but to create and bring a brand story to the consumer, package design has to work effectively in all channels. The ability to sustain positive brand awareness requires consistent delivery of brand image and messaging whether the product exists on a retail shelf or is delivered to your door – consumers should take away a consistent, positive packaging/ product-driven experience.

4. Accept Change – Too frequently a packaging assignment revolves only around the visual impact a design has on the marketing team. While I do not want to minimize the importance of compelling design, the package is a primary platform for your brand in facilitating consumer purchase and in generating brand awareness. Embracing the relationship of design to branding helps propel the product to marketing success. The symbiotic relationship between color and images communicates luxury, economy, value or esteem in connecting the brand – to the product and to the consumer, and hopefully leads to repeated purchase. Creativity in packaging comes from the exchange of ideas and the challenge to conventional thinking – from change! Just because something has always been done a certain way doesn’t mean it is exempt from change or at least critical evaluation.

It is a new year, a new decade. The challenge we all face is keeping up with the pace of how consumers react to and interact with the package, regardless of the point of contact. This is a great time to refresh your viewpoint, skills, and knowledge. Step up to the changing demands in packaging and be brave in creating and bringing brand stories to the shelf, and exciting packaging/product-driven experiences to your consumers.


If you need help with a new approach to your packaging, contact us at 920-886-7727 or info@brand-directions.com  Throughout our 65 years of supporting customers with consumer brands large and small, we apply our experience and expertise to the entire process to create efficient and effective solutions.