How Innovative Package Design Powers Packaging
By Becky Donner
Vice President, New Business Development | TricorBraun
The Multiple Benefits of Innovative Design
From its very beginnings, in the days of the wineskin, the woven basket and the clay pot, the primary purpose of packaging has been to protect its contents and make them easily portable and safely storable. That primary purpose has continued to be important through the history of packaging to this day.
Regulatory agencies are concerned about the safety of packaged foods and pharmaceuticals. There are pressures to make packaging materials recyclable and sustainable. Consumers demand packaging that is convenient to open and use. Retailers want no leakers and maximum shelf space utilization.
But these external pressures are secondary. In the final analysis, if the product is not protected, the manufacturer has nothing to sell.
The Evolution of Package Design
As civilization has evolved over the centuries, packaging has grown with it, from the early appearance of prepackaged foods such as boxed cereals and canned soups to today’s myriad of packaged products that fill giant stores to overflowing. And along the way, the packaging for those new products took on another role in addition to protecting its contents: branding.
That branding role led to the rise of new concepts—shelf presence, brand image, and retail positioning—and a new career—package design.
At the same time, products were also evolving, more manufacturers were entering commerce, and all manufacturers faced growing competition. The key to competing successfully in a crowded marketplace seemed to be to keep changing products to make them new and gain more of consumers’ attention. But that was an expensive process, and there was a limit to how much products could be changed.
The solution brand owners came up with was not to change the product but to change the packaging. Even popular and well-established products, from Coca-Cola® to Procter & Gamble’s Old Spice® aftershave, adopted new package designs to fend off competitors by injecting new shelf presence into traditional products.
In the last half of the 20th century, the life of the shopping consumer was becoming increasingly crowded with activities, the shelf-appeal “moment of truth” was becoming shorter and the competition for attention was intensifying. Product branding through packaging was booming, and innovation in package design was thought of almost exclusively as the creation of dynamic, eye-catching packaging with strong shelf presence.
But packaging professionals knew even then that, while an eye-catching package often creates a dramatic burst of initial sales, the true test of packaging success is in the repeat sale. Successful long product life results from careful research and planning that leads to both dramatic shelf presence and consumer satisfaction on multiple levels. They also know that, if a package cannot be cost-effectively manufactured, filled and distributed, it will never be truly successful.
That recognition led to the more mature concept of innovative package design, one that takes into account the entire life cycle of the package and its relation to its contents.
At the same time, some packaging distributors such as TricorBraun, who were deeply involved in developing new packages, began to step beyond their traditional role and take more control of the design of the packages they were developing for customers. Leveraging the expertise of all the vendors involved in the development of a package, for example, from mold makers to materials and component manufacturers, while maintaining central control of the process, made it possible to apply the new innovative design approach to the development of packaging.
In TricorBraun’s case, this was done by establishing the Design and Innovation Center.
The Multiple Benefits of Innovative Design
Given this history, what is the value of innovative package design? What does it add to a packaged product and what does it bring to the brand owner? There are three distinct benefits that innovative design brings to products and to their brand owners:
- The heightened shelf presence of well-designed, innovative packaging sells product
- Innovative packaging design lets brand owners refresh packaging to give products new impact without the expense of changing the product itself
- Innovative design projects an image of creativity for the brand owner.
Every brand owner wants to sell more products and to inject new life into existing products without the expense of changing the products. Some brand owners, however, have yet to appreciate the value of simply projecting an aura of creativity through its packaging that reflects on its products and on its image as a brand. One company that does so is the hello™ Brand (see the accompanying sidebar), which uses innovative package design not only to enhance the shelf presence of its products to increase sales, but also to project the brand image of a company creatively altering the way consumers look at oral care products.
The long-term value of that image is that consumers will be anticipating that future hello products will have a similarly unique approach to personal care. That gives hello a marketplace advantage before that next product has even hit the shelf.
How Did TricorBraun Say Hello to Innovation?
The concept behind hello® oral care products was both intensely simple and outrageously bold: to replace the dire warnings and fear-based messaging of traditional toothpastes, mouthwashes and breath sprays with modern, efficacious and positive products that are seriously friendly™. But taking this concept from grand, holistic idea to placing finished products encased in innovative, custom packaging on the crowded shelves of the drugstore was a Herculean task, one that TricorBraun was uniquely positioned to fulfill. Our talented team members brought their experience, innovative thinking, broad reach and total commitment to the project to deliver breakthrough packaging in record time. Working to bring these category disrupting products to market called upon the best of what our people and our company can do to make a customer’s vision become reality.
After identifying the opportunity and obtaining trademarks for the hello brand worldwide, founder and CEO Craig Dubitsky tapped the world renowned, award-winning design team at BMW Group’s DesignworksUSA to create packaging solutions that would bring the brand’s “seriously friendly” spirit to life. It was this unique pairing of a consumer packaged goods company and the design arm of the performance automotive leader that brought a balance of form and function while incorporating a thoughtful, user-centric sensibility to the initial packaging designs. And when Craig was ready to make the designs commercially viable, he called on TricorBraun, based on his past experiences with us as an early investor and board member at Method and co-founder and creative lead at eos products.
The Journey Begins
Craig knew from experience that TricorBraun was capable of providing the industrial design expertise, technical engineering skill, deep industry relationships and project management experience needed to bring his innovative and improved oral care products to market. In fact, it was because of our ability to execute the commercialization of the designs, deliver efficiencies in production and assembly and ensure quality at competitive prices that TricorBraun was the ideal partner to lead the project. The commercialization effort began as a collaborative relationship between TricorBraun’s Design and Innovation team and BMW Designworks. Each member of the TricorBraun team brought their expertise in what was commercially possible to the essential objective of creating packages that were fun, portable and looked as appealing at the end of their useful life cycle and they did on the shelf.
TricorBraun Leveraging Their Best
From the early days of the project, the entire TricorBraun team worked together to map out the scope of the undertaking by analyzing, managing, and optimizing the design process, the individual components, the timing challenges, the vendor selection and the milestones along the path to successful project execution. More importantly, they identified which partner providers could best execute individual tasks to meet hello’s aggressive timelines and exacting product specifications, and then ensured all parties worked together seamlessly throughout the project. By calling upon each partner’s unique expertise, TricorBraun continually was able to leverage the specific core competencies of a unique cross-functional team, providing the kind of value add service that TricorBraun is known for throughout the packaging industry.
After working together in an intensive design and engineering phase, six months remained to bring the products to market. Speed to market is another area in which TricorBraun excels, and this project showcased our ability to rise to any challenge. Mobilizing over 100 professionals in specialties ranging from complex project management, engineering, operations, quality control, logistics and tool building, the team was able to commercialize 20 different molds on three platforms - injection molding, extrusions blow molding and injection stretch blow molding – while working with 11 separate suppliers. In the end, with the entire team focused on the task, 17 skus in the hello family of products were delivered to stores and are now well on the way to revolutionizing the category.
Happiness Is A Job Well Done
After a rewarding and very busy commercialization period in which members of every team showed an inspiring level of dedication, hello shipped its unique, fully custom line of products complete and on time. The effort saw individuals ignore birthdays, cancel marathons they had trained for, and skip Valentine’s dates. The project brought out the best in TricorBraun’s people, where the core values of passion, integrity, service and a commitment to adding value were exhibited every day by nearly two dozen team members who managed the many, many moving parts of this large and challenging task. The results - a happy, friendly product on the shelves in retailers across the country and a happy, satisfied customer at hello - are reward enough. But the honor and privilege of working with the visionary, dedicated, talented,and hardworking people at hello and BMW DesignworksUSA was a bonus that many on the TricorBraun team will never forget.
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