This year's ENG Packaging Summit in Madrid marked milestones in the history of ENG and Interbrand Spain, both celebrating 10th anniversaries. Borja Borrero, Executive Creative Director EMEA (Western Europe) & Latin America at Interbrand chaired the summit, which focused on the future of packaging. He was joined by numerous leading brands, including Coca-Cola, adidas, Heineken, Nestlé, and Colgate Palmolive.
The focus of the conference was to discuss new challenges for packaging design, looking specifically at design management, sustainability, enhanced functionality, and consumer engagement. Helping to open up that conversation, Els Dijkhuizen, Concept Development Manager at Heineken, gave a presentation called, "How to stay appealing and cool without ever changing the product." Dijkhuizen stressed how crucial a role design plays for Heineken, since the product could not be changed: "If you want to be successful, you have to invest in innovative design!" For Heineken, an innovative design strategy is about connecting, involving, and engaging.
Ana Isabel Terrés Hernández, Group Packaging Manager at DIA, one of the biggest discount retailers in the world and a current client of Interbrand Madrid, explained the importance of customizing its brands in the different Latin American countries where it operates. By targeting the local identity in each region, DIA is able to engage with its clients on a more personal and meaningful level.
The concept of “inclusive design” in packaging was also introduced during the presentation by Ross Taylor, Senior Designer R&D at Nestlé. According to Taylor, making things easier for customers by introducing small changes to packaging adds value to the final product. Since user-centered design contributes to an overall richer customer experience, thoughtful packaging enhancements tend to drive preference as well. While something as obvious as making products easy to open and close might seem like a design no-brainer, Taylor illustrated, through numerous examples, that user-friendliness is not always the priority it should be. Building on this idea, Emilie Martory, International Marketing Manager at Nestlé Waters France, acknowledged that Nestlé knew it would lose consumers every day if they couldn't open a bottle of water easily. Whether considering the general public—which usually prefers fast and easy over complicated—or people with special needs such as the elderly or visually impaired, customer-centered convenience packaging will only become more important as the pace of life quickens and aging populations grow.
In world that is becoming more digital by the day, consumers have unprecedented opportunities to research, compare, discuss, and discern. With this shift, businesses are under more pressure to differentiate their products and strengthen their identities. For that reason, the role of packaging has evolved as a driver of business. It is "the expression of the soul of the product," as Apivita’s Head of Sustainability, Anagnosti Choukalas, put it so beautifully. It is that image—the product in its package—that enables people to connect with the brand in person and via other channels, including social media.
However, placing the packaging issue in a broader context, Interbrand’s Borja Borrero stressed the importance of taking a holistic view in branding, reminding attendees that packaging is only one of multiple consumer touchpoints with the brand. Although it is often one of the most relevant touchpoints (as is the case in FMCG), “packaging should not be understood in an isolated manner, but as part of a holistic ‘brand story’ that expresses through all touchpoints (advertising, web, promotions, etc.),” Borrero said. He also emphasized that it’s important to be aware of “key packaging trends such as the eco-digital approach, where no extra packaging is used unless absolutely necessary, as well as broader trends such as the hyperpersonalization of products and services and more dynamic forms of storytelling, such as ‘liquid content.’” “Dynamic storytelling,” Borrero asserted, “will become ever more important in the post-digital world. Attracting and engaging consumers with narratives that are unified across platforms (from analog to digital) will be essential to helping consumers identify and properly value the packaging proposal offered when they reach the shopping aisle.”
The summit’s overall message was that product packaging in 2014 has to stand out, convey a story, and create meaningful connections, all within an ever-shrinking window of time. "Speed is the new currency," as Till Schütte, Coca-Cola’s former European Head of Design, put it. Therefore, it is time to start re-thinking packaging.
Packaging Design needs a (flexible) system, must allow for consistency and customization, and must be approached with sustainability in mind. Remember, the pack is the brand in your hand. What does it reflect? Business as usual? Or innovation? Dig deeper to figure out how you can make your packaging work harder for your brand.
By adopting a more inclusive, user-focused approach and creating an effective packaging design system for complex brand architectures and product lines, brands can achieve deeper engagement with consumers and future-proof their businesses.
As Nestlé’s Ross Taylor summed it up, packaging is "all about connecting with people who are using it." In a world that is shaping up to be increasingly collaborative and co-creative, this is precisely where the focus of package design should be. Borrero concludes, “More than ever before, within this digital context, where B2C has evolved to B&C, businesses and consumers want to find relevant solutions for packaging while bearing in mind the social responsibility they now share.”
Nicole Heise is a Business Development Manager, New Business, Interbrand Hamburg
Angela Rodrigo is a Communication Coordinator, Marketing/New Business, Interbrand Madrid