When it comes to product innovation, packaging is arguably just as important as the product itself. But did you know packaging innovation is also important when it comes to services?
If you are not yet an expert on packaging innovation, don't panic! Here is a summary of everything you need to know!
Marketing. Perhaps most obviously, packaging plays a key role in whether or not your product is plucked from the shelf or selected in an on-line shop display. Attractive packaging can help sell your product. Ugly packaging, can be a turn-off. Packaging usually promotes the brand image.
Communication. Closely related to marketing, packaging must communicate certain things to consumers, such as what is inside the box. In places like Belgium, where there are multiple languages, the packaging must communicate in multiple languages. In addition to words, packaging may include images and graphics that typically communicate how to use the product.
Safety. In some cases, packaging is directly related to safety. Good packaging can preserve food products longer, ensuring they do not expire too quickly. Likewise, dangerous chemicals need to be packaged in such a way as to ensure they do not leak from their containers, explode or otherwise harm the end user. Packaging should protect fragile objects and protect everyone from dangerous products.
Costs. Particularly in business to business products which are bought in bulk and shipped great distances, packaging that is lighter and takes up less space reduces shipping costs. In some cases, the savings can be substantial.
Environment. Although this remains less of a concern than it should, packaging does affect the environment. In most cases, it is disposed of as soon as the product is purchased. Small products encased in large, plastic packaging are not particularly environmentally friendly. I expect this is an area that will become increasingly important as consumers become more concerned about the environment.
Legislation. Legislation often affects packaging design. In most countries, cigarette packaging must include specific warning messages. Food products usually need to communicate certain information, such as ingredients and sometimes nutritional data. Hazardous products need to be packaged safely.
Packaging is not limited to manufactured products. Services are also packaged, albeit in different ways. An upmarket Thai restaurant, for instance, would likely have traditional Thai decor and dress service staff in traditional costumes. Menus would likely be printed on quality paper in a nice folder.
Uniforms can be important. A plumber in clean, branded overalls probably gives the impression of being more professional than one who wears old jeans and a t-shirt. As a result, the former could probably charge higher fees than the latter!
Even a one person business, such as a consultant or trainer, should think about packaging. This might start with how you dress yourself. If you are a mechanic, you'd probably aim for overalls or similar. If you are senior management coach, you would be more likely to go for a conservative suit. As someone who does energetic talks and workshops for businesses, government bodies and non-profit organisations, I aim for comfortable, business casual occasionally with a slight flamboyant touch. After all, my focus is on creativity!
Here, women have a clear advantage over men. There is much wider range of clothing that can be worn and which can express style, personal branding and personality while still remaining acceptable business attire. Sure, I could wear a lovely dress when I do my next workshop. But it would probably give the wrong impression!
On-line packaging is very important. Nowadays, people at least research purchases on-line. Many people also buy on-line. Nearly all of my business comes via web queries from creativejeffrey.com and this newsletter. If your business aims to appear ultra-trendy, you want to be sure you have a trendy web site.
Social media has become increasingly important -- but this is problematic. You may well have a Facebook page, Linkedin profile and Twitter account for your business. And you can personalise these to fit corporate style, at least to some extent. But, ultimately, you are putting your packaging inside Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter packaging. Worse, they could change their style overnight -- and that affects your packaging and how people see your products or services.
Ultimately, then, it is best not to see social media as a final destination. Rather, it should be a conduit that leads people to your web site, your shop or a place that sells your products in your packaging.
That's a lot of packaging -- even for a one person service business! However, in this competitive business world, you probably need to innovate your packaging regularly in order to stay fresh and ahead of the competition. An out-of-date web site might give the impression you are out of business. Wearing super-tight black jeans and a black t-shirt might come across as trendy. But it would not win you much business as an accountant for most companies.
In order to ensure your packaging is up to date, reflects your business image and communicates the right things, you need to innovate. If your packaging is affected by legislation, you also need to innovate to ensure that the legally required elements have minimal negative effect. For instance, if you are selling frozen, microwaveable deep-fried butter, you might want to play down the nutritional horrors of your food product (apparently, deep-fried butter really exists and can be bought in parts of the USA!).
This web site is full of articles about how to think more creatively and innovate more effectively -- so browse away. But before you can begin to get creative about your packaging, you need to reflect on the issues above. What is the technical purpose of your packaging? What do you wish to communicate? What restrictions do you need to keep in mind? Once you have a clear idea of what your packaging should be all about, it becomes easier to develop a vision for your packaging.
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