Keep them coming back
I was recently invited to sum up packaging, and struggled to reduce to a few words a trillion-dollar industry that employs more than 60 million people and is involved in everything from batteries to high fashion.
My attempt included: resource-efficient, sustainable, innovative, user-friendly, eye-catching and engaging. Packaging that has these attributes is what I expect to see filling the shelves this year and over the next decade. I should have added 'retention', and underlined it several times in red ink.
At the heart of the vast range of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) is the desire for us to develop loyalties to commodities and keep purchasing them, ad infinitum. The sheer volume of choice available makes this increasingly difficult to achieve, however. Twenty years ago, you could opt for Coke or Pepsi, but now the CSD category has more than 100 options, while the bottled water market has exploded in the last decade and a half from about 20 key brands to more than 350.
There is little to distinguish one product from another, particularly where bottled water is concerned; in the last two weeks I have tried ten different brands, and would be hard pressed to recall any differences, aside from a wild variation in price (between about 45p and £1.95).
I have mentioned before the focus on occasion, and this is vital to successfully keeping customers in today's packed FMCG market. If there is a story, a memory, shared experience, or something that makes the product move from something picked up in a hurry to an essential part of your day, that brand has achieved a phenomenal success.
Packaging must keep consumers engaged far past the point of purchase and avoid the pitfall of treating existing customers like second-class citizens. The latter is something mobile phone operators and utilities are guilty of.
We live in a hyper-connected world, researching our purchase decisions and asking friends for help, almost until the moment of purchase, and the instant we feel unappreciated by a brand, we will make our feelings known immediately, virally and globally. A reputation that took 100 years to build can be decimated by one dissatisfied customer with a Twitter account.
Keep consumers engaged in your story, brand and product, and they will keep coming back to you, rather than your competition.