7 Ways The Packaging Game Has Changed

November 24, 2017

Co-authored by Sanjana Mathur, Ronita Mukerjee & Hiren Dedhia

It’s November, and those of us who have been glued to our desks all year long are already gearing up for December. Here at Landor (amidst frantic holiday planning) we felt this was a great opportunity to reflect on the year 2017 – and what a year it’s been!

We saw an explosion in FMCG and packaging projects, everything from alcohol to milk, from indulgent to healthy, from mass to premium. After spending the year soaking in consumer profiles, printing, prototyping and testing, three of us (from across client management, strategy, and design) wanted to pen down some of our learnings on what is going on in this space.

Here are 7 ways the packaging game has changed.

(Note: We wish we could illustrate all our points with projects we are working on, but in cases where the brands haven’t yet launched, we have used external examples)

1. Talk to Me

Brands today have to engage consumers, and this means speaking their language. That’s why tone-of-voice is a really effective tool for brands to start a conversation on pack. With voice-led packaging design, personality wins! This shift requires that the packaging is shaped by the copywriter just as much as the designer. When we were working on packaging for Ching’s Secret Snacky Oats, we realized how crucial it is to have a deep understanding of the consumer you’re talking to, and what their world looks like. When brands successfully achieve this, consumers are won over by a brand that is able to show that they ‘get it’.

2. Black is Beautiful

As Indians have more disposable income, they want version 2.0 of their biscuits and their shampoo. For FMCG brands, this translates into an urgent need to premiumize, i.e. launching premium variants and/or sub-brands to tap into this growing need. We see this clearly with the Proagri packaging. Design-wise, where black was once taboo, it is increasingly embraced as a signal of premiumness. Where glossy surfaces were once the key to catch attention, matte finishes and tactile seduction are now what convince consumers of superior quality and craftsmanship.

3. Front-of-Pack is the New Back-of-Pack

Remember when nutritional information was just the mandatory mumbo-jumbo to be slapped onto the back-of-pack? Gone are those simple days. Today’s informed consumer understands the meaning of ‘Omega 3’ and ‘Antioxidants’. This makes it worthwhile to utilize more of the precious real-estate on the front-of-pack being to highlight functional benefits and give the consumer a reason to believe. For designers, packaging like Kosh is an exercise in hierarchy of information and iconography to communicate benefits.

4. A Punch of Protein

Picking up where the previous trend left off, we have seen at least 3 different brands capitalizing on protein as a solution for the modern consumer’s hectic lifestyle. It is no longer the sole domain of body-builders and nutritionists. Protein enhanced food and beverage options espouse an active and on-the-go aesthetic, feeding the insatiable appetite for ‘growth’, ‘energy’, and ‘wellbeing’. The packaging for Ritebite protein snacks tells us that protein is for everyone.

5. System Design 

In today’s family, each person has different needs and preferences. Even a single person has distinct needs at every point in the day. To better serve people (and tap into the multiple moments of consumption) brands are evolving their portfolios to cater to these different needs. When we worked on the packaging design for Mother Dairy’s range of dahi, we had to create a clear design system for the consumer to navigate and make the right choices.

6. Time to Restructure

Whether to stand out on shelf or drive a change in consumer behaviour, structure is a medium that brands are beginning to leverage in order to grab consumers (and vice versa). Innovative formats, like the Bisleri rocking bottle, have proven very effective to create distinctiveness and shape behaviours!

7. Artisanal is in

In a mass-produced world, consumers are seeking craft, provenance, and authenticity. The ‘labour of love’ is what distinguishes the best from the rest – and what else would people want? As brands begin to recognize the value of highlighting source and process, a new visual language is emerging. Twine, natural paper textures, ingredients, and a hand-crafted look are the flavour everyone is craving. However, more importantly, as we learned when we were working on Miss Chottee’s range of home-style sauces, the packaging has to tell a story.

When we look back at all our learnings from the past year, all of them are symptomatic of a larger overall shift. It is clear that packaging isn’t just about appetite appeal anymore. To make the consumer connect in an Instagram world, where everything is a statement, it takes lifestyle appeal. With this in mind, we know where our focus needs to be in the new year.

We hope that this has been interesting food for thought as you head-off on holiday. Enjoy the festive period, and be sure to take lots of Instagram-worthy snaps!

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