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6 Ways Structural Design Can Transform Your Brand

Posted By: SGK April 25, 2017

Whether brands are looking for bottle design, carton design, pop displays, product design, luxury packaging, sustainable packaging, or pack innovations, they are most likely going to start with a structural design approach.

In our recent BrandSquare webinar, Tim James, senior director of structural packaging and innovation at Anthem Worldwide, offers his take on how to leverage consumer insights to guide and steer innovative structural design packaging that transforms brands.

Watch the entire webinar here: Structural Packaging 101: Insight Driven Innovation

Structural Packaging 101: Insight Driven Innovation

From rough sketches to visualization, 3D prototyping to mockups, structural design can offer the following benefits to brands:

Build brand equity. When you think of all the brands that you love — the ones that you’ve grown up with and use on a daily basis, often we think of very familiar forms and shapes. These shapes give brands an ownable look and feel and acts as a differentiator to other brands on-shelf.

“Structural design goes beyond the package to create beautiful displays.” – Tim James

Create a more sustainable package. Sustainable packaging is increasingly becoming more popular on a brand’s criteria list. Recently, Coca-Cola explained its commitment to sustainable packaging in an interview with Packaging Digest. With a focus on partnering with new technologies and organizations to move them forward, a goal of reducing their carbon footprint is becoming more of a reality, with their introduction of the 100% plant-based PlantBottle. This is a fully recyclable PET package that minimizes their impact on the environment — from design to sourcing and recovery. 

Add manufacturing efficiencies. Working from the previous point, in some cases, sustainable packaging also helps to reduce manufacturing costs. Ease of distribution and speed to market is another piece of criteria many brands are looking for with their structural design strategy.

READ: 6 Ways to Get Your Branded Materials to Market Faster  

Improve handling/function of the package. Oftentimes, it is beneficial to see and experience prototypes in 3D to better understand how the package will function. This helps to guide the storytelling process.

By providing prototypes to customer groups through events, like consumer workshops, brands and design teams can collect feedback before a product launch. This approach enables emotional connections with the packaging and encourages communication regarding consumer pain-points.

“You need to be able to try things and experiment very early on.” – Tim James

Stand out over the competition. A unique structural design or 3D enhancements to an existing structure can help give a brand the unique characteristics that it needs to stand out on shelf from the competition. It’s important to begin with an understanding of what is already available on the market in the direct competitive landscape.

Create innovative packaging solutions. When a brand launches a new product, sometimes the goal is for the packaging to look different from other products. With innovative approaches, brands can use structural design to create unique ways to stand out from the rest. To succeed in producing an innovative packaging solution, design teams must first look at the following:

  • Category landscape
  • Trends and inspiration
  • Category innovations

With this approach, design teams are able to pull consumer and industry insight to deliver products that solve consumer pain-points and excel the brand forward.


So, how do we put it all together to create beautiful structural design?

To get there, one of the first things design teams must accomplish is a category audit and observation — not just consumer observation, but also technical audits to understand the different manufacturing issues and constraints.

Collecting consumer insights prior to the design process is key as these are the factors in which designs are based upon. Then comes category audits — looking deeper into trends and finding new innovations and inspirations in packaging.

For more information on how structural design can help your brand, contact Tim James.

For more insights on enhancing your packaging initiatives, download: RGB Printing Brings Spectacular Visual Possibilities to Packaging

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Disruptive to Functional: How Packaging Will Evolve in 2017

Posted By: SGK February 10, 2017

Packaging functionality is becoming increasingly important to consumers. While they don’t mind being entertained, it’s crucial for brands to understand the difference between disruptive packaging and solutions-based, functional packaging and how each provides value to consumers.

READ: Retail is the Ultimate Social Platform  

It's important to determine which solution will create emotional differentiation on-shelf and reflect what speaks to the consumers. For example, today’s consumers hold a lot of information, and when they go shopping, they already know many attributes regarding the products they buy. With that, it is very important for brands to leverage packaging to ensure that when the consumer is in-store deciding between products, that the packaging truly speaks to them and provides the brand message.

Disruptive packaging. Packaging has become a key component to creating memorable purchase and use experiences — building brand awareness and driving brand loyalty. The package design has become dominated by the need for brand recognition and variant identification and information. With that, consumers are increasingly looking for brands to entertain and engage them.

Retailers’ over-emphasis on speed, convenience, and price has led consumers to crave experiences — forcing brands to set even higher standards for creativity and fluidity. Now, brands must capture their audience’s attention while at the same time inserting themselves seamlessly into their lives. Attention is precious, so give consumers an incentive to spend time with you. Extend beyond novelty but asking yourself: Is your campaign helpful? Surprising? Does it give your audience something to do, smile or think about?

Functional packaging. While packaging’s ability to maintain freshness is paramount, the ability to easily open packaging is a key functional attribute consumers are looking for. Utility is also very important to modern consumers — being able to reuse or repurpose the package. Packaging that has the ability to be recycled is equally important. 

Consumers want to see the added value and benefit for the price they pay. In fact, according to Mintel, 81% of US consumers indicate it’s important for all packaging to offer some additional functional benefit, and that benefit can be the deciding factor when it comes to purchasing decisions. So, for a brand that addresses food waste prevention as a priority, solutions-based packaging allows consumers to use ever last bit of the product, reducing their overall spend on frequently-used products. 

When Aptar Food + Beverage partnered with Daisy Sour Cream to create the Daisy Squeeze-Flexible pouch, its inverted, wedge-shaped pouch with an innovative flip-top dispensing closure helped eliminate risks of contamination from dirty utensils, minimizes wasted product and provides an easy-to-control and drip free dispensing system, all while fitting easily into refrigerator doors for easy access. All benefits for the consumer.

Daisy Squeeze represents an outstanding accomplishment in structural packaging innovation and branding, as the pouch graphics mirror those of the former rigid container, which makes the conversion easy for consumers, as they don’t have to hunt for their favorite brand. Its unique combination of format and design, an easy-to-dispense concept, and minimization of material usage makes it a real standout in consumer food packaging.

Combining the two. According to Mintel, there is still a lack of standardized definitions for smart, active, intelligent, and even mobile-enabled packaging. However, mobile-enabled packaging is making clear and measurable connections with consumers, whilst active packaging technologies promise novel product benefits.

Smart and intelligent packaging use an electronic or mechanical trigger and typically presents and audible or visual signal that captures the consumers attention, indicating a consumer’s action and reaction. This presents an opportunity for engagement and offers a conversation between people, brands, and objects, enhancing consumers’ experience with products.

Active packaging usually means having active functions beyond the inert passive containment and protection of the product. For example, the insignia change label delivers an added layer of consumer purchasing or use confidence, in that the label can prevent a purchase or warn against consumption of a spoiled product.

Once the consumer opens the package, the label is activated and the circle in the middle will change color depending on how much longer shelf life it has. Another great example of active packaging is smart medication packaging systems, where the consumer is notified via smart device when medication has been taken. This not only responds to consumer’s need to engage with the brand, but also addresses the need for ease of use and safety.

While solutions-based packaging favors functionality over fun, don’t forget that we all like to be entertained. The intersection of functionality and such attributes as smart and active packaging can be the sweet spot for bridging the innovation gap.

This year, think to the future. Will packaging soon become another touchscreen in our lives — with similar capabilities of a smartphone or tablet? With access to additional product information, suggested products, and ability to reorder without stepping foot in-store? Maybe not in 2017, but this may be where the future of packaging is heading.

To see what other trends 2017 holds for the packaging industry, visit Mintel’s 2017 Global Packaging Trends Report 

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The FDA Nutrition Label Update is Your Opportunity to Gain a Competitive Brand Advantage

For more than two decades, the FDA Nutrition Label has been an icon of informed choice for shoppers. Now, the label has been updated to reflect the latest nutrition science and more realistic serving sizes.

CPG brands must comply with the new requirements by July 26, 2018. Are you ready? Even more important, do you regard the label update as a burden or an opportunity?

Get the latest issue of Patterns and get seven tips for streamlining compliance while also claiming a competitive brand advantage on the shelf. For this and six more articles from SGK’s global marketing experts, read Strategies for Growth: Making Change Work to Your Brand’s Advantage. Download the full Patterns report now.

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The Connected Package: The Next Generation in Brand Efficiency, Interaction and Appeal

Since the beginning, the primary purpose of packaging has always been to create brand appeal. But in recent years, a secondary purpose has become just as important: Conveying information.

These two functions are increasingly at odds, as barcodes, QR codes and copy-heavy product details competing for space against package design. What if all that information could be linked from an easily scanned watermark embedded invisibly within the design itself?

Welcome to the new connected package. Learn about it in our latest issue of Patterns. 

For this and four more articles from SGK’s global marketing experts, read Making Connections: Brand Insights from Around the World. 

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Navigating the Way to Structural Packaging Innovation

You may have good financial and logistical reasons for redesigning your package – for example, from a rigid bottle to a flexible pouch. But you need to give consumers good reasons to embrace the new package. You also need to give manufacturers good reasons to produce it.

You’ve built a lot of brand equity into your current packaging. If you’re thinking about a structural redesign, read this new article from SGK to learn best practices for avoiding risks and fostering even greater loyalty when your new package hits the shelves.

For this and four more articles on improving brand performance from concept to consumer, read the complete Patterns report, Innovation Everywhere. Download Patterns, Issue 1, 2015.

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4 Tips For Navigating Your Way To Structural Packaging Innovation

Posted By: SGK June 08, 2015

In Greek mythology, Scylla is a six-headed sea monster that eats sailors who sail too close. Charybdis is a whirlpool capable of swallowing your ship whole. The only problem is, you have to sail right between Scylla and Charybdis to discover what’s beyond.

Getting to a new place with your packaging can be a lot like that. On one side if your new package doesn’t retain the identity and appeal of the old one – plus meaningful advantages – unhappy consumers can bite you. On the other side, if manufacturers can’t or won’t retool to produce it, your new package could be sunk before it even reaches the shelf. 

Some brands avoid risk and try to chart a safe course. As you can imagine, they’re unlikely to get any further than they’ve already come. Other brands brave the journey of structural innovation, only to be done in by entrenched consumers and manufacturers.

But heroic brands find a way through to the future. Here are four tips for navigating your way to structural packaging innovation.

1.    They make flexibility an advantage.
The most notable packaging innovation in the last ten years has been the rise of flexible solutions across a wide variety of product categories. Flexible pouches can lower material requirements and reduce energy, printing, transportation and other costs. 

But what happens to the brand equity you’ve built into a rigid bottle – that iconic shape, its familiar usability, the feeling that it belongs there, on the store shelf and in the shopper’s home? A classic example of this is baby food. When moms saw the familiar glass jar replaced by flexible pouches in the store, they immediately realized the advantages of a package that’s safer, easier to carry, less messy, and even more enjoyable for baby. For the purpose of feeding babies, the new flexible package was inherently more attractive to shoppers than the old glass jar.

2.    They bring consumers into the design process.
Ideally, shoppers should recognize your brand in-store, immediately understand the functional benefits of your new package, try it, and never miss the old bottle when they realize how much better your new pouch fits their lives. To make sure that happens you need to get actual consumers involved as early as possible in the product development process. 

3.    They fail faster and better.
When you observe consumers using prototypes the same way they’d use the product at home, you can quickly see where you’re missing the mark, develop new prototypes and test again. Doing this allows you to identify risks and chart a better course. Rinse and repeat until you have a flexible package people are excited about using, with no reservations. 

4.    They’re not afraid to set sail.
Heroic brands are not afraid of their customers. After all, customers aren’t six-headed monsters. Learn from that attitude and let your customers help you. Don’t be afraid of your manufacturer. They’re not an unalterable whirlpool. Get in there and see if you can change the manufacturing flow just enough to make a difference for your brand.

Brand change always involves risk, but the bigger risk is not changing at all. To discover your structural packaging innovation, with confidence, get everyone on board and set sail.

Download Patterns Issue 1 2015: Innovation Everywhere for more insight from Tim James, Senior Director of Industrial Design and Innovation at Anthem, part of our brand development group.

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Bridging the Innovation Gap: Functional vs. Disruptive Packaging

Posted By: SGK February 12, 2015

Form follows function. That seems simple enough if you’re designing packages to serve the typical functions of containing the product and catching the shopper’s eye. But have you taken the time to consider all the functional possibilities for making your product easier to use, more effective, more delightful? What form might your new packaging take?

In an all-new BrandSquare webinar, Viktorija Gnatoka, Global Packaging Analyst at Mintel, will help you envision your next smart, hard-working package. She'll share innovative examples from around the world that will get you thinking in fresh ways about every package your encounter. How can packaging do more? How can it meet unimagined needs? How can it connect better with consumers? 

Gather your colleagues and join us for Bridging the Innovation Gap: Functional vs. Disruptive Packaging on Thursday, February 19, 2015 at 1pm ET. Bring your curiosity and questions to this free webinar. Register now! 


About Viktorija Gnatoka:
In her role as global packaging analyst at Mintel, Viktorija Gnatoka is a compelling presenter with deep insight into the possibilities for packaging to transform a brand. She holds an MBA in Marketing and has more than five years of international experience in product packaging and design, with an emphasis on private label.

Viktorija has worked with retailers and suppliers in European and North American markets to develop strategies for packaging, marketing and private brand promotion. She has also helped shepherd many branding and packaging projects from concept to shelf in the retail environment. Viktorija’s insights appear in Beauty Packaging Magazine, Package Design and other prominent trade publications.

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Beyond The Label: 6 Steps To Turn FLMA Into Competitive Advantage For Your Brand

Posted By: SGK February 04, 2015
6 Steps To Turn FLMA Into Competitive Advantage For Your Brand

The Food Label Modernization Act (FLMA), which is set to be finalized in early 2016, represents a fantastic opportunity for brands to gain a competitive advantage, says Bruce Levinson, VP of Client Engagement at SGK. 

FLMA is about way more than just a label change and that’s because the root cause of the FLMA legislation is not political; it is consumer-driven. There is a groundswell need for greater transparency and education in the food industry, Bruce explained in his latest BrandSquare Live Session. Simply put, consumers are looking to make more informed decisions about the food they buy for their families. 

Here are six ideas you should start considering now, to be better prepared for the upcoming label change.

1.    Know what consumers expect from your brand.
Take time to uncover critical insights around the role of your brand and your category in the life of your consumers. A few thought starters are: Does your brand provide basic nourishment or indulgence? How involved is your shopper in reading labels? Is this consistent for all retail channels? How do consumers think of your competition regarding health and wellness? 

2.    Anticipate changes to serving sizes.
Ask “what if” serving sizes changed to reflect consumption. If this happened, how would consumers likely respond? What current claims would need to change? What education would be required for retailers, shoppers and consumers? What would put you at a competitive edge? More importantly, think about what information would be most credible and compelling to consumers. This will give you the best chance to win in your category.

3.    Seize competitive advantage.
Use FLMA as an opportunity to take bold, decisive action. This might mean reformulating an existing product to better align with consumer expectations or needs. Or it could be time to consider repackaging your existing product to promote more responsible consumption behavior. New product innovation could also deliver better-for-you mixes, have fewer ingredients and tap into how consumers may respond to new visibility about the nutritional value of your category.

4.    Understand your true design equities and assets.
If the Nutrition Facts box grows in size, this might require you to reposition packaging artwork, which could present a design challenge. The time to evaluate what elements are critical to keep and which have some leeway is now! Consider which elements are critical to maintain no matter what, and on the flip side, which elements can you afford to change or move?

5.    Touch packaging only once.
Make every touch count! This piece of advice is really about determining which other design changes should be made while you are touching the nutrition label. Likewise, coordinate label changes at the same time as any planned redesigns. Don’t design it twice in the 2-year compliance window. The same goes for POS material, shippers and any secondary packaging.

6.    Assemble the right cross-functional team.
This sounds obvious but coordinating all the components and stakeholders requires an informed, agile and experienced team. Assemble the right people now so that you can begin planning. The right team will help you conduct an impact audit, define processes, assign task owners, establish governance, estimating budget requirements and formalize success metrics.

FLMA is a great chance for prepared brands to turn a discontinuous market event into competitive advantage. Winners will think beyond the label and plan for changes that meet consumers’ need for better, more transparent labeling. Watch Bruce Levinson’s BrandSquare webinar: How to Turn FLMA Into Your Competitive Advantage on YouTube.

Visit Schawk’s Label Central for everything you need to know about the upcoming nutrition facts label update. 

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Uncovering Packaging Opportunities in Today’s Digitally-Managed Home

Posted By: SGK September 25, 2014

As marketers, we need to think of packaging in all the ways shoppers and consumers experience a brand, says Eric Ashworth, President at SGK.

Having worked with hundreds of CPG brands over the course of his 24-year career in the brand and product development field, Eric says brands owe it to themselves to leverage product packaging to create unique, memorable experiences for online shoppers. Doing so will nurture true brand loyalty and recognition, he said in a recent interview with Canadian Packaging magazine.

Eric, a keynote speaker at this year’s “A Day in the Life” Symposium hosted by Packaging Consortium Sept. 30 – Oct. 2 in Toronto, is passionate about staying ahead of the curve. His keynote will examine the impending deconstruction of the traditional retail environment and its implications for package structure, design, messaging and supply chain.

According to Eric, the heart of the conversation is encouraging brands to take advantage of their existing physical packaging to do a better job of selling products online, while also fulfilling the promise that this product makes once it reaches the consumer’s home—all done outside of the traditional retail environment.

“Not only will that differentiate you from competition, but it will more importantly help you create a path and a vision for how your brands can evolve their packaging going forward, knowing that this online channel will only continue to grow,” he said. 

Stay tuned for more insight on thinking “online first” for packaging and other retail trends driving innovation. 

For those attending PAC’s “A Day in the Life” Symposium, we look forward to seeing you next week!

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Is Your Brand Ready For Shelf Ready Packaging? Bart de Jong Shares Netherlands Perspective

Posted By: SGK February 19, 2014

The battle for consumers’ attention rages on across the globe and the Dutch retail sector is no exception. The Dutch supermarket division, in particular, is filled with cutthroat competition, says Bart de Jong, Managing Director at Anthem’s office in the Netherlands. While the economy is slowly heading in the right direction, consumers tend to observe very little of the impact when it comes to their own wallets. Thus, purchase decisions are still largely driven price.

The Dilemma

Brand managers are faced with a dilemma: How, under these challenging circumstances, can they increase brand awareness and motivate consumers to buy? Shelf Ready Packaging (SRP), which seeks to get products in and out of the shelf as quickly and efficiently as possible, is the latest innovation that creates a ‘stand-out’ presence in the supermarket.

The Solution

SRP is a relatively new initiative that gives both the brand manager and the retailer infinite possibilities to present products in way that increases sales. In the literal sense, the SRP is the outer case – the packaging that contains a certain amount of individual products, such as a dozen margarine tubs – that can be placed on the shelf in its entirety. One of the advantages for the store manager is that the staff can place the package directly on shelf, with only one action needed: Open it up.

The Brand Advantage

For both A- and own-brands, SRP is an extension of the brand. And when properly executed, it improves brand experience and increases recognition among shoppers. Though currently only a progressive minority takes advantage of SRP, the days of boring brown boxes and messy shelves are numbered. In the Netherlands, Unilever is one of the leaders, together with Ahold, which drives SRP innovation from the supermarket sector, says de Jong.

The Design

Obviously a well-designed SRP provides stand out presence and retrievability for the brand, the sub range or variant. But it’s much more interesting when SRP is used for activation on the shelf. Because SRP is like the packaging itself, it can be seen as an “owned medium,” used to enhance desirability, break a purchase barrier and activate triggers to purchase.

SRP is slower to gain momentum in the Netherlands, but is much more common abroad. The brand or store promotion is contained within the SRP-design, which seamlessly connects to signage, navigation and other POS materials in front of, above, on and around the shelf.

The Case Study

Brands such as Unox are smartly taking advantage of SRP, since it generally allows retailers to stock more products on the shelf. With SRP Unilever has 40% more sausage on the shelf compared to their presence without SRP. In addition, the demand for smoked sausages in The Netherlands is directly linked to colder temperatures. So in the winter, placing the smoked sausages into a SRP considerably reduces out-of-stock situations. In combination with a promotional positioning in a gondola end or in the refrigerated section, an even higher turnover can be achieved.

The Opportunities

After the price war that began in 2004, the supermarket industry remains in a complex situation and choosing the price instrument is a short- term solution with little impact in the long term. To create better sales opportunities brands and retailers will have to continue to innovate. Shelf Ready Packaging is the ideal vehicle for both promotional and non-promotional products and can provide positive shopping and brand experiences. A win-win for all parties involved - who wants to miss out on that?

For more insight on Shelf Ready Packaging, read the full article, ‘Is your brand ready for Shelf Ready Packaging?’ in Marketing Tribune.