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Banning plastics: 4 things any marketeer should know when changing product package

min. read

Try to remember the last thing you purchased. Do you remember its packaging? What do you remember the most? Did you like the design, branding or functionality of it? 

All products inevitably come in some sort of packaging. Packaging has many different roles, such as providing protection, safety, enhanced usability, attractive looks, optimal design and specific customer requirements, to name a few. However, the packaging is also a crucial aspect that can (positively or negatively) influence consumers' decisions.

Considering packaging has a single-use purpose, it has become an increasing environmental issue. As the most damaging to our natural landscapes, plastic decomposes into tiny microplastics, ending up in the oceans and impacting marine biodiversity. Thankfully, today sustainability is slowly becoming an important business objective. An increasing number of organisations are trying to find renewable and more sustainable replacements for conventional packaging materials so they can be fully and safely reused, recycled and decomposed. Additionally, customers are increasingly becoming aware of the impact of their choices on the environment. 

A few weeks ago, at the BAM - Belgian Association of Marketing congress, our Insights Director, Eva Vandenberge & Leon Theune from Niko told the story behind Niko's new sustainable Retail packaging. 

Niko is a Belgian-based company that designs electric and electronic solutions to enhance buildings to suit better the needs of the people who live and work in them. They offer solutions that use less energy, improve light comfort, and safety, and work together seamlessly with other applications. 

Last year, Niko decided to change the packaging of their product lines and hundreds of SKUs, and update their retail packaging. The previous design was somewhat outdated (since 2008) and didn't evoke the values Niko wanted to endorse in an optimal way. Guided by customer insights and sustainability, they launched a project to transform their design packaging entirely and make it relevant for the years to come.

Added to sustainability, the new packaging had to tick other strategic parameters, such as: 

  • align with the Niko's branding
  • improve practical features
  • fulfil customer information needs 
  • fit to introduce new products

Research stages: Putting your customers first and creating sustainable solutions

In the first stage of the project, Niko's design and sales team joined forces and started working on different concepts. The idea had to tick 3 crucial boxes: communication power, ecological impact & practical implementation. 

Through concept testing with their end-users as well as qualitative research, they decided on the format of the packaging:

  1. Envelope model for all finishings ( frames and keys)
  2. Backpack model for function items (sockets, switches, dimmers, USB chargers, etc.)

After creating the physical concept, it was time to do research to help Niko understand how to communicate brand values and the content of the packaging. Here is where boobook came in with qualitative & quantitative analysis. The research gave very useful insights on how to design the packaging. One of the biggest surprises here was that the testers saw beyond products and packaging: they expected to be guided on how to buy complete solutions instead of separate parts. They also expressed how brand perception is crucial and sometimes even more important than pricing or functionality. Guided by these learnings, Niko decided to optimize content strategy and adjust how they communicate about solutions, assembly parts, and ecosystem. 

When researching sustainability, the results showed that even though it's important, it's not always top of customers' minds. By using icons on the packaging, Niko made sure to attract buyers' attention to sustainability. The "Four Year Warranty", "Made in Belgium", and the FSC icons are indicated for communicating that the item will last longer, local suppliers and responsibly managed forests make it.

The third critical piece of advice is to do proper research before launching any new items or, in this case, packaging. It's a powerful tool for communicating important information and brand identity. When designing packaging for separate parts, it's essential to show the product and explain its purpose and usage. 

To ensure that customers always buy the right product, Niko added icons at the side to communicate key product features and crucial details. They achieved the delicate balance between the branding and providing information by adding:

  • ecosystem to make sure the customer always buys the right product and knows what to buy to complete the solution
  • wiring diagram enriching every wired product with a basic wiring scheme
  • product family and colour in the text on the front to avoid a wrong purchase 
  • vital product USPs and need to know’s.

And last but not least is the advice to think bigger and invest in long-term solutions. Today, sustainability is a company choice, not (yet) a direct customer request. This means businesses are responsible for raising awareness and adjusting their products and communication accordingly. This approach is a long-term investment to ensure the business will be future-proof. 

In conclusion...

To sum up, here are the four things to know before changing to a more sustainable package design: 

  1. Start with an open mind: Listening is the key, and research is the tool
  2. Don't assume sustainability is on top of the consumers' mind: Even though the customer is increasingly aware of the impact of their choices on the environment, sustainability isn't always their priority
  3. Set the basics right: Don't forget what's essential for the customer; the packaging needs to be useful, practical and deliver important information, especially when talking about the needs of the users
  4. Invest in long-term solutions: Sustainability is the way forward, and we should learn how to turn challenges (e.g., the product that can't be seen in the paper packaging) into advantages (paper packaging allows more space to communicate key features)

Do you also wonder how to change your packaging from plastic to a more sustainable and user-friendly option? Reach out to us, and we'll be happy to help!

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