Creativity as King: The New Beverage Packaging Paradigm

Creativity as King: The New Beverage Packaging Paradigm

For the last several years beverage packaging has been becoming more and more creative with the industry borrowing approaches championed by lifestyle companies, fashion designers and even fine artists to help sell their products. As more and more brands enter in to this space, the most interesting and competitive part of the beverage business is package design. When once characteristics like ingredients, production and innovations with the product itself demanded the most resources from drink makers (like a Stevia flavored Coke that retains the expected flavor profile), now companies are directing tremendous resources into making packaging as unique as possible via talent acquisition, technological advances, and artistic treatments once reserved for the finest spirits and the most limited craft productions.

Last month, advertising powerhouse Leo Burnett acquired the internationally renowned beverage packaging aagency Turner Duckworth with plans to integrate the firms. Similarly, PepsiCo has made strides to integrate design into their innovation in the hiring of Pepsi’s first Chief Design Officer, the legendary Mauro Porcini previously of 3M.  These actions by major players in advertising and the beverage industry mirror the opinions of marketing managers in diverse companies that packaging should be used as a sales tool as potentially powerful as advertising.

Recently, packaging creativity has been more rapidly advanced by technological and functional innovations than it once was. There was close to a century between the introduction of the crown bottle cap and the wide implementation of the twist-off cap, and in the past 2 years there have been several unique changes to the way beverage companies are using bottle closures to distinguish themselves. Coca-Cola, for example, recently created a version of the twist-off cap that requires 2 people to work as part of a campaign to promote friendship as a core brand value of the company.

Similarly, water brand Vittel has created a cap that actually alerts consumers when to drink to stay hydrated.

Innovations like these that support brand values through the packaging take technological packaging innovations a step further than the cold activated cans introduced by Heinekin and Coors, and along with NFC and RFID integration set expectations for future packaging innovation.

While beautiful and artistic bottles are nothing new in the spirits industry, this approach is being taken to new levels across the category. A few years back when Brisk came out with their Urban Artist series of cans, this was very unusual but recently limited edition packaging designed by artists has become commonplace (recently Coke unveiled a series of limited edition bottles designed by Jean-Paul Gaultier ). Similarly, as companies attempt to make their packaging into art, some brands have begun to edition their products—numbering them like art prints in the hope that they become collectable in their own right. Absolut recently did this  with a line of bottles that are each unique and numbered.

Each of these methods being used to turn packaging design into a powerful sales tool are trends that are growing in popularity every day. And as these and similar beverage companies see that investment in packaging design yield significant results (in the case of the Brisk Urban Art packaging over 57% increase in volume sales in 1 year), more and more companies will follow suit leaving those that don’t far behind.

Using Packaging to Turn a Commodity into a Brand

bottled water packaging shows the shift from commodity to brand

In the past few years, packaging has undergone a dramatic shift from a role focused on attributes such as communicating basic product information and protecting the product within, to one of an invaluable tool in shaping a consumer’s perception. Brand packaging has come to primarily steer the consumer through their intricate decision making process as the primary communication platform for the brand. In no channel has this shift been so dramatic as in the fast moving consumer goods category. Proliferation of competition as well as the decline of communicating technical information as a pack’s primary purpose for connected shoppers has helped to fuel the widening gap between products consumers view as commodities and brands with real value. Brand led packaging is how some companies are trying to transcend these categories and find success within this new market paradigm. Any product that is lowly differentiated from its competitors with high levels of substitutability and straightforward price discovery is at risk of being considered a commodity by its buyers.

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