In 2011, expect packaging to become more sustainable, incorporate recent technological advances, and feed into consumers’ desire for their purchases to serve a greater purpose. 

by Wendy Hunt and Anne Reid

In 2011, expect packaging to become more sustainable, incorporate recent technological advances, and feed into consumers’ desire for their purchases to serve a greater purpose.

Bells and whistles: Modern consumers are shopping experts who spend mere seconds making purchase decisions. Especially in supermarkets, packaging must work hard to tempt shoppers into trying new products. Revolutionary technologies such as thin film and printed batteries can have a phenomenal impact at the first moment of truth, adding light, sound, and movement to packaging. Sound chips can deliver promotional messages from store shelves; paper-thin video screens can demonstrate product use. The first brands to adopt these cutting-edge strategies are sure to make a splash in the crowded marketplace.

Reusable: After noticing the product (first moment of truth) and reading the product label (second), there is now a third moment of truth for consumers: reusing packaging. More brands will make this possible, banking on the cool factor to extend brand message beyond the life of the product. Burt’s Bees, whose natural body care line already appeals to environmentally conscious customers, now provides reusable carrying cases for its lip balm.

Sustainable: More companies will pledge to lessen their impact on the environment and look for innovative ways to do so. Paper Mate recently introduced biodegradable pens with compostable outer shells that break down into organic matter within a year. Following a more traditional route, Kraft Foods plans to reduce its carbon footprint in 2011 by decreasing waste from its plants, eliminating 150 million pounds of packaging material, and cutting CO2 emissions by 25 percent.

Purposeful: To remain relevant in 2011, brands must stand for something and align their brand promise with the good they do-and convey both through their packaging. The Tide Loads of Hope program and its corresponding limited-edition detergent give back to the community in an on-brand way: by providing laundry facilities in areas affected by disaster. In New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, the Procter & Gamble-sponsored initiative washed almost 14,000 loads of laundry for 11,000 families.

The burning question for 2011
The challenge will be finding ways to do more with less-reducing waste, using fewer natural resources, and cutting down transport distance-while using packaging to communicate brand promise and the actions that back it up.

Wendy Hunt is client director, and Anne Reid is senior director, design realization, in the Cincinnati office of Landor.