At this year’s Packaging That Sells conference, held Oct. 22-23, design and strategy met with hundreds of brand marketers, designers and packaging suppliers in downtown Chicago. 

Oh, what a conference>

At this year’s Packaging That Sells conference, held Oct. 22-23, design and strategy met with hundreds of brand marketers, designers and packaging suppliers in downtown Chicago. And unlike the economy, attendance was thriving.

The first day kicked off with a brilliant speech from Moira Cullen, Senior Director, Global Design, The Hershey Co., about design as “soft power.” If business is war, then design is a brand’s most favored weapon. She explained: The key to business strategy is winning consumer hearts and minds by understanding their experiences and values.

Next up was Mike Kitz, Vice President of OfficeMax Brands and Product Development for OfficeMax who started off with a video to show the difference in the retailer’s commercials before and after design entered into the equation. He explained how Office Max determined that its core consumer was women who were looking for office products with a personality and how the company infused design into its own brands.

Then, Richard Fine shook things up with a little humor. He discussed the common mistakes that many brands make, explaining how he’s made many of them in his career. Later, all joking aside, he talked about the importance of innovation and how he’s used design to his advantage through his line of Help Remedies healthcare products. Specifically, he mentioned the trials he’s gone through in making a simple, sustainable package in a complicated category.

After lunch, Jason Husk with Clorox explained the company’s transition to an open innovation model. He also gave insight into some of the brand’s case studies.

“The package is not just what holds the formula, it’s part of the consumer experience,” Husk said.

Before the next presentation, attendees had the opportunity to preview this year’s Design Gallery packages, and, vote for their favorites. To find out which packages won, click here.

After the judging, Scott Young, President of Perception Research Services, discussed how the recession has impacted consumer shopping habits, sharing PRS shopper research.

“In times of uncertainty, consumers look to the familiar,” he said while explaining case studies. The recession has also led to greater sensitivity to waste for consumers, he pointed out.

After Young finished his presentation, mentioning many brands’ shift to authenticity in their packaging, Jon Denham, Vice President, Design and Innovation, Kraft Foods, and Richard Williams, Founding Director, Williams Murray Hamm, explained their partnership in creating an authentic image for Kraft Foods. They discussed how the new logo was chosen and how they’re working with package design to relay the message: “Make Today Delicious.”

The next morning, attendees woke up to the smell of fresh sausage, provided by Butterball, and coffee, provided by Interbrand (Scholle Packaging provided wine for the cocktail reception the night before). With food in everyone’s bellies and the last day of presentations ahead, attendees settled in to hear how Tom Szaky, co-founder and ceo of TerraCycle, got his start.

From using garbage to make worm poop to making tote bags out of juice pouches, Szaky realized everything that was wasted could be reused. In creating TerraCycle, Szaky formed partnerships with some of the world’s largest CPG companies to collect and repurpose their packaging waste. He assured the attendees that anyone can find a way to upcycle their packaging and reduce waste.

The next presentation came from Deb Pierce, Director of Packaging Design and Graphics, SUPERVALU, Adam Graham, Brand Manager for Wild Harvest and Stone Ridge Creamery, SUPERVALU, and Theresa Scripps, Director of Client Services, Deutsch Design Works. As the speakers said in a hilarious video about private label brands: It’s business time. And because the traditional consumer has changed, packaging for private label brands needed to as well. Pierce, Graham and Scripps discussed the copycat packaging strategy private label brands used to carry, and their recent turn to design and innovation. The difference between private labels and private brands, they said, is innovation!

The last presentation of the conference came from Mary Schaffhausen, Vice President of Marketing Communications, Butterball, and Bryan LiBrandi, CEO of Fisher Design. They pointed out Butterball’s success as a seasonal brand and explained the challenges in giving it every day relevance. To do so, they conducted consumer research, causing them to alter the logo and graphics, and create a new sub-brand and product extensions.

Between presentations, attendees were invited to network in the sponsor room, which included BRANDPACKAGING’s Design Gallery preview, and sponsors such as CIULLA ASSOC, Clear Seas Research, Comp24, Crown, Deutsch Design Works, Iconoculture, Interbrand, R&D Leverage, Scholle Packaging, Sealstrip Corp., Transparent Container, Sleever International and Studio 111.

All in all, a great success – thank you, everyone! And, now, we delve into planning for 2010!