New Tool: ProSource
Checkout our packaging and processing solutions finder, ProSource.
Start Your Search

Flex brand muscles with flexible packaging

Build strong brands by strategically leveraging the benefits of flexible packaging.

Sterling Anthony, CPP
Sterling Anthony, CPP
As the fastest-growing segment of the packaging supplier industry, flexible packaging has strengthened a multitude of brands; however, in an ultra-competitive and global marketplace, brawniness can be fleeting. Those brand owners, therefore, always should be looking to "pump it up," never willing to rest on gains, never remaining at a plateau. And as with any muscle-building regimen, best results are obtained from maintaining good form through a full range of motion. In this case, form equates to a focus on the functions of packaging (protection, communication, and convenience) and range equates to mining the rich vein of versatility that runs through each function.

Strong protection

Applications not requiring the structural strength of rigid packaging can rely on flexible packaging not only for containment but for protection against a host of contaminants and elements. More fortunate yet, the required protection sometimes can be achieved from a single, comparatively inexpensive material, such as polyethylene. But when a single material won't do, protection can be increased by combining different materials. The key ways of doing so are by layering, either by coextrusion or by lamination.
 
Even before sustainability became the catchword, suppliers, converters, and end users alike knew that there are cost-savings to be had from thinner structures that nonetheless provide the required protection, especially when the slimming is on the more expensive materials in that structure. Sustainability, however, has become the grand marshal for a parade of options from the material supplier and converter industries regarding flexible packaging that provides protection with less.
 
A brand owner that uses flexible packaging but has not kept pace with advances in protection not only is forsaking cost savings but also the opportunity to make credible sustainability claims, as well. And the latter is increasingly being recognized, worldwide, as a way to increase the size of a brand's biceps.

Strong communication

As the silent salesman, the point-of-purchase pitchman, packaging should make positive statements about the brand. Flexible packaging──as has been brought out in many focus groups──often is perceived as being more modern than its rigid counterparts. Modernity can be a positive association for a brand because while "traditional" can carry positive, confidence-inspiring connotations, the same is not always true of "old-fashioned" and "dated."

Flexible packaging can communicate in terms of product visibility. Depending on the product, it might be important to the consumer to be able to view it through the packaging, and there are various clear materials that allow that. On the other hand, this is a challenge for structures that incorporate an opaque material. Nonetheless, a brand owner should not regard flexible packaging as either clear or opaque. Both traits can be had in the same structure.  A good example is a stand-up pouch that has a see-through "window."

But for obvious reasons, communication is most associated with graphical design, the use of colors, images, and copy, which can be summed up by one word: printing. And although all brand owners know the folly of sending a poorly attired human salesperson on a call, some don't extend the same thinking to packaging. That's unfortunate, since it's not prohibitively expensive to be among the best-dressed on the store shelves. In fact, investing in packaging is less expensive than a national advertising campaign and can be more effective, too. And even when both are parts of a brand's promotional strategy, a high-impact design draws attention in a television commercial or a print advertisement.

Flexography is the most-utilized printing method for flexible packaging, with gravure coming in a respectable second. Both boast technological strides that make it more affordable for a brand owner to have packaging that registers high on the communication scale. If a brand is to show off its "pectorals," attentive onlookers are good to have.

Strong convenience

To say that today's consumer wants convenience is a gross understatement. Today's consumer demands convenience. And of the various characteristics of flexible packaging, arguably the one that most endears it to consumers is its lightness in weight, which translates to ease-of-transport. (The brand owner gets in on a good thing, too, because lightweight flexible packaging yields cost savings in transportation throughout the supply chain.)

A brand owner should endeavor to increase the convenience quotient of its flexible packaging and a recommendable area (according to numerous consumer complaints) is ease of opening and reclosing. Yes, there are a couple of means that see wide use on flexibles, but more than an incidental number of consumers remain unsatisfied. An example is older consumers who claim that the visual and manual coordination required to "zipper" a pouch can be frustrating.
 
By the way, flexible packaging is a prime illustration of the contentious balance that exists between convenience and sustainability. Flexible packaging heavily relies on plastic, a packaging material vilified in some eco-circles for not coming from a renewable resource. And those structures that are layered, combining different materials, draw fire within those same circles for not being easily recycled. But at the consumer level, such brickbats are deflected, to some degree or another, by the convenience factor.
 
So the smart brand owner will look for ways to be sustainable, but will never lose sight of the fact that convenience is an inviolate consumer demand. That brand owner will seek to build brand muscle by bench pressing more in both areas.
   
Flexible packaging leads to flexibility

The cool thing about using flexible packaging to bulk up a brand is that the brand owner does not have to go it alone. Workout partners and personal trainers in the forms of raw material suppliers, converters, printers, etc., stand ready to help. But brand owners should only recruit firms that have invested in personnel and equipment, for those are the firms that can respond with athletic quickness.
 
That operational agility saves time, which attaches to the brand owner's ability to implement packaging decisions faster──speed-to-market──whether involving new-product introductions, product changes, product-line extensions, or promotional/seasonal launches.
 
Flexible packaging can muscle-up a brand for its strut on the beach of competition, making others look like 97-lb. weaklings by comparison. And it's every brand owner's wish to be able to kick sand in the collective faces of the competition.

Sterling Anthony is a consultant, specializing in the strategic use of marketing, logistics, and packaging.  His contact information is: 100 Renaissance Center-176, Detroit, MI 48243; 313-531-1875 office; 313-531-1972 fax; sterlinganthony1@sbcglobal.net.
Discover Our Content Hub
Access Packaging World's free educational content library!
Unlock Learning Here
Discover Our Content Hub
Test Your Smarts
Take Packaging World's sustainability quiz to prove your knowledge!
Take Quiz
Test Your Smarts