Revolutionize your product packaging strategy in 2016

Today’s packaging supply chain is full of challenges. The biggest opportunity for your brand lies in focusing on innovative creative design, customizing your supplier network, and optimizing sourcing approaches.

Historically an afterthought for many companies, packaging is fast becoming a priority for savvy brands looking to differentiate their products and better engage consumers—and for good reason. A recent packaging study from WestRock Company indicated that 31% of consumers globally consider packaging to be very or extremely important to their overall satisfaction with a product.

While brands see the importance of retooling packaging processes to improve consumer satisfaction, this retooling process often gets sidetracked on the long road from idea to execution. Today’s packaging supply chain is stacked with a myriad of challenges. From lack of transparency to sub-optimal suppliers and overall inefficient sourcing approaches, brands are struggling to stand out, combat material costs, and minimize waste. The biggest opportunity for brands lies in addressing these pain points by focusing on innovative creative design, customizing their supplier network, and optimizing sourcing approaches.

Developing innovative creative design

At the core of most businesses is a brand that needs to be displayed consistently. Creative packaging design is critical to upholding a brand’s identity. Branded packaging, in particular, allows companies to do just that. Whether it’s a simple logo and tagline added, or a design with a distinct shape and color, branded packaging can increase brand awareness and improve the consumer experience.

Seizing this opportunity, companies like Stone Brewing have taken the blank canvas packaging provides to further their marketing efforts. The 20-year-old craft brewing company ditched its standard brown boxes for new packaging that reflects the unique characteristics of its brand identity and quality beer. A combination of design process tweaks and a retooled supplier network has given Stone the opportunity to introduce innovative and customized packaging designs with every new release of beer. Their playful display builds have won them new customers along with notoriety. Since bringing branded packaging to the forefront of its strategy, Stone has greatly enhanced their promotional sales lift.

Customizing the supplier network and optimizing sourcing approaches

Executing a design strategy like Stone’s without having the right suppliers is like trying to ride a bike with no wheels—you go nowhere. Ultimately, a customized supplier network strategy allows brands to truly have an ideal packaging process complete with the alignment of right supplier fit, right equipment, and right geography.

L'Oréal, like Stone, is another great example of a major brand that experienced tangible results through modifying their supplier network. By expanding their approach, the company was able to utilize more material alternatives, reduce packaging lead times, and eliminate unnecessary costs for a number of their products.

Customizing your supplier network essentially provides the most efficient means of packaging sourcing. When intelligent buying meets cost saving strategy, it creates a one-two punch for brands. Unfortunately in the world of packaging there is often a lack of transparency that impedes this “punch” and therefore must be a focus for all branded packaging buyers to succeed.

So many brands struggle with suppliers who overcharge and under deliver. That’s why it’s critical for brands to really take a step back and understand the true motivations of the supplier they’re working with. If a brand is continuously wondering whether their packaging process is over-engineered and there is zero visibility into where every dollar is being spent, it’s time to rethink the approach. Optimizing your sourcing approach can shorten lead times, improve manufacturing options and market trend awareness, and ultimately lead to cost savings that can be reinvested in your most critical asset—your brand.

The bottom line

Trying to solve today’s packaging challenges with traditional methods is like placing a Band-Aid over a bullet wound. It might stop the bleeding initially, but in the long run, brands will face the same issues. Brands can revolutionize packaging strategy by honing in on creative design, supplier networks, increased transparency, and customized sourcing. Attention to these details can deliver both soft and hard savings for brands in the years ahead.

Steve Schoultz is Vice President of Sourcing and Packaging for InnerWorkings. 

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