Beyond substantive innovation

I’ve had several recent conversations with managers at companies that market consumer products. In one form or another, they all asked basically the same question, namely, “Is any real packaging innovation occurring out there?”They have plenty of company in asking that question.

Over the last few years, savvy companies have begun to figure out that long-term profits will elude them if they continue to cut costs within their walls. They’ve wrung out just about all the internal fat that is possible and are now shifting focus to external cost cutting.

But in this era of continued belt-tightening, the question remains: Is any real packaging innovation occurring? In at least one case, the answer is yes. Read on this page how Pepsico created a global packaging framework for its Gatorade brand that is increasing sales.

Which brings me to an astute observation that Satkar Gidda, director at SiebertHead, a design consultancy, made recently on brandchannel.com. “Conservatism among the buying public, twinned with a generation of marketing directors who won’t take a chance on something that breaks new ground, is leading to supermarkets and car showrooms full of me-too products, line extensions, and minor product tweaks.”

Consider evaluating innovation differently in order to justify the cost of innovation more easily to the executive suite. Here’s one possibility. Some good untapped ideas lurk not just in a package’s structural functionality, but also in the environment in which the package performs. Senior management may not understand ethereal concepts such as emotional connection in order to justify design expense, but they do comprehend notions such as products that consumers will buy because the package is easier to use.

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