A common fallacy in the packaging sector is that real innovation—that is, innovation designed to deliver transformational packaging solutions—should be built around consumer insights.
In reality, successful innovation is more often driven by balancing consumer wants and needs with developing manufacturing capability. Or indeed, identifying flexible ways to work within an existing manufacturing framework. This is a powerful mindset to adopt when defining truly applicable insight. It can have an enormous impact on every commercial aspect of a business—most notably, on an organization’s return on investment (ROI).
Identifying brand and business opportunities and meshing these with consumer needs requires mapping the opportunities and challenges across the entire packaging lifecycle. This entails taking into account not only the consumer, but also the organization’s production capability and exploring whether the proposed innovation concepts are desirable, viable and feasible.
Regardless of which sector the packaging is destined for—from gum to chocolate, craft beer to frozen peas—the same rules apply. Turning opportunities into reality involves learning from other categories and drawing on experience in developing solutions that work across the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) ecosystem.
Identifying true consumer insights and needs, exploring cutting edge packaging technologies and combining these with a client’s current capabilities requires calling out the implications and commercial realities of innovation ahead of production.
Here are four key aspects to put this theory into practice and deliver transformational results.
1. End-to-end thinking
Those who are delivering the results should be the ones defining the brief. The dots need to be joined between consumer insight and the existing manufacturing capability—and this should be a seamless process.
In effect, this shifts the entire focus to ensure the brief is deliverable as well as visionary. If these two disciplines are separated, we risk seeing an inspired brief that is either too costly or near on impossible to deliver.
End-to-end thinking from insight through to execution ensures the vision and mission are intrinsically linked with current capabilities.
2. Walking the talk
All too often research focuses on a two-dimensional aspect of the end consumer—what they say they do. Capturing what consumers actually do (as well as what they say they do) is key.
Working with consumers and developing a collaborative approach throws up meaningful insights, such as whether consumers are coping with a suboptimal experience or rejoicing in a great one.
Gaining consumer input to define the brief ensures the design really meets a need or opportunity that can be successfully leveraged to generate something new and advantageous to a business.
3. Balancing consumer needs with existing capability
Meshing what consumers need with how to deliver it within an existing infrastructure and framework, and being able to balance the two, means deep diving into the entire supply chain.
Making a business case for what is needed to adapt existing production facilities to future proof and meet consumer needs and demands requires uncovering those (sometimes) simple changes that are likely to deliver big consumer benefits and ROI further down the line.
Running a factory audit, a value chain analysis and a technology trawl, and then cross referencing these with a market audit, should ensure all existing assets are being used to their full capacity.
This was fundamental to Lucozade’s recent re-branded sports bottle (see photo above). Following an internal audit, the key packaging opportunities were identified through design and rapid prototyping, resulting in a unique new bottle design that was simultaneously light-weighted, strengthened and had additional grip.
4. Going the distance
Gaining insight from the wider network of those developing innovation in materials, machinery and technologies can lead to exciting new consumer benefits, as well as significant cost savings across the supply chain.
This also means ensuring those technologies the organization invests in will go the distance.
There is a sweet spot at the juncture where consumer needs meet an organization’s technical and manufacturing capabilities. That is the pivotal point from which transformational insights can flourish.
In taking these steps, it is possible for packaging innovators to go beyond “great ideas that can’t be executed,” despite potentially being well grounded in a breakthrough consumer insight. It’s only when consumer and business insight comes together that innovation can actually be delivered.
James Harmer is planning director at Touch Packaging Innovation, whose creative and commercial approach delivers exciting, insight-inspired and production-led packaging innovation. By spanning the divide between consumer, design and manufacturing, Touch delivers packaging solutions that are technically viable as well as commercially feasible.