Packaging design can be tailored to generations, research shows

John Kalkowski

March 11, 2015

3 Min Read
Packaging design can be tailored to generations, research shows

The world continues to move faster and decisions are often made at the spur of the moment, but Lightning Labels of Denver, CO, identifies recent research that shows the significant impact of packaging decisions on consumer choices.

"These days, packaging designers aren't people who construct a container simply to house a product," says Business Development Manager AnneMarie Campbell. "They are marketers, futurologists, scientists and social observers, developing a desirable item and establishing the quality of a brand."
To be successful, brands need to know their customers inside out. What colors, shapes and sizes do my customers prefer? Are they environmentally conscious? Are they interested in sleek, modern designs, or simple, practical packaging? Or both?

Knowing customer preferences is key, as is developing packaging and labeling strategies that help companies distinguish themselves from competitors.

Packaging is a brand's way of advertising 24/7. It is always available for the customer and attempts to win them over through unique design, tactile materials and eye popping shapes. If a brand is able to create distinctiveness through a product's package, the company gains a competitive advantage in the market. This means businesses have to be forward thinking, utilize their consumers' insights creatively and know their target market.

Appealing to Gen I
Generation I refers to the children of the youngest baby boomers. When it comes to identifying this generation's purchasing preferences, whether food and beauty products or cutting-edge technology, it's important to remember that these individuals were born in the age of the internet. Although research on this demographic is still ongoing, many companies are finding that to adequately market to the iGeneration, compelling product packaging and labels are required that not only grasp the child's attention, but also his or her parents' focus as well.

General Mills Kix cereal straddled the line between the parent and child with its advertising slogans, "Kid Tested, Mother Approved," printed on every box. Combining a clear and strong marketing message with new technological label features, such as QR codes, stimulates both child and parent interest.

Targeting Gen Y
Also known as millennials, Generation Yers have birthdays ranging from around 1985 to 2003 and are nearly 75 million strong. This generation grew up with computers most of their life and are therefore especially responsive to internet campaigns and social media. They process information quickly, are brand loyal and respond to outside-the-box humor packaging and advertising efforts.

After extensive research, Campbell's found that millennials prefer slightly more exotic soup flavors, so the company embarked on a new flavor campaign. Instead of Chicken Noodle, Campbell's decided to target millennials with Moroccan Style Chicken and Creamy Red Pepper with Smoked Gouda. To gain further in-roads with the demographic, the company's research revealed millennials think items packaged in pouches are fresher than those packaged in cans. Enter Campbell's Go soups line of soup in a pouch.

The Lost Generation Xers
This market is often overlooked, falling in line behind the larger baby boomer generation. But that's not to say the 44 million Generation Xers shouldn't be targeted by product packaging. These individuals were born between 1965 and 1975 and are therefore in their peak earning and buying years. They are older and are considered more mature than Generation Y and therefore value savings more and are generally independent.

The Baby Boomers
A recent study by Symphony IR showed that boomers spent more than $160 billion on packaged goods last year. This group is 80 million strong and their impact is only expected to increase on the consumer packaged goods market and retail and healthcare industries in the near future. 

The group is not homogenous, though, so targeting them as a single entity is not effective. They do not want to be referred to as old and are good at depicting the value of advertising. The demographic values packaging that will appeal to its youthful side, while offering real benefits from a product.

Lightning Labels uses state-of-the-art digital printing technology to provide affordable, full-color custom labels. For more information, visit

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