Time to get out of the packaging business

Robert Lilienfeld

April 17, 2015

2 Min Read
Time to get out of the packaging business
Do consumers want coffee packaging or do they want fresh, great tasting coffee? Photo courtesy Bob Lilienfeld

Want to improve perceptions of your packaging? According to Eco-Insights blogger Robert (Bob) Lilienfeld, start by tying its value to the benefits of the product inside.

Syringes and foam cups. Both are packages. Both are found during beach cleanups. Syringes present a clear and present danger to beachgoers, yet it’s the foam cups that are vilified for being an eyesore and ocean debris component.


Syringes provide life-saving medications, vaccinations, analgesics and cosmetic enhancements. Foam cups deliver...?

In reality, foam cups provide and ensure refreshment by keeping cold drinks cold or hot drinks hot. If consumers don’t receive these benefits, the beverage will be thrown away, along with the cup. The results will be disappointment to the user plus physical and economic costs to the environment.

Luckily for syringes, the larger emotional “meta value” they provide is easily recognized, and thus psychologically offsets their negative contributions to litter and public safety. Unfortunately, while you and I know the value of foam cups, consumers do not. Ditto for most paperboard containers, metal cans, glass jars, plastic bottles and flexible pouches.

And that’s the problem. Too many packaging companies and related trade associations are focused on communicating the features they provide to direct customers and not enough on the benefits they deliver to consumers.

For example, I recently spoke with the CEO of a coffee bag company who lamented the fact that consumers do not appreciate the technological wonders of his packages. I asked him what business he was in and he said “coffee packaging.”

I reminded him that consumers don’t want packaging. They want fresh, great tasting coffee. And that’s the message he should focus on: His packaging ensures maximum java enjoyment with minimum product and packaging waste.

Want to get some respect? Start by telling your friends, associates, and detractors that you’ve gotten out of the packaging business and are now part of the insurance business: Your package is the insurance policy which guarantees that coffee stays fresh and tastes great. That laundry detergent is easy to properly use and thus helps get clothes clean. That iPads, iPhones and iMacs can be efficiently shipped and protected from damage and disappointment.

Now, you’re positioned as part of the physical, emotional and economic value craved and paid for by the consumer.

That should help resolve your perception problems.

What do you think? Please leave your comment below.

Missed one of Bob's blogs? Read them here.

Robert (Bob) Lilienfeld has been involved with the concept of sustainable packaging for more than 20 years. He is editor of The ULS (Use Less Stuff) Report, a marketing and communications consultant to AMERIPEN and other organizations, and is a professional photographer.

About the Author(s)

Robert Lilienfeld

Robert Lilienfeld Consulting

Robert (Bob) Lilienfeld has been involved in sustainable packaging for 25 years, working as a marketing executive, consultant, strategic planner, editor, writer, and communications expert. He’s President of Robert Lilienfeld Consulting, working with materials suppliers, converters, trade associations, retailers, and brand owners. He also recently founded SPRING, The Sustainable Packaging Research, Information, and Networking Group. Reach him at [email protected].

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