Experiential Packaging

Layering on hyper-sensorials elevates packaging from a purely utilitarian, contain-protect-deliver functionality to an emotive, truly benefit-driven proposition.

While visuals alone might communicate a brand value (think of the freshness associated with coolmint-blue) they struggle to communicate a memorable and deeply satisfying experience. Consider the impact of a soft-touch personal care pack that whispers about the product’s ability to soften your skin, over an impassive lexicon of “moisturizing lotion” or similar.

Being so closely linked to our emotional states mean sensorial experiences have the power to deeply influence consumers; when linked to a product or brand this can reap reward.

Undoubtedly the Millennial generation is a catalyst for this trend. In our data-heavy lifestyles consumers are seeking truly meaning experiences, in their packaging as well as their products. Packaging that facilitates and heightens our sensory experience allows us to connect with the contents on a closer, more personal level.

Today more than ever, there are possibilities for brands to stand out with unique semiotics. Competition is certainly a consideration; Sainsbury’s estimate their large stores stock approximately 30,000 food-products alone, consumers are spoiled for choice. Brands now have to rely on more than just visual equity to stand out.

Visual equity is used most in marketing because sight is the sense most responsive to an environment. According to fashion retailer Gina Tricot, “the eyes buy 70-80% of what people buy”. Sight is how consumers navigate stores, identify products and differentiate quality, brands and variants. Traditionally, that is, anyway.

In a bid to push conventional visual boundaries, Jose Cuervo released a thermo-chromic design where the colours on its tattoo-like graphics intensify as the product cools.

Khortytsa delivered function-orientated colour change with their vodka bottle than turns blue when chilled to below 5°C, advising when it’s just the right temperature to drink. Heineken developed a more extrinsic, glow-in-the-dark ‘Ignite’ bottle that comes to life in the bar/club scene, appealing to a millennial generation looking for brands to help them connect.

Equally theatrical is Bombay Sapphire ‘Infused with Imagination’ campaign packaging; when the pack is lifted, electroluminescent inks light it with a glowing animation. Elizabeth Arden Untold fragrance packaging creates a premium and dynamic illusion of motion; thin lines of a micro-embossed varnish control the light reflecting from the metallic foil substrate.

Embossing, while not a new tactile element, is crossing category lines and making its presence felt.

It is no surprise then that brands are heightening the semiotics of their packs with touchable details. Helena Rubinstein Lash Queen Mascara is printed with a tactile lace design, while Mac have amplified the aquatic proposition of their Alluring Aquatic range with cool-to-touch surface water droplets.

On a similar aquatic theme, Festina physically submerged their Profundo Dive watch in water-filled fishbowl-like packaging. This literal and humorous hyper-sensorial approach is infinitely more evocative than any static visual.

Wall Street Journal reporter Ellen Byron suggests “the small sounds consumer products make—whether a snap, click, rustle or pop—can be memorable and deeply satisfying”. She also proposes that “sound is emerging as a new branding frontier”.

For the majority, sound isn’t the first thing consumers’ notice. But, done well, marketers believe they are appreciated. Clinque High Impact Extreme Volume mascara makes a soft, crisp click when the top is twisted shut. As well as providing reassurance of the pack being fully closed, Owen believes “the click conveys the elegance of the $19.50 formula”.

Dr Pepper’s Snapple beverage bottle features an iconic “pop” on opening; the company says it “builds anticipation and offers a sense of security”. With a 2,000-strong Facebook community dedicated to “The sound of opening a new Snapple bottle”, it is evident that consumers notice – and appreciate – the hyper-sensorial details.

Schwartz spices are encouraging consumers to “feel flavour” through interaction with sonic posters that play flavour-related music via mobile device. The touch-sensitive inks developed by Cambridge tech brand, Novalia, have also been applied to DJ Qbert’s interactive album cover.

Hailed as the world’s first interactive album packaging, this interactive DJ deck allows user to scratch and mix songs simply by touching the Bluetooth-connected paper.

Renata Salecl, author of The Tyranny of Choice believes “expectations have been inflated to such an extent that people think the perfect choice exists”.

At the less ‘techy’ end of the spectrum, emotive nostalgia is delivered by Triticum’s bread packaging. Intentional perforations in the box break down the physical barriers we experience with cellophane-d supermarket groceries, instead referencing delightful memories of buying freshly baked artisan produce.

Longevity does not appear to be a priority with this trend. In all of these examples, the hyper-sensorial is a short-lived, singular consumer touch-point. Most critically, repeatability and consistency is key; think of the Volkswagen’s dependable door-close “thunk” which, although ephemeral, is repeatedly satisfying, use after use.

With their growing appetite for connected and meaningful experiences, consumers are increasingly looking for packaging that delivers heightened sensorial semiotics. Is your branded packaging delivering positive, emotive stimulation?

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