Packaging plays a critical role in building brand image and loyalty in the luxury sector, says Peter Conner of Pollard Group
Ever since the financial crash of 2008, there has been much media attention on consumer spending habits – ‘consumer confidence’, or a lack of it, has become a key barometer to gauge how the overall economy is performing.
However, throughout even the toughest of times, the luxury and gift sector has remained relatively unscathed with demand remaining strong and consumer confidence seemingly unshaken by whatever troubles and uncertainties are impacting on other markets.
There are several reasons for this. Firstly, even the most straightened situations, there will always be people with money who are unaffected by any economic downturn. There is also the so-called lipstick effect, first noticed during the depression in the United States where in the four years from 1929 to 1933, industrial production halved but sales of cosmetics rose. The theory is that when disposable income comes under pressure, consumers resist buying big-ticket items and seek more personal, indulgent treats.
Whatever the reasons, buyers of luxury and gift items have the same expectations from their purchases in terms of their quality and premium positioning, and it is packaging’s role to help support this. In particular, since the pack provides consumers with their first point of contact with the brand, its appearance, functionality and structure are vital elements in establishing the right image.
In terms of appearance, this is more than merely ensuring on-shelf presence and attracting attention. Special materials and finishes not only catch a consumer’s eye when on display in stores, but also create an emotive response. Smooth finishes such as a soft touch laminate, or materials that combine this finish, prompt the consumer to touch and feel the packaging, and in this way explore the product further.
Such visual and tactile elements, along with other sensory features such as the use of scents, help to create an everlasting memory within the unconscious mind of the consumer, and are a major factor in helping to establish brand loyalty and encourage repeat purchase.
Equally important, adding elements such as ribbon pulls and lifters further enhance the product’s value and allow the consumer to become more interactive with the packaging. Decorative bows also connote that the pack is a gift and subsequently evoke a positive experience when receiving and opening.
The ‘opening experience’ is a particularly important requirement for a gift item. Book jacket style packs provide an effective ‘reveal’ through the opening of the door and this can be further enhanced with product notes and descriptions on the inside. Front and back openings create a see-through effect to showcase and display products with more impact on crowded retail shelves.
At the same time, the easy accessibility of the pack and the sturdiness of its construction provide the necessary element of functionality to complement its aesthetic characteristics and create further engagement with the consumer.
At Pollards, we have seen increasing demand for this type of pack format, so much so and with the projects we have planned for 2019, a second faster magnet inserting machine will be installed by the end of this year.
In the future, the introduction of smart packaging technologies will help provide even greater interaction between the consumer and the product. The use of QR codes and, more recently, Shazam opens the pack to the digital world, enabling consumers to use their smartphones or tablets to get information on demand, learning more about the product or taking part in special promotions and competitions.
One example is the pack we produce for a tea company, which incorporates a QR code. This enables the consumer to play a piece of music on their device which is timed exactly to the amount of time the tea needs to be brewed. This offers a simple yet innovative way for the brand to connect with the customer on another level.
Such a personalised experience with the packaging could be even further developed with the availability of flexible, digital printing that can still deliver the high quality of finishing expected of premium-image brands while providing personal and targeted messaging to individual consumers.
The luxury and gift sector may be recession-proof, but it remains a highly competitive market. Creating the right image for a product through its packaging will play a key role in supporting the consumer loyalty that delivers brand success and longevity.