Why Holistic Packaging Is a Key to Beauty Product Sales

The authors of a new book focus on taking an holistic approach to package creation to yield bottom line benefits.

By Jim Peters and Mike Richmond

Packaging innovation starts with knowing your consumer. For beauty packaging, in particular, that means knowing what experiences your consumers want to have and understanding their aspirations – how do they want to feel, look and be inspired by the products they select?

The product has to address those objectives and packaging has to support them. In the consumer’s mind, the package is the product until she uses it. And even after use, the package supports her decision to repurchase.

What else inspires innovation and drives successful package development that moves beyond function to stir action and brand loyalty?

Consider consumers’ quest for information and opportunities to leverage this trend in beauty packaging. From a design standpoint, detailed side and back panels add value to packaging; however, the use of 2D bar codes—or QR codes, as they are often called—can build even more value. Worldwide, smart phones proliferate, and packages are the second largest source of code scans. One tactic is to explain benefits through a web site linked to a package’s 2D bar code. It’s an edge for higher-value items, yet it enhances lower-priced products too since consumers are just as likely to dig for information on everyday items like nail polishes and lip balm as they are for expensive purchases.

Another critical juncture in holistic packaging is to link the consumer’s mindset to a packaging solution. There are so many options today that the biggest challenge is to find the right one for your specific consumer. Active “technology scouting” involves looking at new technology as well as revisiting older packaging ideas. Changing market conditions may make a technology that failed earlier work today. For example, PLA resin showed shortcomings in some areas, water bottles as one case. Yet, with the right compatibility testing and sustainable needs, it may offer benefits in other areas.

Similarly, consider allied industries. Today’s beauty products are more sophisticated, and technologies that protect foods and pharmaceuticals also may help protect beauty products from degradation. Keep up, too, with emerging approaches such as airless packaging as these may appeal to the specific needs of your consumer.

On the aesthetics side, beauty packaging is increasingly using metallized materials that can add value. A carton for Physicians Formula Bronze Booster, a tan enhancer, for instance, features transparent bronze-tinted ink over metallized paperboard and ties into the consumer aspiration of achieving a good-looking tan. It also creates shelf impact. The Bronze Booster package goes further in its holistic approach: It is a kit with a compact, an integral brush and a mirror. While some Internet reviews have described the product as “pricey,” the packaging helps support the price point by suggesting a positive multi-function experience that meets aspirations.

A classic example of how packaging as a holistic solution can produce remarkable results is Herbal Essences. As a Clairol brand in the late 1990s, a packaging change delivered a sales lift. The redesign was one of the first uses of a crystal-clear PET bottle and a see-through front label that allowed shoppers to see attractive back label graphics through the liquid shampoo. The revamp was dramatic, it caught the eye of consumers and set a trend in shampoo packaging, but long term it didn’t sustain sales for Herbal Essences because it didn’t address the strategic issue of brand positioning. By the time P&G acquired the brand a few years later, sales of Herbal Essences had dropped dramatically.

P&G made a team decision to strategically redefine Herbal Essences as a brand for Millennials. Messaging got whimsical and packaging projected a sexuality that was more subtle than the positioning for Gen X women. Package shape took a prominent role, as it has in many other beauty packaging initiatives, and P&G leveraged product color for shelf impact. Packaging also tied together elements such as shampoo and conditioner. This holistic solution leveraged consumer insights, packaging technology and marketing goals to deliver value to the marketer and the consumer. P&G reported early sales increases in the high single digits.

Taking a holistic approach to package development, particularly in the beauty industry, means adjusting focus from business objectives and function to include the information, aesthetic, safety, technology and feeling consumers expect a product to deliver. Doing so yields positive results for products, drives sales and bolsters brands.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Jim Peters and Mike Richmond are co-authors of the book Creating Value Through Packaging, written in partnership with Packaging Technology Integrated Solutions. More info: www.destechpub.com