Shopping Behavior and Sustainable Packaging: What to Consider in Brand Messaging
Packaging producers often have a unique view into the world of sustainable packaging, serving as a conduit offering expertise between stakeholders in customer meetings around retail presence, brand image, form function, fulfillment and supply chain. It’s very typical for customers to spend a lot of time in these sessions discussing how to message sustainability on packaging and what pitfalls to avoid when a brand makes the decision to move forward with a sustainable messaging strategy. Inevitably, some common questions arise in all of these meetings:
- What sustainability claim fits our corporate goals and brand identity?
- Is our brand’s sustainability claim legally true?
- Will our brand’s claim be recognized by retailers and fulfill a retailer requirement?
- Do we have to change our packaging’s raw material to improve our packaging’s sustainability, and if we do will it still function in the supply chain?
- Will a change in our packaging’s raw material negatively impact our supply chain?
Each of these questions is important and must be explored in order for brands to make good business decisions that could positively impact them at retail. Three points generally come into focus in these exploratory meetings:
- The brand believes in sustainable packaging.
- The brand has a desire to meet a retailer’s needs around sustainable packaging.
- The brand believes a sustainability claim will strengthen its identity and help it sell more product.
These three points aren't mutually exclusive and can all be present and valid. Let’s focus on how to better quantify the third point. If a brand marketing team is going to make smart decisions, it should incorporate consumer data.
QuadPackaging teamed with Package InSight, a Clemson University research partner, on a new consumer research study to explore this data. Our question was, “Does the inclusion of a visual element that appears to be a package sustainability rating increase consumer attention and sales when compared to the same package with no sustainability rating?”
The overall result was surprising — 92 percent of the study participants didn't notice sustainability logos on the packages despite 53 percent of participants saying that a simple rating system would impact their purchase.
These results, in addition to years of anecdotal evidence based on customer marketing meetings, make it clear that companies need to better understand how sustainable messaging fits into their overall brand. Randomly adding logos that don't make sense to consumers can be confusing. This isn't to say sustainable initiatives aren't extremely important to corporate responsibility messaging, but brand marketers who generally have limited real estate for clear messaging and images have to edit where needed.
So what's the answer? Sustainability should be treated the same as all images used on packaging and reviewed like all brand and regulatory elements.
Adding sustainability to standard creative and strategy packaging reviews puts it in the spotlight instead of relegating it to a secondary consideration. Similar to the early days of nutritional labels, sustainability messaging will need to educate consumers on its relevance. In time, consumers will understand it and sustainable messaging will be one more factor in their purchase decision.
If you're considering adding sustainable messaging to your brand, here are four questions to consider:
- Review how the Sustainable Packaging Coalition defines sustainable packaging. Has your company initiated any of these points?
- Research sustainable logo requirements and regulations. Do your organization’s initiatives fit?
- Does a sustainable message fit your brand message?
- Are you willing to give up secondary space on your packaging and commit time in your marketing campaigns to educate and discuss sustainable packaging?
Paul Nowak is the senior director of sales strategy and business development at QuadPackaging, a provider of collaborative end-to-end packaging solutions.
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