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Resonating in a New Reality

By: Kevin Marshall
Posted: August 31, 2011, from the September 2011 issue of GCI Magazine.

“The success of Coca-Cola is based entirely on faith. Faith that it will taste good. Faith that it will be refreshing. Faith that it is ‘effervescenty’. Without faith, Coca-Cola is just a waste of sugar and water.”

Andy Warhol said that, and when you think about the importance of good design—or of well-conceived packaging within the branding paradigm—the merit of these things are also, at least initially from the consumer’s point of view, based on faith. The faith that shape and proportion are meaningful; that color and weight and materials matter; that the brand messages a package represents are worthy of consideration, or better still, desirable enough to inspire a sale.

We can safely say that packaging is faith’s messenger, and that these things are not to be taken lightly, particularly in recent economic times.

Today, as brands vie for consumer attention in what feels like an ever-shrinking marketplace, designers and marketers need to muster the vision and courage to create packaging that far exceeds consumers’ (and our own) expectations. It’s no longer good enough to deliver branding that reinforces the status quo on shelf; we have to do better than that, often with less, and create something extraordinary, intuitive, memorable and, most importantly, meaningful. It’s a tall order, but considering that almost 80% of purchase decisions are made in-store, packaging now needs to resonate with consumers like never before.

Our new reality is that consumers expect far more from their products and packaging. They want expressive and emotional experiences, and they expect the brands they support to possess packaging that embodies not just the brand’s positioning but their personal ideals as well. Like it or not, sustainability is a key global trend in luxury packaging and is growing at a brisk pace (about 5% annually).