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Shelf Engagement: The Beauty of Secondary of Packaging

By: Abby Penning
Posted: May 31, 2013, from the June 2013 issue of GCI Magazine.

As consumers shop more online and spend less time perusing the shelves at drug stores and counters at department stores, the need to engage on a visual level is more important than ever for beauty. And a key way to be visually engaging is utilizing secondary packaging.

“In general, we all respond to a lot of the same visual cues when we’re shopping. Whether or not they fuel our purchases is a different matter, but gaining attention is at least half the battle,” says Jonathan Dudlak, general manager, Chicago Paper Tube & Can Company. “Secondary packaging gives designers the opportunity to work in a separate medium dedicated solely to engaging the buyer. Whether this is through something artistic like the use of novel materials, shapes and finishes, or through something practical like a re-purposeable container, it’s a whole new opportunity to make that connection.”

Petra Strand, founder and creator of the Pixi beauty brand, explains that for her, secondary packaging is really about storytelling. “It communicates the DNA of the brand,” she says. “In a self-service environment, it is the only place I can talk about all the benefits of the product and speak directly to customers.”

Describing Pixi’s own efforts in communication-via-secondary-packaging, Strand notes, “Ours is pastel green with bronze printing. Green is soothing and tells us it’s good for your skin [while] the bronze adds a luxe prestige feel.”

The Need for Secondary

Clearly, secondary packaging can offer quite a lot to a beauty brand. In fact, Dudlak says, “Secondary packaging is what does the selling at retail. It establishes the brand image and helps distinguish the product from what can sometimes be a dizzying array of competitors, which is why it’s so important to have a unique presentation. This is especially true when it comes to health and beauty offerings, where there are often several potential purchase options.”

Charles Hays, vice president of sales and marketing for Printex Packaging, says that secondary packaging not only helps maintain retail space but also gives more on-product space. “It becomes complicated to get all of the product information on bottles, jars and other primary packages,” he notes.

And Suzan Kerston, executive vice president, Bert-Co, agrees that this packaging element has a lot to do. “The secondary package has a big job. [It] really needs to get the product noticed at retail and drive home the brand’s message. Of course it has to protect the product, but secondary packaging can also enhance the product and make it more desirable. The package can inform and educate the buyer and really close the deal. The ‘out-of-box experience’ should reinforce the shopper’s buying decision and bring them back for more,” she explains.

How is secondary packaging grabbing this retail attention and making these consumer connections? “Eye-catching designs are the first step to consumer engagement. Consumers initially engage through sight, singling out products they are interested in at retail before learning more about them,” says Don Droppo, Jr., president and CEO, Curtis Packaging.

However, he also outlines further opportunities that secondary packaging offers to help brands stand out on shelves. “Products can be differentiated through both innovative structural design and printed graphics and effects,” he says. “But what is sometimes overlooked is the third dimension of the design—touch. The weight of the product, the rigidity of the board, embossing, tactile and soft touch coatings, all these elements add up to a package consumers will be more engaged with and hold onto longer once they pick it up.”

The Inner Workings

Getting a product into the consumer’s hands is key, but it’s not all secondary packaging can do. Secondary packaging can also assist in the product making it safely to retail shelves. “It certainly serves functional purposes, as well, such as protecting a fragile primary during shipping and handling, tamper evidence and prevention, and adding additional area to convey product information, instructions and marketing messages that might not be doable on a primary package,” acknowledges Dudlak, and Strand also notes, “It protects the contents if the inner packaging is clear [as] many natural pigments are light sensitive. It lasts longer on the shelves in-store and travels safer so there is not as much damage.”

Dudlak explains, “On the execution side, creating a secondary package that works for the primary can be rather involved, as molded plastic and glass primary containers often have complex shapes that can be challenging to contain and control in just the right way. The product needs to survive pack-out and shipment and still look good when the customer opens the secondary. We generally have to do a lot of engineering and trials here to devise custom solutions for all the different products we encounter.” And while devising a sound package may take some time, it’s worth it to help contribute to that experience that a consumer has with your brand.

Of course, another reason many brands shy away from secondary packaging is monetary. “The additional cost is always the first hurdle to get over,” says Hays. “Then it becomes a design/branding message issue, trying to keep consistent with brand and design of the primary package to make sure the secondary package holds this up as well. We resolve this by asking questions about the product and what the retailer/product objective is on the shelf for the product. The main answer is always, ‘I want the product to sell.’ We try to look for something that will give the consumer a visual and interactive experience. Package performance is critical on the shelf and after it reaches the consumer, so we try to see what can be developed specific to this as well.”

Basically, when developing secondary packaging for a brand, you want to make sure it’s worthwhile and will contribute ROI.

A Better Experience

Investing in secondary packaging, aside from being engaging and ensuring better product safety, can also lend a beauty product a more prestige feel. Hays notes that secondary packaging can be used in the skin care, hair care, nail care and fragrance segments, among others, but it is also seen when brands want to help impart a more luxury experience with a product.