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Thinking Outside the (Same Old) Box

By: Abby Penning
Posted: April 26, 2013, from the May 2013 issue of GCI Magazine.

In today’s crowded marketplace, beauty product packaging has to be well-designed and well-developed in order to do its job of engaging the consumer from the shelf or web page—in addition, of course, to effectively containing and dispensing the product. And these days, every good beauty brand owner, marketer, manager and developer knows packaging requires its own strategy and structure, and can no longer just be a pretty box or jar.

But that’s just the problem—everyone knows this, so everyone is doing it. That extra attention to detail in packaging development may no longer be enough. Packaging needs to truly surprise and delight consumers, and give them another reason to pick up the product and come back for more. It needs to have an added value, and that value needs to be quickly apparent. The bottom line is it needs to be inspired.

Different Development

Creating something truly different has to have its roots somewhere, but often first attempts need to be honed and refined in order to meet the needs of demanding beauty consumers. That’s part of the reason anodized aluminum packaging specialist Anomatic Corporation revamped its development process. Describing it, Steve Rusch, director of marketing and business development for Anomatic, says, “We established a new facility last year that incorporates an innovation and design center, where we’ve added new technology, primarily for rapid prototyping. In doing so, [the new technology] really provides the opportunity for Anomatic to be able to produce [new packaging] concepts in a day.”

With a quick turnaround time for prototypes, beauty brand owners are able to work with Anomatic and their design and retail teams in real time to make tweaks and adjustments to meet a product’s needs. “For the brands, it’s revolutionary to be able to get a concept within a day or a week of dreaming something up, and putting it into stores so that they can respond to trends in the marketplace,” says Rusch. “They’re able to take that prototype and get instant feedback from their merchants, their design team and even in-store at the consumer level.

“We are in the process of restaging an entire product line, and it’s a very large product line, but we were essentially able to look at 30 different designs, produce samples and narrow it down to three in a matter of about 30 days by being able to put physical prototypes in the customers’ hands,” Rusch continues. “And that really enables them.”

In a society and industry that is increasingly relying on crowdsourcing, reviews and feedback to develop tailored products, this quick-prototype ability helps brands develop a package that truly hits the right notes with consumers at the right time.

Raising the Visual Bar

What is engaging to consumers today? More and more, beauty brands are seeking out packaging that attracts immediate attention yet also sticks in the mind. To create this type of consumer experience, collaboration and open-mindedness is more important than ever.

Illustrating this point, Beth Scherer, director of sustainability with Curtis Packaging, says, “The most exciting and collaborative innovation we’ve worked on in the past year or so is probably for the Beyoncé Pulse line for Coty. For this project, Beyoncé and Coty wanted something that looked really ‘plugged in.’ Curtis partnered with Hazen Paper to create a registered holographic carton that is incredibly dynamic and looks alive from every angle. The placement of the 3-D burst hologram is consistent from carton to carton and is layered with transparent inks to create the final effect. It allows designers to add eye-catching movement behind their designs and create a unique experience for consumers.”

And to ensure its customers’ needs were being appropriately met, Curtis worked directly with Coty on the project, Scherer explains. “Coty really wanted to come up with something that hadn’t been done before, so they actually developed the graphics first, and then Curtis and Hazen Paper worked together to develop a hologram that really highlighted the design,” she says. “We came up with several possibilities, and Coty ultimately opted for the sharp, electrifying burst you see on the packaging today.”

This kind of unique, engaging packaging experience is necessary to catch attention as well as ensure the line and any subsequent related products marry well together while still displaying their own personality. Of the Pulse design, Scherer notes, “[The design and packaging] is absolutely unique to the Pulse line, and is therefore easily branded and instantly identifiable. Beyoncé has launched two new products since the original Pulse (a Summer Edition and NYC), both of which use the same background hologram with different colors layered on top to create a simultaneously completely new and familiar experience for consumers.” And this helps reinforce the important brand-consumer connection.

To help this type of connection, packaging is now more often used to extend or even create a product story for a piece. For the limited edition Nina Fantasy fragrance from Nina Ricci, SGD dipped into a fairy tale narrative to help the scent follow all the signals of a distinct experience.