Packaging changes reflect Millennials’ preferences

Discussion
Sep 02, 2014

It may be as much about feelings as facts for Millennials. What packaging says — both literally and figuratively — seems to have a significant impact on purchasing decisions for many. And manufacturers are taking note.

Smartblogs.com reports on a study by Barkley, a Missouri-based ad agency, which spelled out Millennials’ product preferences and how they are influenced by packaging. SVP and author Brad Hanna stressed the importance of claims emphasizing lasting benefits, especially in eco-friendly and re-usable containers, adding freshness as another priority.

Other recommendations include literal and figurative transparency — see-through packaging and/or images that clearly show the contents as well as its provenance. Mr. Hanna endorses using social media to develop stories introduced on-pack saying, "for brands, it’s about thinking through the important information and simplifying the messages, because the packaging doesn’t have to do everything."

Jeff Fromm of millennialmarketing.com believes innovative packaging is key, suggesting that limited editions equate to perceived exclusivity. He, too, stresses sustainability, citing research that "55 percent of Millennials are likely to develop a more positive image of a company as a result of cause marketing" perhaps through "eco-friendly techniques."

Martin Predd of Brand Amplitude LLC agrees, describing Millennials as "marketing savvy, environmentally conscious and socially empowered." His view is that they’ve "shaken up" fashion, entertainment, automobile and insurance. Food manufacturers and retailers, he says on tetrapack.com, "are offering new products to capitalize on the opportunity with young adult shoppers."

How do you think Millennials are responding to packaging differently than past generations? How should grocery retailers perhaps adapt their on-shelf and display merchandising for Millennial shoppers?

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7 Comments on "Packaging changes reflect Millennials’ preferences"


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Mohamed Amer
Guest
Mohamed Amer
7 years 21 days ago

I think Bernice did a great job of summarizing Millennials’ novel response to packaging vis-a-vis prior generations. Packaging can symbolize aspirations, can help to visually and emotionally differentiate the product on the shelf or increase interest to click on the image online.

Grocery retailers can think about their own signage in view of Millennials’ expectations and integrate more in-store technology to extend the conversation beyond the actual packaging.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
7 years 21 days ago
I think much of this neo-demography is more driven by a need for agency recognition than it is by actual unique cohort behaviors and preferences. Boomers, after all, led the charge (if you believe the marketers) for at least two waves of eco-friendly products, the demand for label transparency, and are noted fans of mass customization (think of all those Japanese cars they bought). It seems to me these are customer preferences which retailers continue to minimize by associating them with minority segments of their total shopping population. Let’s reverse the argument. Do Boomers, Gen-Xers, Gen-Yers, etc., prefer label obfuscation, products that threaten the environment and one-size-fits-all product solutions? Of course not, because everyone likes to think of themselves as unique, public-spirited and driven by critical thought even though few of us are one, let alone all three, of those things. So, we can keep ginning up studies that insist that there is a new marketing truth to be found in mining cohort research OR one day we can begin to look at “customers” as… Read more »
Ralph Jacobson
Guest
7 years 21 days ago

As we have said here before, we should not treat Millennials as one demographic. Age is just about the only characteristic that you can count on these people having in common. With that in mind, I have seen more than one survey in the U.S. with findings that sustainability in packaging and products is a “nice-to-have” but not necessarily a “need-to-have.” These findings were similar across all age groups, by the way.

What I do see many, but still not all, Millennials responding to in packaging and merchandising is a simple, straightforward product messaging that states the obvious benefits of the product, with other aspects, including sustainability, as supporting differentiators. Bottom line, product quality and value trump sustainability in terms of purchase drivers.

Zel Bianco
Guest
7 years 21 days ago

In many ways we are just now starting to catch up with our European cousins who have been using this type of “soft” packaging for many years now. When you look at packaging in Europe across most categories, you will see fewer cans and plastic containers than we have here in the states.

This is an important trend and I hope that Millennials will pave the way in insisting that packaging is sustainable. This has to start extending into carry-out foods as well. Look around next time you go to lunch and notice the amount of plastic containers that are being tossed into the garbage every day. The container was used for maybe 10 minutes to transport your sandwich or salad.

Retailers need to push back on manufacturers to do more in this area. We only have this planet to leave to our children and grandchildren. We can certainly do a better job of using less packaging. Cosmetic companies need to really step up to the plate in this area.

Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
Guest
7 years 21 days ago

Ryan makes a good point—is the interest in packaging a Millennial issue or a consumer issue? How many times has McDonald’s changed their packaging to be more environmentally friendly over the past 20 years, or have detergents changed their formulations to be less harmful to the environment? That was not because of Millennials. For companies being told to pay attention to packaging as part of branding is only a reminder of something that has been recommended for decades.

Shep Hyken
Guest
7 years 21 days ago

You can’t be everything to everyone, and that includes packaging. By creating packaging for one demographic, you potentially alienate another. Neutralize the packaging. In other words, the packaging might or might not help, but it won’t hurt. Then focus on the best products for the best value and get consumers (Millennials and others) to engage with feedback, online testimonials, shares, etc.

John Karolefski
Guest
7 years 21 days ago

I see minor changes in packaging because of the preferences and attitudes of Millennials, and most who took the Instant Poll agree.

Would more eco-friendly packaging catch the eye of Millennials and lead to more sales? Maybe. But would not the same thing happen with other demographic groups? I mean, who is against sustainable packaging with see-through windows to view products?

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