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Value-Add Packaging

07/10/2010

Packaging really performs three functions: to protect the product, to prevent theft, and to sell the product. Usually, after a product is purchased, the packaging is discarded. This poses a lot of questions about waste and to some managers, it also poses questions about utility. The optimum solution would be to get rid of packaging altogether but in our world of transoceanic shipping and giant stores with understaffed stewards, this obviously can’t be done. Another intriguing solution is to have the packaging provide some sort of second function, so the package can have a longer, more useful lifespan rather than a quick trip to the bin. Solutions like this have been popping up and I have been trying to take note of them. I have two here, below.

These examples are sourced from big box stores in the area (and are going on my bed, soon!). They both probably have the same amount of shrinkage-protection and occupy nearly the same foot print. Leaving aside the sell-ability of the items, lets talk about the structure: The principle thing these packages do is provide a way in which people can tactilely investigate the product, while not having to compromise the enclosure. The plastic one does it through a zipper, while the fabric one does it far better – not only allowing people to touch the fabric inside, but to even sidestep the opening of the package by making the package of the same material as the product. Consumers see what the item is like and in a large-enough swatch, without peering through plastic to do it. Well done!

There was a third way of packaging sheets, and that was just shrink wrapping them and leaving enough un-labeled area so you could see the product through the plastic. People really want to see what these things are like, and they should – they spend eight or more hours a day with them. Breaking the package is the only answer, or returning them after purchase. Either way, the enclosure is compromised as well as the resell-ability.

Bringing this back to the thoughts of curtailing the immediate obsolescence of product packaging, when you buy either of these products and use them, you are left with two reusable containers for other purposes (let’s face it, there is no-one on earth who can put the sheet genie back in the packaging bottle!). I posit this: the fabric container would be reused far more than the plastic container,  even though it comes with an easier re-closure method: the zipper. Why? because the plastic, although a higher quality than other bags, is still considered a throw-away item, whereas the fabric has a connection that makes people believe that it has an intrinsic worth greater than the garbage can.

I think there is a lot to take away from the fabric container version, for life-cycle concerns for sure, but even more importantly for the interactivity of the enclosure. Tactilely, there is probably a definite preference in store, for sure. That’s an invaluable connection with the consumer, if you can make it. It’s a great sales tool and answers questions in a way that preserves your enclosure.

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