Ina Opperman

By Ina Opperman

Business Journalist

Packaging design: a lifeline in a tough economic climate

If you have a small business, packaging design can make or break you and therefore you have to be very careful when picking a design.

Packaging design can be a lifeline in a tough economic climate where stagnant growth makes packaging the key battleground in an increasingly competitive landscape. Every consumer interacts with packaging daily, making it not only a marketing requirement but a vital necessity for brands that want to differentiate themselves and ultimately drive sales.

“The role of packaging extends far beyond persuading the consumer to purchase and consume. It has a much broader impact that, when harnessed correctly, can help foster economic growth. Carefully considered packaging design can produce measurable business results critical for businesses and organisations that want to gain an edge over their competition and help kick start our country’s flagging economy,” Vanessa Bosman, managing director at Just Design, says.

It goes without saying that consumption (packaging, manufacturing, transport) drives any economy. However, she says, before any of that can take place, there must be a demand for the product.

“While all marketing tools come into play, it is arguably packaging that is the big decider, with as much as 70% of the buying decision taking place at the point of purchase. The designs that truly understand their consumers and the brand’s objectives, are the ones that emerge victorious.”

Bosman says packaging must stand out, communicate clearly and visually (especially in South Africa where we have 12 languages and varying levels of literacy), with a format that is easy to use or carry, or convenient, not to mention the legal regulations to adhere to as well as the potential health and safety implications.

“Behind the scenes, packaging’s contribution is driven by functionality and efficiency. Protecting the goods, warehousing storage and accessibility, logistical procedures, including tracking and tracing, must all be factored in. Something as simple as a fiddly box closure has a knock-on effect in terms of time and losses that could amount to millions.”

ALSO READ: Watch: How good packaging can help your small business compete with the big boys

Right packaging can mean big business

Packaging can mean big business, Bosman says. “Sustainability is an ongoing focus and area of investment with companies like Ardah Glass Packaging Africa injecting more than R3 billion into the country’s economy to build the largest container production plant on the continent.”

Conversely, the illegal sale of counterfeit food products across borderlines has severe monetary repercussions for both manufacturers and government. According to Tax Justice South Africa (TJSA) and Sars counterfeit foods cost the economy billions through lost tax revenue.

Bosman points out that packaging helps combat this by consistently innovating to make it easier to discern the difference between what is real and what is not. “This also has the added impact of helping ordinary South Africans identify products made to a particular standard rather than potentially dangerous foodstuffs directly affecting the economy by putting additional strain on the healthcare system.”

Online shopping has boomed in recent years and Rand Merchant Bank predicts that by 2025, the e-commerce space could be worth as much as R225 billion resulting in many South African companies interrogating how their designs translate online.

“Given the success that some brands had with their e-commerce offerings, numerous businesses have invested heavily into online platforms, but they should be wary. The problem with throwing too much weight behind online presence is market penetration.

“Due to the mechanics of our country, e-commerce is predicted to have much less of an impact here than it has in other parts of the world. This means that physical packaging remains one of the best ways to reach the broadest audience,” Bosman says.

ALSO READ: Time for the next frontier for small business: mobile commerce

New packaging can increase volume growth

Just Design recently refreshed the original Oros packaging and Bosman says the result was a 3% increase in volume growth in the squash category. When Energade asked Just Design to update its packaging, the agency delivered work that netted them an additional 23.7% growth in volume share. This shows how important packaging can be.

“Taking a results-centred approach could be a watershed moment in the packaging design sector and have positive implications for the broader economy as well.”

Bosman says design companies should offer a process that enables customers to validate and predict their packaging design’s in-market results, giving companies the confidence and reassurance that their products can buck the economic trend and see real growth.

“The run-on effect of this is a positive contribution to the country’s economy as more companies find themselves performing well through improved consumption.”

The struggling economy, along with the advent of artificial intelligence, does not bode well for creative agencies that insist on doing things the way they always have, she says.

“Embracing innovation and selecting the right creative partners, can help the packaging design sector to be a true catalyst for economic growth and help South Africa get back on track. “

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