Packaging in general term is the science, art and technology of enclosing or protecting products in a way that it reaches the consumer in its original form when manufactured. So, the basic function of packaging is to protect and ensure the identity and integrity of a product throughout its shelf life.
But, is it the only role or theme behind any design of a pack?
In current world, the conventional definition has taken a very different turn making packaging responsible for many roles, be it product protection or shelf appearance or a way of communication with the user world. Different product type and marketing strategies define the packaging. Packaging has evolved significantly over the past several years to meet the product, market, manufacturers and consumer needs.
The Packaging evolution cycle can be defined in eras, based upon different performance aspects expected:
Era I: The Protection/Containment
This is the first era where packaging was termed for safe containment of product which supports shelf life at consumer end. In this the main focus was to design and develop different packaging systems or materials suitable according to the product to be packed.
Era II: Branding/Marketing
This era aimed at creating a brand identification in the market among many competitors. Be it the face of packaging or graphic designing, everything revolved around creating a brand value.
Era III: Brand protection
This was a challenging era when different brands were fighting against their counterfeit products. Here elements were added to the packaging to make it tamper proof and easily identifiable among many counterfeit products. Companies were following many overt and covert technologies to prevent their user for getting affected by counterfeit drugs. Tamper evident labels, destructible packaging, nanotechnology labels, holograms etc. were introduced and still we are defining modifications to these systems.
This was also the era when packaging design was also planned based on product category and usage formats. For example: Child resistant packaging,
Era IV (Current): Interactive packaging or Digital era
This is the modern era where the packaging is designed to interact with the consumers. Be it product/brand protection and authentication or consumption pattern.
RFID labels, nano technology labels, QR codes and other digital technologies are the means to communicate the authenticity and other relative details about the brand and the product.
The question is “How are the eras similar for different segment of products?”
This is very evident from the evolution chart that packaging is a multifunctional element. Only that the roles have evolved with time and requirements. Packaging design differs from product to product based on the product category. Some deciding factors are common for all and some are product specific aspect which are mandatory to be followed:
Some common aspects for Packaging design for all product categories are:
- Shelf life
- Tamper proofness
- Regulatory compliance
- Effective branding
- Usage compatibility
There are few aspects which are as per Industry specific requirements like for FMCG, ‘First Moment of Truth’ is the prime requirement as for few products the shelf outlook drives the buying instinct of consumers whereas for Pharma products, drug protection and meeting drug regulatory requirement is the prime aspect as here we are dealing with lifesaving drugs.
Thus, selection of right packaging for the product with some smart twists for consumers are the prime links for the pack perception building. So, design should be a complete package for the product.