Gone are the days when packaging was just a standard container used to safeguard and transport items. Western Cape printing and packaging powerhouse, Colourtone Aries has seen demands in packaging evolve over the years. Packaging now plays a crucial part in the marketing mix and one that receives considerable attention from marketers.
According to Colourtone Aries, packaging has been inextricably linked to the evolution of consumer demand and the influence of society on the corporate world. Marketers have embraced the positive role that packaging can play in consumer decisions. Today companies use packaging as a key marketing tool in the race for consumer space.
Colourtone Aries Sales Manager, Ryan Bywater, says, "It is not just about sustainability and shelf space anymore. It is about the value that packaging adds to the brand and its impact on the lives of the consumer. Increasingly more sophisticated consumer products are being introduced, and the way they are packaged has become more complex over and above its vital link in the delivery chain. Packaging in itself is, of course, not a new concept, it is just a lot more sophisticated than before."
The history of packaging as we know it can be traced back to before the Industrial Revolution.
Packaging, it can be said, has been around since consumers occupied rural spaces long before the Industrial Revolution. Packaging was basic then, a simple container to transport goods. A single solution fulfilled a number of roles like carrying wood, food and even tools. These were receptacles and not near the sophisticated packaging we use today; they were simple means to transport goods.
The consumer mindset of those times was more in line with users of resources. Consumerism was not conceptualised yet in its sophisticated modern format we know today. The Industrial Revolution introduced mass production, bringing about developments in modes of transport, and this gave considerable impetus to a demand for complex packaging.
Suddenly the market widened for producers and transporting goods to distant destinations demanded different packaging. Barrels were needed to transport liquids and boxes for ease of storage and transportation. Essentially packaging was used to protect products and was not a means of communication and definitely not a part of a more sophisticated brand strategy...yet.
On arrival at stores, storekeepers would unpack products, weigh or count them and wrap or place them in bags or boxes for the customer. Yes, hygiene was not yet a concern for consumers then but they were present when the storekeeper packed their goods.
Little did the customers of those days know that they were in the beginning stages of consumerism and the way we would purchase and receive goods would take them on a journey that excited marketers and consumers alike.
The end of the Second World War saw packaging evolve to the needs of the consumer. Product distribution evolved further and slowly supermarket concepts began to change our lives. Products were individually packaged to allow consumers to pick them off supermarket shelving. "Self-service" began to grip the market.
Marketers saw the need to print information on the packaging as the buying process speeded up. Storekeepers could no longer advise the consumer on all products and with the influx of consumers into his super store, did not have the time or resources to serve his customers individually.
The rise in population across the world saw a considerable increase in consumption of goods; this was the age of the Baby Boom. Packaged products were now in great demand and forward thinking marketers of the 1950s and 1960s were setting trends. This also coincided with the proliferation of advertising since the introduction of television in the early 1950s, and much later only in South Africa in the 1970s.
Plastic became a popular form of packaging goods and the industry emerged strongly from this era. Quality received significant attention driving advancements in technology. Packaging, as we know it, was on the move.
The pace at which consumers moved raced, as did the demand for complex packaging. This pace continues today, but the modern era now brings additional challenges that were not a focus at the beginning of packaging history. Sustainability has gripped the attention of consumers and marketers and is set to challenge packaging companies in the search for total environmentally friendly solutions.
Ryan says, "The future of packaging is here. The principle role of packaging cannot be ignored, but neither can the marketing opportunities it presents. Protection of products is key but modern solutions offer so much more. Notwithstanding the legal requirements of packaging, its role has evolved to provide the consumer with an extension of the brand experience."
The race is on as marketers compete for consumer attention using packaging as a means to grab the consumer's eye. With technology now capable of achieving the near impossible, marketers and designers, equally with the skills of the future, are pushing the boundaries of packaging design.
"We truly are in the era of the package," concludes Ryan. "The evolution of packaging continues to be driven by consumer demand."
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