Packaging design can be your lifeline in a tough economic climate

By Vanessa Bosman, managing director at Just Design

With the economy stagnating, packaging is becoming 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 looking 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 which, when harnessed correctly, can help foster economic growth. Packaging design that has been carefully considered can produce measurable business results – critical for businesses and organisations looking to gain an edge over their competition and help kick start our country’s flagging economy.

Packaging’s role in the economy

It goes without saying that consumption (packaging, manufacturing and transporting) drives any economy. However, before any of that can take place, there needs to be a demand for the product. Whilst all marketing tools come into play here, it is arguably packaging that is the big decider, with as much as 70% of the purchase decision taking place at the point of purchase.

The designs that have truly understood their consumer set and the brand’s objectives, are the ones that emerge victorious. They need to stand out, communicate clearly and visually (especially in South Africa where we have 11 languages and varying levels of literacy), with a format that is easy to use or carry and is convenient. Not to mention the legal regulations to conform to or 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, which includes tracking and tracing, all need to 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 of Rand.

Packaging can mean big business. 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 in order 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 the SA Revenue Service, counterfeit foods cost the economy billions through lost tax revenue. 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, directly impacting the economy by not putting additional strain on the healthcare system, as opposed to potentially dangerous foodstuffs.

The threat of digital

Online shopping has boomed in recent years. Rand Merchant Bank predicts that by 2025, the e-commerce space could be worth as much as R225-billion and that has led many South African companies to interrogate how their design translates online. Given the success that some brands have 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 does in other parts of the world. Which means that physical packaging remains one of the best ways to reach the broadest audience.

The proof is in the packaging

Recently, Just Design was tasked with refreshing the original Oros packaging. The result was a 3% increase in volume growth within the squash category. When Energade sought them out to update their packaging, the agency delivered work that netted them an additional 23.7% growth in volume share.

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. Unlike the traditional agency approach where clients select agencies based primarily on reputation, there needs to be a process that enables them to validate and predict their packaging designs 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. By embracing innovation and selecting the right creative partners, the packaging design sector can be a true catalyst for economic growth and help African countries get back on track.