Thinking Outside The Box: Is Creative Packing The New Craze In Retail?

Is creative packing the new treat in retail?

Sometimes, a box is just a box.

And then, sometimes, a box is so much more than just a box that it can charge your phone while you eatinspire you to create a work of art or just look really cool and colorful so that your kids will love it (and want to learn about birds).

You’re probably saying to yourself now — unless you clicked on some of those hyperlinks — what the heck are they talking about?

Well, we’re talking about creative and innovative packing as the next big thing in retail. Or maybe it’s already here.

For years, products came in square, stolid boxes that were all mostly uniform and maybe bore the product’s logo, decal, insignia or whatever, if you were lucky.

But lately, that’s all started to change, as many retailers are embracing bolder, more colorful and less “square” boxes as a way to make their products stand out on the ever-crowded shelves of retaildom.

Or, to put it more succinctly, a lot of retailers are beginning to think outside of the box when it comes to the boxes they sell their products in.

In May, Zappos launched an ad campaign to promote its new limited edition box that encouraged customers to “reuse, refashion or repurpose” it in “new, inventive ways.”

The campaign, titled #ImNotABox, encouraged Zappos customers to get creative with the company’s packing and not just treat the box its shoes came in as trash or recycling but rather as a blank canvas to create something new, different or unique.

“The Zappos box is our way of being there for our customers, wherever they are in life, as we provide them with the things they need and love,” Kelly Smith of Zappos THINK, an in-house team at Zappos focused on creating storytelling movements, told Footwear News when the box debuted in late May. “Every box has a unique story and purpose. Not only do we want customers to know we genuinely care about their needs, but we also hope to inspire people to become the best version of themselves and to see the world with a new perspective. We want people in the end to say, ‘I’m not a box.’”

In June, KFC debuted its “Watt a Box” in several of its Indian markets, a five-in-one meal box that also doubles as a built-in 6100mAh power bank and USB cable to charge your phone while you eat. You know, for all those people whose phone is perpetually on low battery mode.

Packages that can make products stand out on the shelves (or, like the “Watt a Box,” are so unique that they garner media attention, even though they are only offered to a very minor section of a retailer’s potential customer base) seem to be more and more becoming the retailing norm.

In 2011, Smirnoff debuted a “peelable” bottle it named Caipiroska as a way to associate fruit with its flavored vodka offerings and emphasize that the product was made with “natural materials.” Also, it was pretty cool to be able to peel the packing off to reveal the crystal-clear vodka underneath, like peeling a lime or an orange to get to the deliciousness underneath.

Görtz, a German department store, developed five different paper bird-shaped boxes with shoelaces through its “beak” mimicking a small (and colorful) worm in order to entice customers to frequent its children’s shoes department. The five different boxes were actually modeled after five different species of native German birds, and customers were encouraged to collect them all. As well as a way to enhance the Görtz brand, the “boxes” (if you can even call something shaped like a bird that) also just looked really, really cool and were a designer’s dream in terms of coloring and shape.

“Remember — the package is the brand,” said Jim Carroll, a keynote speaker and “futurist, trends and innovation expert,” in his presentation on creativity and innovation in retail designs. “Heinz, StarKist and other industry leaders have learned that packaging innovation, driven by new methodologies, ideas and technologies, has become the secret to brand image in many sectors, because it permits a shift of value and customer perception in ways that haven’t previously been seen. Think upside-down-ketchup. If you aren’t innovating with packaging, you aren’t in the game.”

Remember, there was a time when ketchup was exclusively right-side-up.

Are we not all better for that innovation?


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