Reducing materials to design sustainable laundry packaging

SGK Anthem, Vrijdag Premium Printing, Generous Minds, Neurensics, Kurz, Merck and Haval have joined forces under the name ‘Packadore Collective’ to design and implement both desirable and sustainable packaging solutions. Their ‘White is the new green’ design innovation explores how reducing materials can provide an eco-friendly and sustainable packaging solution.

Traditionally, all laundry detergent brands were sold in large carton boxes and while such formats are still widely in use, consumer preference has lent towards gels and pods in recent years, thus increasing the volume of plastic packaging used — whether virgin or recycled. 

Carton is a highly renewable material with a relatively low eco-cost; it can be recycled 7-8 times before it loses its integrity and therefore its value. Brands of course need a canvas in which to distinguish themselves and communicate with their consumers on pack, but the use of ink printed on carton and paper material significantly reduces its sustainable benefits. 

‘White is the new green’ conceptual packaging design innovation imagines an ink free carton packaging format, using embossing to maintain brand communication and to amplify the brands sustainable credentials. During manufacturing, die cutting and embossing happen as part of the same process and so no additional step or change to the line set-up is required. 

In addition, this ‘cleaner’ packaging design and use of white itself becomes a strong communication cue in terms of supporting the product’s proposition, a cleaner pack for cleaner laundry — simplifying the design to help amplify the impact. By removing the need for ink, we can enhance the consumer packaging experience and help brands to navigate the circular economy maze. 

If orange is the new black, white is the new green.

Taking this one step further as part of our consumer neuroscience research, we have explored the impact and effectiveness that such desirable and sustainable packaging designs can have, as compared to a benchmark of existing packaging already in the market — one that we know to be performing well. Our mission is to understand if brains really do ‘buy green’. 

We all know the saying, ‘do as I say, not as I do’ and this rings especially true when looking at the challenges of more traditional forms of consumer research; consumers say one thing and do another. We need better methods of qualifying our investments in packaging design, especially when moving towards more sustainable solutions.  

Consumer behaviours, including purchasing behaviours, are influenced by unconscious processes. Our goal here is to understand and validate consumer perceptions and preferences in order to confidently predict consumer behaviours and choices — in store and online. This approach can be used to help reduce risk when making significant step changes. 

Using MRI scanning, we measured the brain activations of 24 respondents in response to the three different packaging solutions. We then analysed a range of emotional responses linked to purchase intentions; positive emotions such as desire, expectation and trust, but also negative emotions such as fear, aversion and irritation. 

The results are highlighted below: 

The Omo benchmark packaging design scored high on trust, relevance, value and desire and had lower than category average scores on the more negative emotions. This is to be expected given consumers were presented with a strong and familiar brand — indeed, a brand leader in the Netherlands. 

Our brown conceptual pack scored equally high on trust and value but slightly less so on relevance and desire whilst maintaining low scores on negative emotions; including a particularly low score for anger, well below that of the benchmark. This indicates a low level of irritation in the consumers’ mind. Associations of brown paper with sustainability could also be at play here. 

Our white conceptual pack received similarly high scores on value, relevance and desire but slightly less so on trust and also fear saw a slight increase; again, something to be expected given the packaging design is unfamiliar and of course easily overcome when supported with a purpose driven communications campaign. Interestingly, anger was non-existent — dropping well below both the benchmark and the category average. This indicates a removal of previously seen levels of irritation associated with the bold bright colours of the benchmark. The white packaging instead offers a high level of serene pleasure while maintaining the same attention levels. 

Brands such as Unilever’s Omo are committed to taking steps towards a more sustainable future — such steps are not a ‘nice to have’ but a necessity in order to both meet Government regulations and to protect our environment. This exercise has been driven by a desire to learn more about how such brands can navigate the circular economy maze whilst still maintaining desirability. 

We have seen that similarly high levels of value, desire and relevance perceptions can be secured with a more eco-friendly yet bold packaging solution as with our white conceptual packaging design. The white packaging design evokes a very similar brain pattern to that of the benchmark which qualifies the incredible potential to do more in aid of sustainability. 

The unwritten rule in design for large brands such as Omo is ‘evolution’ not ‘revolution’ but our research results indicate that well established brands can take such steps with confidence. By leveraging existing elements of recognition and amplifying the sustainable credentials of the packaging, brands such as Omo can evolve to offer more sustainable and desirable packaging solutions while maintaining their status in market. 

This conceptual design innovation exercise has been conducted by Packadore Collective under their own initiative and is not representative of a commissioned assignment by Omo brand owner Unilever.

For more information go to www.packadorecollective.com

Written by Kevin Gambrill

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