Make sure your packaging is the hero when it comes to sustainability

Here's how Kantar helped BrewDog understand which designs would best convey sustainability credentials for the Lost Lager brand.
29 March 2022
Hands planting a tree
Nicki Morley
Dr Nicki
Morley

Head of Behavioural Science and Innovation Expertise, Insights Division, UK

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What is the one brand asset that can make or break a sale for any packaged good? To paraphrase James Carville, advisor to former U.S. President Bill Clinton, it’s the pack, stupid.

It is important to recognize that it is all too easy to underestimate the role of the pack when it comes to creating the consumer expectations that can make or lose a sale.

Help consumers make quick and easy choices

A pack should help ensure that the brand and product are the obvious choice. Shoppers don’t spend time thinking about what a pack is trying to tell them; they just want to make the right choice as quickly and easily as possible. Brand recognition and the overall impression conveyed by the pack can be more influential than explicit messaging, which makes it difficult when you have something new and meaningful to say. Success lies in ensuring people instinctively understand what you are trying to communicate.

Get the shopper’s viewpoint to understand what’s working

Fortunately, getting fast feedback on alternative pack designs is easier than ever by using an automated research platform like Kantar Marketplace, opening the opportunity for greater agility in your pack design journey.

No need to agonize over alternatives. Quickly screen options, using our behavioral science inspired agile pack screening tool to see which ones best fit the brand and offer the most potential. Whether you are seeking to introduce a new design, material, or format, or communicate a specific on-pack message, it is important to assess both instinctive and more deliberative reactions. Remember, shoppers respond first, think second. For this reason, our pack screening solution measures both intuitive appeal and more reflective consideration to fully understand the role that a pack plays in consumer choice. It also enables us to look at different audiences such as those who are distinguished by their level of engagement in sustainability (actives, believers, considers and dismissers). These audiences are key to ensure we pick up important nuances in choice and optimization diagnostics.

Tackling sustainable pack design

Every marketer knows sustainability is an issue of growing importance. However, the role of packaging can be a twofold challenge: to simultaneously convey information about the sustainability of the product contents and about the manufacture of the packaging itself. When trying to identify an optimal design, a series of questions quickly present themselves.

  • Does a design convey sustainability credentials quickly and effectively?
  • Can a design simultaneously create expectations of the right product experience?
  • Which design will be most meaningful?
  • Does sustainable packaging only motivate an audience that is actively engaged with sustainability or is there a way to motivate a wider audience?

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to answer questions like these without getting feedback from potential buyers. That feedback must take account of both intuitive and deliberate modes of thinking and the consumers level of engagement with sustainability. This is because those who are more engaged in sustainability will respond differently to those buyers who are less engaged.

BrewDog’s sustainable packaging challenge

In 2020, BrewDog became the world’s first carbon-negative brewery. BrewDog has a big mission to become the most sustainable drinks brand on the planet and has deployed different initiatives to support this aim, like removing plastic from its supply chain, switching to renewable energy, and converting brewery waste into green gas.

Given BrewDog’s ambitious goals, the craft beer brewers teamed up with us to explore the best way to convey sustainability credentials for their Lost Lager brand via the pack. Given that Lost Lager is BrewDog’s first lager brand for the mass market, they wanted to understand whether the packaging designs and messaging would resonate with a broad range of consumers beyond core active sustainability seekers.

To aid in this exploration, we took Lost Lager’s pack and manipulated various aspects of its design including the messaging, color, design aesthetics, and the short-cut cues and logos that convey the lager’s sustainability credentials.

Lager packaging Lager packaging

Our research demonstrated four important findings that have been fed into the BrewDog’s long term packaging strategy, but we believe they are important for anyone thinking about packaging and sustainability:

  1. Less is more: messaging needs to divulge as much sustainable information as possible in as few words as possible
  2. Pack aesthetics (e.g. use of certain colors) are prominent drivers of appeal amongst those actively engaged in sustainability and those who are less so
  3. Sustainability actions that are led by the individual appealed more to active sustainability seekers, with collective messaging (e.g. “Let’s plant together”) creating a broader appeal for those less engaged
  4. With the actives, we need to be more careful with the pack designs and the messages we use; as they are so closely engaged with sustainability, they scrutinize everything a brand does

Our findings reinforce how important it is to test your pack designs with consumers, as small changes to color, design and messaging can have a strong impact on intuitive appeal and more deliberative assessment of the pack by different audiences.

A word to the wise

Early-stage pack evaluation is essential in screening out weak designs and prioritizing those with the most potential for further development. However, testing should not stop there. Designs evolve over the course of development, and it will be important to check that the final iteration can stand out on the store shelf. Kantar Marketplace’s Pack eValuate testing can confirm whether your final design has what it takes to stand out and deliver a compelling impression. If a final design features new packaging functionality, product testing should also be considered to check that people respond to well to the new format in use.

Learn more about how Pack eValuate on Kantar Marketplace can help you on your pack design journey, from quickly screening winning design ideas, to testing and optimizing your packs using virtual reality.

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