The Design of Luxury

Luxury packaging must create emotional response

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It is widely acknowledged by now, that there is a discernible change in Indian consumer behaviour. Changing consumer habits are spurring demand for better packaging materials. More products are becoming affordable to a larger section of the population. More and more women are entering the corporate world and middle income families are rising up the income ladder. This overall economic growth has benefited the consumer goods market immensely. Many of the products that were considered luxury items a couple of years back are becoming items of daily consumption. This is vividly evident in the personal care and toiletries industry.

Professional work environments today demand a hectic lifestyle and there is a constant need to perform and look your best. This has resulted in a booming market for beauty care and fragrance products at all levels of the value chain. This has prompted the world’s best brands to enter the Indian market and in turn the traditional local brands have been compelled to reposition their products to defend market shares and retain customer loyalty. To make things even more difficult, advertising costs have gone sky high and its effectiveness as a medium to reach the most number of customers has become doubtful. The vastness and complexity of the supply chain add another significant cost which is making it more and more difficult to reach consumers.

Amidst all this, product packaging has the best potential to be one of the most effective means to communicate directly with consumers. However, in order to tap this potential, a brand must develop a vital ingredient for success: a unique product personality. All great brands that have an ability to evoke an “emotional response” from the consumer are built around a compelling characteristic, or core idea, that distinguishes “their personality” and separates them from mere commodities. This is the relationship that all marketers seek and it gives a product its “life”. Consumers want to feel good about the products they buy and use. The challenge lies in creating a concept that is both original and relevant. This is a manageable task – as long as a brand does not try to be all things to all people.
Brands aimed at focused markets, or “niche brands”, understand the power of this approach. Many marketers find the word “niche” unpalatable because it suggests a limited market. But the same limits allow niche brands one luxury that many mass market brands do not enjoy: focus.

Design and Desire
Every brand seeking an “emotional connect” with consumers must aim to build and retain desire. With the increasing number of choices available to today’s discerning consumers, this is not easily attainable. Desire is fuelled by several personal, intimate and individual elements and brands need to look at ways to integrate these elements into their brands and to create this desire. Designs that can successfully create desire help the buyer buy rather than the seller sell.

Packaging design is being increasingly recognised as the key medium for communicating in a way that the consumer believes and for tapping into today’s desires. It can convey a host of messages that appeal to the sensibilities of different consumers through written or visual language, and by considering all the elements of packaging design such as naming, graphics, structure and texture. A successful package design balances the key design components to offer the individual respect, knowledge, connection, freedom and contradiction in all their choices; creating desire by allowing them to be both part of the overall brand experience and to create an individual interpretation. In other words, packaging designs have to have the vision to make something substantially better for the consumer.

The push for creative innovation
What is attracting us to brands today? Research has shown that we are looking for that something extra -not to just buy, but to buy into brands. It has been reported that the impulse to buy is often not motivated by mass advertising or peer pressure, but is more inner-directed. There is a strong need for a more intimate offering and a way to co-create the brand (to derive a sense of personal authorship and individual expression). It is driven by a motivation to express rather than impress and in this way acquire a more personal and physical relationship with brands just as is expected from people.

Luxury for greater impact
In such a fiercely competitive arena, it is no surprise that many marketers hope to achieve greater impact and derive better value by upgrading to luxury product packaging.
So, what is the nature of luxury?

It is variously described as quality, exclusivity and “timelessness” – a term that suggests its lasting value in terms of function as well as construction. In other words, a classic of form and function that will help to create desire.

Creating luxury packaging naturally calls for the pushing back of technical or financial constraints and relies heavily on the creative force of designers to unlock new possibilities and achieve the desired levels of intrinsic quality and desire. Every aspect of a luxury product must radiate quality and particularly so – the packaging, which is the  first point of contact with the consumer. The sense of luxury must be relevant to the specific nature of the product and this must be approached with great sensitivity because there are no general rules on how to achieve this – each case is different. It is only when this is achieved can it be said, “Some products you buy because you need them – others because you simply must have them.”

Individual consumers are enticed by luxury as an extension of their own special individuality, their fashion and style choices in order enhance their personal self-expression – a signature style! It is a way of declaring, “Everyone can’t have it and it is the best there is!”
“Mass-tige Brands” – The Look of Luxury

The recent phenomenon of mass-prestige or “mass-tige” brands visible in the cosmetic marketplace is having an impact on the marketers of true prestige, true luxury products. Such brands aim to offer prestige qualities in all aspects of a product, including packaging, whilst remaining mass market in appeal. Mass-class items are being dressed up to look more prestigious, enabling their makers to charge more for them. This is putting great pressure on luxury brands to turn to new methods of differentiating their products in the marketplace.

In turn, this has created a demand for luxury class packaging and created a competitive arena for luxury products. In such a scenario, availability of packaging that sets a brand apart isn’t a luxury – it’s a necessity.

Positioning luxury products to compete for attention in a tough marketplace has to be done carefully with a well thought out marketing and advertising plan. In such a situation, having an innovative, “interesting package” certainly helps.

Since conventional luxury packaging is becoming commonplace, the challenge for luxury packaging designers is now to create a heightened sense of luxury or redefine luxury in new ways. Obviously, this can be done through the use of precious metals or intricate decorations but it can also be achieved through the added value of brilliant and original design. (Pix – Oriflame’s Skin Care Range – use of intricate foil stamping decorations).
With its reassuring weight and unique properties glass is traditionally associated with luxury products. Materials with glass-like properties, for example DuPont’s Surlyn or Eastman’s Glass Polymer are increasingly seen as valid for use in luxury packaging, although they still play second fiddle to glass as adornments to the main bottle. These materials have many of the desirable properties of glass but, due to differences, can be used to utilise previously unachievable designs. (Pix – Oriflame’s Maximum Cream Jar – use of Glass Polymer for injection moulding).

Creating Postioning
While designing for the luxury market, it is generally accepted that the development needs to be along the following lines:

Concept Is Key
The package concept must reflect the sophistication, the elegance, the refinement and discriminating taste of its targeted consuming class. It must aim to achieve the all important “emotive connect” by understanding the consumer’s mind.

Print Appeal
The luxury packaging business is highly demanding in terms of printing and production quality. The packaging must seduce the customer at the point-of-sale. The materials, colors and print reproduction must have a contemporary, sleek appearance that reflects its inherent quality. (Pix – Use of Print Appeal to seduce customers at POS).

Packaging Personality
A unique combination of concept and appeal helps to establish the personality of the package, which in turn speaks of the “ultimate quality” of the product to the consumer – whether it is by using a soft touch material, creating a bottle with an integrated pump or by development of a high-fashion worthy secondary pack. (Pix – Creating high-fashion worthy secondary pack).

Trend-spotting: Luxury to come
In order to understand and track the coming developments in luxury products, industry experts and observers rely on specialised events catering specifically to such demands. A number of “Luxe Pack” events are scheduled around the year at various parts of the globe. Among these, Luxe Pack at Monaco – to be held between Oct 28-31,2008 – is considered most influential. It is the annual meeting point for brand decision-makers in collaboration with the top experts in the sector and is increasingly considered as the priority platform for information and trends on the market, or rather the different markets.
During earlier such events, some of the clear trends analysed by observers were reported as follows:
– Durability: With everyone thinking about saving the earth, there’s an emphasis on sustainability. Instead of several throw-away layers, the luxury packaging of today is designed to be “substantial and heavy” to allow a longer useful life.
– Enigma: Packaging seems a bit playful, encouraging consumers to pick it up and take it home. It often provides a little mystery, or perhaps uses metal or soft-touch elements. (Pix – Use of playful, enigmatic packaging elements).
– Precision: Focus is on the application; sophistication is in the details.

Luxury to Save the Earth
Does luxury packaging always have to be wasteful? Can eco-friendly and luxury co-exist? “Sustainability” is an old trend of the 60’s that is now back in a big way.
Innovators across various market sectors are attempting to satisfy consumers’ desire for luxury within the parameters of an increasingly eco-conscious world. Materials are being made and tested using soy, bamboo, seaweed and even hemp and milk. Entrepreneurs around the world are succeeding in following their eco-passions and creating top-of-line luxury brands using such materials.

Sustainable luxury is main-stream today. Niche consumers are willing to pay for an ethical product. However, it would probably still take a couple of decades before everyone chooses organics over synthetics, but it is clear that both consumer demand and global regulations are turning eco from what once was a trend into the future of the industry.
Indeed, it appears the fashion-istas of our world have finally realised that sustainability is here to stay and it’s actually fashionable to support it.

Deepak Manchanda is a Consultant in Packaging Design & Technology with over 30 years experience in the packaging industry, from the Central Design Services of Metal Box, to Packaging Development in Ranbaxy, Dabur and Oriflame India. Currently, he is with Autumn Design Consultants. He offers packaging design solutions to a wide range of clients in varied industry sectors.