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Wunderman Thompson Intelligence decodes consumer trends for premium packaging

Katie Nichol

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Wunderman Thompson Intelligence decodes consumer trends for premium packaging

Macro-trends around regeneration, optimism and emotional wellness and their impact on luxury packaging was the theme of a conference by Wunderman Thompson Intelligence at LUXE PACK New York last month. Here are some of the highlights from the session.

Against a backdrop of evolving digital lifestyles, shifting sustainability concerns and emotional fatigue linked to the pandemic and global political unrest, three packaging macro-trends identified by trends specialist Wunderman Thompson Intelligence are coming to the fore.

“People are making a conscious, concerted effort towards optimism, looking for intentional moments of joy and uplift,” Emily Safian-Demers, Editor at Wunderman Thompson Intelligence, said during the LUXE PACK New York conference. “What was a focus on mental health is becoming more nuanced and diversified and is leading to a rise in emotional health.” Sustainability too, is evolving, moving into its next phase of "regeneration", says Safian-Demers.

Regeneration riding

“Brands and consumers are starting to acknowledge that doing less harm or no harm to the environment is no longer enough,” says Safian-Demers. Some 84% of those polled believe that brands and businesses should be the ones to drive regeneration, according to Wunderman Thompson Intelligence. So how is this playing out in packaging? Beauty brands especially are rethinking labeling to offer more transparency, says Safian-Demers, citing skincare brand Cocokind, which added a fact panel to its product labels breaking down sustainability details and carbon footprint.

While having sustainable or recyclable packaging is important, brands need to put the user at the center of their packaging design. This  will be “hugely important” when talking about the future of regeneration, notes Safian-Demers.

To this end, some brands are redesigning packaging to be more accessible. P&G’s Olay, for example, has introduced easy-open lids with braille lettering along with high-contrast colored jars to make products more easily identifiable. Unilever, meanwhile, designed what it calls “the world’s first adaptive deodorant package” in collaboration with consumers with disabilities. Conceived for one-handed use, the pack boasts improved grip, braille labels and a magnetic cap. “I would encourage [brands] to think more broadly about what regeneration means. Yes, it means caring for the planet, but people are part of the planet, and separating the two makes less and less sense,” sums up Safian-Demers.

Optimism unbounded

The optimism unbounded macro trend is about seeking out joy. “Packaging can be more than a container; it can bring moments of joy or play into consumers lives,” says Safian-Demers. She highlights Pizza Hut’s collaboration with Pac Man that turns a pizza box into an interactive game. Cannabis brand Houseplant’s new packaging, designed by Pràctica, takes inspiration from Lego blocks. Safian-Demers also spoke about the idea of “euphoric unboxing”, as well as expanding the usefulness of packaging to repurpose it for other functions. “How can brands and packaging designers connect the dots with consumers and expand their experience and engagement with a product?” she asks.

Emotional uplift

A key focus of wellbeing in 2022 is emotional health. “Consumers are reorganizing their habits to optimize their emotional health and are looking to brands to help them do that.” While mental health is traditionally addressed behind closed doors, the idea of mental health as a collective practice is a big theme for this year, argues Safian-Demers. This approach is starting to filter into brand activations, as illustrated by Superself multi-sensory pods at retailer Selfridges conceived to reduce stress. At the Dior Spa in Paris, the menu includes a "Happiness Shot" treatment, while Estée Lauder’s 8-sku Luxury Fragrance Collection was created with neurosensory studies to "evoke positive feelings".

Packaging is also being aligned with emotional and wellbeing concepts, says Safian-Demers, who highlighted examples of nature-inspired packaging. Premium Chinese tea brand Chatu’s eco-friendly tea packaging (pictured, above) launched in October 2021 replicates the swirly patterns found in plantations, while the 3D layered paper used by The Mountain Tea Song emulates mountain ranges. Meanwhile, hotel brand Aman’s skincare line features packaging designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma with organic shapes inspired by nature to “evoke a sense of peace and calm.” Safian-Demers encourages brands to think about the ritual around their products and tying it into packaging design. “How can you use the unboxing moment or use packaging as a vehicle of emotional or mental wellbeing?” she asks.


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