By Seri McClendon
Marketing is one of the most powerful forces in today’s society. Targeted and repetitive communication of a product’s key benefits can create a need that perhaps did not previously exist, thus influencing consumer purchase behavior by solidifying the idea that such products are essential to their daily lives. In addition to encouraging brand loyalty, marketing can also be an important tool in influencing consumer perception of value and quality. This is especially important for consumer product companies that introduce sustainable packaging innovations to its customers – changing tried and true packaging materials for eco-friendly alternatives.
The wine industry presents a perfect example of the challenge marketers face in changing consumer perception of sustainable product packaging. For centuries, wine has served as a cultural icon and a corked bottle as a trademark of quality. Wine evokes an emotional response as consumers anticipate the “pop” of a cork being removed from a bottle. Today, however, many winemakers are transitioning from cork-topped glass bottles to plastic or screw tops and bag-in-box options to better preserve the quality of their wines, to enhance convenience for their customers, and to make a positive impact on the environment.
We’re all well aware of the stigma boxed and screw top wines carry. Marketers are challenged to change this perception of inferiority by highlighting that such packaging contributes to higher wine quality and less spoilage since cork can become tainted. Some reports show between 2 and 5 percent of all wine suffers from cork taint, which translates to about $650 million dollars lost each year due to spoiled wine. The convenience and environmental impact can also not be ignored. Bag-in-box designs allow wine to stay fresher longer and can be more easily stored. Boxed wine also contributes to reduced carbon emissions as it takes less energy to produce and is lighter to transport, further contributing to energy and emissions savings. Marketers can and should use these messages to shift consumer thinking around alternative and sustainable wine packaging and to help them understand the positive impact it can have on their lives and the environment.
The toy category is another area where marketers and package designers struggle to influence the emotional connection consumers have with product packaging. There is a perception in the marketplace that a larger package equals greater value. If there are two packages on a shelf with the same volume but one has a package size of a quarter less material (and they’re the same price), a good percentage of consumers will automatically choose the larger package. This is especially true of mothers and gift givers who tend to purchase toys that feature big, pretty packaging. It’s a challenge to reduce the environmental impact, size and materials used without taking away from this emotional transaction but companies like Mattel and Hasbro are doing it successfully.
Over the next few years, we’ll see marketers make a concerted effort to communicate the lifestyle and environmental benefits of alternative product packaging as the shift towards more sustainable options continue.
Seri McClendon is the CEO of Clean Agency. She is an industry veteran with more than 22 years of marketing experience. Seri formed Clean, an integrated agency serving the sustainable business sector, from her passion for environmental studies, policy and science. She holds a Masters degree in Geography with an emphasis in Industrial Ecology and a BA in marketing. Seri is a member of The USC Center for Sustainable Cities Advisory Board and was recently nominated for Los Angeles Business Journal “2010 Women Making a Difference” award.
Ali Hart is a sustainability messaging and engagement strategist with a passion for life’s essentials: food, water and media. Her background in the Entertainment industry, penchant for humor and MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School are Ali’s secret weapons in her quest to master the art of behavior change and to message green effectively.