Is Your Packaging Too Functional?

By Bob Fiedler, CPP, Fellow, Chainalytics Packaging is designed to contain, protect and communicate. But in some instances, the actual product itself does a better...


By Bob Fiedler, CPP, Fellow, Chainalytics


Packaging is designed to contain, protect and communicate. But in some instances, the actual product itself does a better job of addressing these functions all by itself–without introducing complex or redundant packaging.  

If you’ve walked by a row of sheets displayed at Target, then you know what I’m talking about:

The soft goods lines are displayed in a unique way that not only reduces packaging, but leverages the product’s inherent benefits. It’s almost like walking by a well-organized linen closet: You can see all the various color options and feel all the available textures. If you’ve recently purchased something from this section, I’m guessing your buying decision was fairly easy.     

Think about it: Before buying a new set of bed linens, don’t you want to see and feel what you’re selecting? What better way than to use the product itself (or a useful sample of the product) to communicate the product’s quality? This step eliminates the need for extra packaging that, let’s face it, will only be thrown away or maybe recycled. And there are fewer returns, because the product attributes displayed on the package (softness, color) didn’t match that of product inside. The products sell themselves.

This “self-selling” packaging has additional benefits, since it:

  • Eliminates the need for custom labeling, allowing standard labeling on all colors and textures
  • Saves on label inventory requirements and extraneous packaging costs, which can range up to over half the value of the product as may be the case with some office supplies and cosmetics

If you’re in retail and are marketing, selling, and shelving products in a bricks-and-mortar store–or even for online displays–here are some useful thoughts to ponder: What packaging functions can your products perform for themselves? How can you rely on your product to minimize your company’s packaging? Can you gain supply chain improvements by reducing packaging? Many of our clients have achieved all of these results.

Bob Fiedler is a principal associate of Chainalytics’ Packaging Optimization practice and Packaging Fellow with the Institute of Packaging Professionals (IoPP). He earned a lifetime achievement award from ASTM D10 Packaging Committee in September 2014 and worked closely with Alfred H. McKinlay to create and establish ASTM D4169 as the leading global package testing protocol.

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