Pulp Magic

SEPTEMBER 23, 2016

Unboxing the Future of Packaging

It’s not hard to see that paper-based packages like boxes and digital technology enjoy a synergistic relationship. Each one needs the other to deliver on and enhance the customer experience. In fact, as one packaging trends observer put it, you could say we’re living in the golden age of packaging. The aisles of our brick and mortar stores are lined with colorful and imaginative boxes conceived with computer assisted design software. But even the products we buy online arrive in carefully executed packaging meant to extend the buying experience directly into our homes.

Purveyors of the ordinary six-pack know beer packaging has undergone a remarkable makeover as dozens of new craft brands jostle for attention on store shelves. One of the more creative of those is Dogfish Head, a beer brewed and bottled on the Delaware shore.

Dogfish Head recently gave its design agency a tall order: redesign the company’s beer carriers to communicate not just the contents of the bottle but also express the Dogfish Head “lifestyle.” I may not live the lifestyle but I can totally appreciate the packaging . . . colorful, irreverent, and incorporating the look of craft paper to signal that this beer is authentic, handmade and honest.

Vintage craft cardboard

For people buying online, there’s a whole new retail category called digitally native “vertical commerce brands” or VCBs. Those are goods that originate in the digital world and are delivered in the physical one . . . think Warby Parker glasses and Dollar Shave Club razors. These brands use paper packaging to create the tangible customer experience that they otherwise lack. Significantly, customers come in contact with the packaging after the sale, not before. So VCB packaging is not trying to sell anything; it is pure fun and delight.

It turns out a lot of online retailers are recognizing that the container their products arrive in is not just a protective carrier but is a powerful brand messenger before the box is even open. According to a recent article in The Washington Post we were interviewed for, online retailers that sell on a subscription basis understand their boxes convey a certain kind of status when seen  in apartment lobbies, offices and on doorsteps as well as in the recycle bin. Jalem Getz of www.wantable.com, told the Post, “the box is a reminder of why (you) shopped with us, and it’s an exciting moment to open the box.”

Of course, there’s now a word for that moment: “unboxing.”

For Casper, an online mattress company, the unboxing – during which a full size mattress emerges magically from a relatively small sized box — is a crucial part of the entire Casper experience. There are even videos dedicated to the event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oq7vBEET3mA

And there’s that synergy again. Who would have thought a decade ago that we’d be using our mobile phones to watch videos of people opening boxes?

Not me.

But I can’t wait to see what’s next.