Designing Premium Yet Sustainable Packs

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There are many examples of refining a pack by using different printing techniques or technology such as relief, gravure, and embossing. These techniques implicitly communicate value and luxury. It’s particularly widespread in categories such as beauty, perfumes, spirits, confectioneries, and more.

In the past, these techniques of embossing and relief printing were often discussed mainly in the context of making products more premium and elevating them. However, recent developments show that the discussion of these techniques as premium cues alone fall short. This is clearly illustrated by a current example from Coty. SKKN (pictured right) is a skincare brand marked by Kim Kardashian in partnership with Coty. The refillable packaging is characterized by warm earth tones and clear geometric shapes with the logo embossed on the front. The message it communicates is deeply effective, focused, minimalist, pure, natural, and sustainable. These relevant messages fully unfold in the skincare category when interacting with the material and the embossing. It’s Premium 2.0, you could say as it goes beyond just premium, but naturalness and sustainability factors as well.

The increasing importance of sustainability in the production and design of packaging has led brands to make efforts to save in the use of extraneous packaging materials. However, at the same time, packaging must still continue to make the difference and influence behavior at the point of sale whether that is at the physical shelf in-store or on landing pages and product detail pages (“PDP”) on e-commerce sites.

Products need to Be Seen, Shoppable, Seductive, and Selected as per our 4S Framework for successful packaging designs to help brands succeed at the most valuable moment in marketing: when a sales transaction occurs. This also should be applied for sustainable as well as premium packaging designs.

VALSER, a Swiss mineral water brand from Coca-Cola, goes one step further. They utilize “embossing” directly on the rPET bottle to both make the brand tangible and to sufficiently differentiate the variants. The additional labels are no longer needed so therefore, the material is 100% rPET and recyclable. The packaging design communicates purity, clarity, transparency, naturalness, sustainability, and value. This is also exciting as the product and PET as a material is more of a commodity. Since the embossing creates exciting visual and haptic effects, VALSER conveys a premium feel more than before. In addition, consumers quickly and effortlessly rationalize how the material savings and recyclability of the product are benefits to choosing VALSER over competitors. VALSER found the perfect balance of sustainability and recyclability while also being visually attractive to consumers.

Interestingly though, sustainability is such a key issue that it is not enough for marketers to just make an impact solely through pack design. Another step VALSER could be doing to be more sustainable would be to not dye the PET/rPET. However, this cannot be carried out. Because consumers still need to understand which variant they want to be Shoppable and easily understood by shoppers.

So, is embossing a new step towards more sustainable pack designs? Answer: It depends. Factors such as the category and shopper journey all affect whether your product will be Selected into the digital or physical shopping cart.

Good news: Behaviorally is your digital-first expert in owning the most valuable moment in marketing and we know the new “Codes for Sustainability”. There’s more we can do to ensure your pack is hitting all the marks including exuding luxury, being sustainable, conveying relevant and differentiating messages, and most importantly: selling.

Reach out to the Behaviorally team if you want to learn how your sustainable packaging is performing against the 4S Framework of Being Seen, Shoppable, Seductive, and Selected.

Contact us today!


Christian Dössel, Senior Vice President, leads our German offices in Hamburg and Frankfurt. He is a prolific author and observer of the market research industry at large. Christian is also a regular contributor to German insights publications. Outside of Behaviorally, he likes to support the local soccer teams and explore new and exciting foods spots. Connect with Christian on LinkedIn!

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