IPL Packaging Interviews Brian Wagner

Brian Wagner PTIS Global

IPL Packaging sat down with Brian Wagner, co-founder and principal of PTIS Global, a management and packaging consultancy firm that serves numerous Fortune 500 companies.

In summary, Brian expresses the need for successful packaging design to be viewed both holistically and experientially, taking into account various conscious and subconscious factors on the part of the consumer.  
He believes clients can best enhance and ease the packaging design process when actively encouraging key individuals within their organization to add value (early and often), to the design process.
Brian also explains that successful brands best balance financial and sustainable goals by engaging a ‘well curve’ model, and that opportunities in the‘4th Dimension of Packaging’ (the Internet of Things) can usher in an era of endless possibilities.

For the full interview with Brian, see below:

Q: What are some of the greatest barriers to the creation of successful packaging for today’s luxury brands? 

Creating successful brands of any kind is a challenge. The world of consumer products is high risk, with more than three in four (76 per cent) new FMCG product launches failing in their first year, according to an analysis by Nielsen.

There are many causes for this, but few brands appreciate that we buy emotionally and justify our decisions rationally and even fewer truly get the ‘Product formula’ right. The ‘Product formula’ exists in the the consumer’s conscious and subconscious mind and incorporates factors including the actual product, the package, brand equity, the individual’s past experiences, sustainability elements, and services such as the website and other means in which the brand seeks to connect with them.

Luxury brands can generally financially support higher cost packaging components and materials, but package design (look and feel, form and function, emotional connection to the brand) must be viewed holistically, experientially and recognised as being an asset of the brand.

Packaging is a crucial tool that can help differentiate the brand, creating real and perceived benefits and ultimately value in the mind of the consumer. In a day and age where environmental and social sustainability are increasingly important, simplicity too can often now sell as strongly as complex, high-end design.

Q: How can a client best participate throughout the design process?

Clients can best participate by being open-minded, willing to learn, and recognising
the beliefs of what we call ‘Holistic Packaging by Design’: The first two of these being Empathy and Inclusion; recognising the value of all involved, and ensuring these individuals bring value (early and often), to the design process.

Clients should recognise that new project briefs, and ultimate design guidelines should include crucial physical and structural package elements, as well as the traditional graphic components. Everyone involved at the client level, must be valued both for their experience and as consumers, and supply chain professionals must be asked for input and ideas around possibilities very early in the design process.

Sadly, what usually happens is that we assume supply chain isn’t needed, and cannot bring value until it is time for implementation, resulting in them saying what we can’t do on tight timelines, rather than what we might do as we prioritize alternative designs.

Q: What are 3 of the most important factors that are changing packaging today?

Each 3 years for the past 20, PTIS Global and Leading Futurists have led year-long, multi sponsor programs and Global Thought Leader Surveys with leading global companies.

The no. 1 most important topic for the past 3 surveys has been ‘sustainability,’ which can mean many things, from finite resource extraction to circular economy thinking and doing what’s right for the world now and future generations. We’re certainly seeing this impact packaging, and the way we all do business.

Second is the ‘digital economy’ and e-commerce as a new, effective and fast growing sales channel.

Third is the ‘digital transformation’ we’re currently witnessing take place – it’s influencing everything we do, in the form of Artificial Intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, digital printing, additive manufacturing, the Internet of Things (IoT), Cognitive Science, Block Chain, Moore’s Law, The Quantified Self and so much more.

Q: What factors should be considered essential in creating stand-out packaging for luxury brands in today’s world?

All of the above mentioned and their relationship to other factors, see the Integrated Packaging Value Model – pictured.
However, understanding the consumer (at the subconscious, cognitive level), and what the brand essence and aspiration truly mean to them, is imperative. This needs to be translated through all elements of package design. Designers cannot do this alone. They alone cannot know what design elements translate to success. In this way, collaboration, communication, and business ethics will always support successful packaging development and growth.

As the packaging industry grows and matures there will be no “one size fits all,” rather we will see a new and fresh value chain that will provide packaging related solutions and experiences for all consumers from Gen Z to Millennials to Boomers and beyond. Businesses and brands will be reshaped as IoT, e-commerce, The Circular Economy, and other parts of the model mature and gain momentum.

In this’ New Global Packaging Economy’ we’ll see a drive towards more growth and new opportunities, and packaging will be the key enabler.

Q: How do brands best balance both financial and sustainable goals when it comes to packaging?

A great question! It is not an either/or decision. Start with the consumer and the brand. After all, triple bottom line sustainability is focused around doing what is right for the environment, society and the economy. Decisions that aren’t economically or financially sound won’t be long lasting, will lead to greater failure and, ultimately, more waste.

At PTIS we reference a model called the ‘well curve’ which takes the ‘bell curve’ concept and turns it upside down, both literally and figuratively; Where the bell curve suggests that the preponderance of action is at the middle of the curve, the ‘well curve’ suggest that profitable action is at the ends of the curve.

Brands must be differentiated, either on the left side where they deliver good enough value and sell high volumes at lower prices, or to the right of the curve, delivering high personal value, selling lower volumes at relatively high prices. In the middle of the upside-down bell curve, brands fade into irrelevancy.  As such, packaging must fit the brand and be relevant in the mind and eye of the consumer – throughout their experience : Purchase > Use > End of Use > and Repurchase. 

Q: What is the 4th Dimension and how is it affecting package design?

2D package design is commonly used to refer to graphics, and 3D as structural.
2D and 3D designers typically specialise in one or the other, and often miss opportunities for optimal design synergies. So that is challenging enough.

Now we bring in the Internet of Things, the place where digital and physical meet, and possibilities seem endless. The ability for consumer handheld devices to build relationships with brands with packaging via a variety of sensors, and for those sensors concurrently to speak with supply chains, providing data that can be analyzed and used to create efficiencies, and deliver safety/security and authenticity is incredible.

Today, organizations are not yet fully taking advantage of this. We see examples of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality on wine bottles, Near Field Communication (NFC) labels used for novelty, or at the other extreme, tracking systems that only provide data for supply chain and analytics. 

Q: What is the most promising opportunity that the 4th Dimension offers and why?

When organisations begin to take a fully holistic view, the possibilities for business value will be immense. No longer can or will it be about one-off, novel solutions. Brands will ultimately figure it out but it is complex, and maybe it will take complex algorithms, and artificial intelligence systems, to model the new solutions.

Maybe Blockchain for luxury brands will be a driver. This would enable decentralised, constant reporting and feedback systems for every level of the supply chain, save businesses money, make them more efficient and allow customers to feel good about buying their products.

The future for the 4th Dimension of Package Design is exciting beyond imagination!