Packaging for Millennials

Why millennials matter to packaging professionals and why packaging matters to millennials


Does your packaging strategy consider the interests, needs and preferences of millennials? Considering the size and spending power of this demographic around the globe, it should. About a quarter of the world’s population are millennials (born between 1981 and 1996), and nearly 9 in every 10 millennials live in emerging economies. For this reason, it is not surprising that the global spending power of millennials is forecasted to soon be greater than any other generation.

For product marketers interested in reaching more millennial consumers, greater attention should be made to the complex packaging decisions that are often overlooked or made in silos elsewhere. Specifically, millennials should be a major consideration in packaging decisions. 

What are their thoughts and feelings about packaging? Their likes and dislikes? Their wants and needs? These questions are crucial to engaging millennials with your packaging. Find out how the preferences and tastes of millennials are impacting the packaging world.

Three ways to improve your packaging strategy to resonate with millennials

1. Give your packaging personality

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Product marketers know the importance of understanding their target audience. In order to “speak the right language” and craft messaging that resonates with the people who buy their products (and more importantly, the people they want to buy their products) marketers go to great lengths to craft personas based on consumers’ interests, needs, behaviors and preferences. Unfortunately, the personality marketers give to their product campaigns are not always shared by the creative or packaging engineering departments responsible for final packaging design. Considering that 60% of millennials are drawn to products that reflect their personality, marketers who want to get more products off the shelves and into the hands of consumers must ensure the packaging design and materials employed captures the millennial mindset.

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) made a similar recommendation regarding successful marketing strategies for millennials, saying that because millennials identify more personally and emotionally with brands, “it is especially important that brands strive to maintain genuine reputations that reinforce the traits, personalities, values and causes that millennials hope they project about themselves.” For packaging this means using the right language, colors and images so millennials see more of themselves in your product versus competing items online or in a store. Some of the values that are important to millennials, and thus important for your packaging to convey, include optimism, luxury, adventure, excitement and charity.


Source: Boston Consulting Group, How Millennials Are Changing the Face of Marketing Forever

2.Rethink what packaging can do

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In an article for Branding Times, an industry publication reporting on the latest insights and trends from the branding and design world, Ryan Lupenberger, founder of Cleancult (a brand that delivers non-toxic laundry pods) explained how his company designed packaging with millennials in mind:

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What does design-focused packaging mean? According to industry research, innovative design is less about how packaging looks and more about what packaging can do. For example, a recent survey conducted by independent research firm Reputation Leaders on perceptions and views of packaging found that 53% of millennials value packaging that is easy to store at home. In another study by Billerud, 35% of consumers in mega cities around the globe said “give me a beneficial second use of packaging” when asked what they would like to see from packaging development.


Packaging can also be an effective tool for engaging with millennial consumers in stores. While an ecommerce strategy is crucial for reaching the large percentage of “digital natives” who shop online, millennials still frequently visit brick-and-mortar retail stores. According to global market research and interviews conducted by Accenture to understand millennial shopping attitudes and behaviors, “Many members of the digital generation actually prefer visiting stores to shopping online.”

Once they are in the store, millennials frequently use their smartphones to check prices, look up product information or search for coupons or promotions before making a purchase (46% of millennials reported that they search for information online while in stores, compared with 25% of Baby Boomers). Product marketers and packaging designers looking to engage with millennial consumers should consider how their items on the shelves match consumers’ behaviors in the store. A scannable QR code on the box, for example, might provide shoppers a coupon on their mobile device that they can use at checkout. Smart packaging with RFID-NFC tags embedded in labels, or cartons can give product marketers even more ways to engage tech-savvy millennials and provide better consumer experiences.

3. Embrace sustainable packaging

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Millennials care about causes, a lot. As a result, millennials are more likely to purchase from companies that share their concerns. According to a Nielsen study, 70% of millennials indicated that they would be more likely to purchase from a brand if it handled a social issue well. This generation realizes that organizations can not solve all the issues going on in the world, but they believe businesses have the financial and technical resources to help solve social problems and expect brands to address the issues and topics they do have control over.

Among the social issues most important to millennials are education, racial equality, animal welfare, poverty and public health, to name a few. But when it comes to the most important issues to millennials for brands to address, environmental sustainability is near the top of the list. The Nielsen report points out that 85% of millennials around the globe say it is “extremely” or “very” important that companies implement programs to improve the environment.


Source: Nielsen, Millennials on Millennials

Another important finding from Nielsen’s study on the attitudes and behaviors of millennials regarding purchasing behavior is that 75% of consumers in this demographic say they will “definitely” or “probably” change their purchase/consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment. The Billerud Consumer Panel backs up these findings and illustrates two of the ways in which these purchasing trends might change: 64% of respondents indicated that they may change a product/brand for another if it clearly provides a more sustainable choice, and 72% indicated that they were willing to pay more for a product that is packaged in a sustainable way. Clearly, millennials care about sustainable packaging and are rewarding companies that make packaging one of the pillars of their sustainability efforts.

What is sustainable packaging? And how do you transform the way your organization designs, engineers and sources packaging responsibly? Regarding the first question, the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) defines sustainable packaging as being:

  • Beneficial, safe and healthy for individuals and communities throughout its life cycle
  • Sourced, manufactured, transported and recycled using renewable energy
  • Manufactured using clean production technologies and best practices
  • Physically designed to optimize materials and energy
  • Effectively recovered and utilized in biological and/or industrial closed loop cycles

The second part of the sustainable packaging equation (how do I do it?) requires more thought, focus and resources to answer. Fortunately, Billerud has helped some of the largest organizations in the world transform their packaging operations to be more sustainable, and our Knowledge Center is full of resources that reflect our knowledge and experience in this field to help you bring sustainable packaging to your organization. Here is some recommended reading to help you get started:


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Packaging for millennials, made easy

Does your packaging make the right impression with millennials? More importantly, if you have multiple packaging suppliers and manufacturers around the globe, are you concerned that the packaging decisions you make here will be reflected in the final product? Billerud can help. We coordinate with brands, suppliers and OEMs to ensure consistency across the entire packaging portfolio. We also have teams of packaging designers and engineers to help determine the best way your packaging should look, feel and perform based on the end users’ wants, needs and preferences.

If you would like to learn how Billerud can simplify and streamline the complex world of packaging, please contact us online.

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