‘Y’ are Millennials changing the face of packaging?

How to reach one of the most intriguing generation cohorts often remains a question for brands. “Generation Y”, who now tend to be known as “Millennials”, are set apart by their unique sense of self, optimistic outlook and untraditional approach to life stages. According to McCrindle Research, this group born between 1980 and 1994 (making them 22-36 years old) has a list of nicknames, many focused on the fact the digital age heralded their birth. Others look at their more untraditional life approach, such as “kippers” (“kids in parents pockets eroding retirement savings”), or “freeters” in Japan, because so many work part-time. Indeed, says McCrindle’s head Mark McCrindle, never before has a generation been so slow to enter full-time employment. 

So how do brands get into the hearts and minds of the “click ‘n go kids”? 

Earlier this year, Tetra Pak released a report titled “Packaging up Millennial Success”. And the results of what makes “Google generation” tick? Well, it has a lot to do with food. Nearly 58% said they cook for fun at least once a week. That’s more than any other generation, and, one wonders, is because the other generations need to cook to feed their families — whether it’s fun or not… 

So armed with this knowledge, there is a huge opportunity for dairy brands to use their packaging to engage this powerful generation and build lasting relationships. Here are six guidelines:

1. Go digital with packaging

Millennials are the first generation to grow up with the internet and digital technology, so they are truly “digital natives”. According to AdAge, Millennials spending an average of 25 hours a week online. More than any other generation, they rely on their mobiles and tablets to research and buy items.

Forward-looking brands are innovating with smart labels to engage consumers and deliver an extended brand experience. Think exclusive videos, ads, reviews and recipes delivered straight to their mobile while they’re in-store. At the same time, interactive packaging can provide useful insights into customer behaviour.

2. Provide true convenience 

Convenience is a huge factor for this generation. When it comes to sustenance, Millennials have a strong “must have it now” mentality; they look for food and drink options that fit into their super-busy lives. In fact, 41% are prepared to pay more for products that make their lives easier. As a priority, brands should focus on packaging that:

makes it easy for consumers to consume straight from the packaging,

packages items in convenient portions, and

provides a resealable option — especially for larger portions.

3. Push boundaries

Millennials like to experiment with food and beverages. They are drawn to new and different ingredients, flavours and methods. (For instance, the “hearty”, cream cheese-based “Man Dip”, with flavours such as spicy sausage and buffalo chicken, has been well received in the USA.) 

Creating packaging that focuses on innovation can be key to engaging Millennials and giving them a sense of discovery and exclusivity. Think limited edition collections and designs that stand out from the shelf. Even though there are no dairy products (and a honey won the “dairy, spices, oils, sauces and condiments” section), the latest Dieline Packaging Design Awards winners offer plenty of inspiration.

4. Feed authentic information

Perhaps because they have also been called “the cynical generation”, Millennials trust what they feel is authentic. They want to feel informed and involved, not just “marketed to”. They scour websites, social media and blogs for the information they crave, whether that’s finding out the origin of the product or a detailed breakdown of the ingredients. Packaging needs to be open and honest with information. Clear labelling is a must, as is easy-to-understand language free from jargon and marketing speak. As well as clean labelling, Millennials also like “social good” and “smart labelling”. 

Dairy processors must look for ways to deliver educational content over and above the packaging label. Think unique content delivered digitally direct to end consumers’ mobile devices. For example, exciting recipes for an ingredient they have just bought. (QR codes offer some great ways to achieve this.)

5. Personalise the packaging

Nutella and Coca-Cola have had some great success with their personalised packaging in engaging Millennials. “The celebrity generation” wants to feel as if products have been created with their interests and needs in mind — not their back pockets. They want to have a say and become co-creators of the products they use, with 42% saying they are interested in helping companies develop future products and services. So open the door to collaboration, and let them become part of the product and packaging development process. 

6.  Be visibly sustainable

Eco-friendly packaging is a great way to boost your brand in the eyes of the Millennial consumer. They are not only actively seeking eco-conscious products; they are willing to pay for them. By using visibly sustainable packaging, you’re making it easier for them to choose your product. 

Closing thoughts

There’s a lot at stake here, but targeting your packaging to Millennials doesn’t have to be hard. Only by not understanding them and not finding ways to be relevant to them or engaging of them, will brands fail. Remember these three key strategies:

Make it authentic, honest and true.

Provide the information they seek.

Deliver the ultimate in convenience.

About the author

Mark Dingley is General Manager of Matthews Australasia and Chairman of the Australian Packaging and Processing Machinery Association (APPMA). With more than 20 years of experience in the product identification industry and the wealth of knowledge gained from working closely with manufacturers and industry associations, Mark actively contributes to industry forums, magazines and the Matthews blog. For more information on Matthews, go to www.matthews.com.au

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