Monday, 26 February 2024

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Unboxing The Elegance and Function of Luxury Packaging

Furoshiki is a time-honored Japanese tradition traced back to the 8th century. Gifts and valuables for the imperial family were elaborately wrapped in cloth. Prized at the time, woven cloth imbued the gift with a sense of elegance and spiritual satisfaction. Not only aesthetic but cloth wrappings also protected imperial treasures during transportation and storage.

Eventually, the practice of Furoshiki spread to the masses. Merchants and travelers in the 19th and 20th centuries traveled with various goods wrapped in cloth for protection. Today, the tradition of wrapping goods in Japan is still alive. To elegantly wrap a gift is to show respect for the recipient. Modern furoshiki wrappings are made with premium materials such as silk, cotton, or synthetic fibers and may include printed designs. Even as single-use plastics rise in adoption, interest in furoshiki has reignited as people seek sustainable ways to package goods beautifully and sustainably. The cloth wrapping can be kept and reused for future gift wrapping.

The state of luxury packaging today reflects the story of furoshiki. Packages from the luxury goods industry, having brands like Gucci and Apple among its ranks, blend elegance with function. Consumers of luxury goods seek a sense of respect, craftsmanship, and beauty from these brands. It is only fitting that luxury packaging reflects these values. In the past, access to these high-end brands was restricted to an elite few. The rise of social media and disposable income have pushed these goods into more, often younger, hands. Luxury brands have sought to remove their image of wasteful extravagance with greater sustainability to appeal to younger consumers. Through thoughtful material choice and packaging, these brands have demonstrated that elegance, sustainability, and protection can all be achieved.

The concept of luxury is sold as being a sensual experience. Luxury products are often artistic expressions that consumers connect with. Luxury packaging follows this philosophy. It reflects a luxury brand’s commitment to providing consumers with second-to-none experiences. “I love the process of unpacking something. You design a ritual of unpacking to make the product feel special. Packaging can be theater, it can create a story.” says Jonathan Ive, the former design officer at Apple.

Known for their slick, minimal packaging, Apple puts extraordinary care into their package design. Designers, over months, will prototype different package designs and evaluate the unboxing experience. Details from the sound the box makes to the box’s sliding friction are considered during the evaluation. The sensory experience behind the unboxing is finely calibrated to leave a deep impression on consumers. Apple’s guiding marketing philosophy emphasizes creating an intimate connection with the customer. Apple’s designs must communicate a sense of quality and polish to customers.

Psychologists have identified several factors that draw people to luxury products. These products confer a sense of status and exclusivity. After all, not everybody can afford that $1,200 Hermes leather belt. You are making a statement, about your wealth and values by wearing a belt like this. Quality, authenticity, and aesthetics are ideals you identify with. Luxury brands must communicate to consumers that these ideals are woven into the brand’s fabric -- in the case of apparel brands, literally.

Material choice and package design can validate a customer’s brand perception of quality. Packages will often employ an elegant, timeless design. These designs utilize muted and subtle colors.

Take the Hermes cardboard box (see Figure 3). It has a few colors. The citrus orange is bold but not overwhelming. The metallic accent and simply placed Hermes logo promote a sense of elegance.

Adding a textural element can also enhance a package’s design. Today, Rolex’s packaging is an ornate sapphire green box topped with a wave pattern (see Figure 4).

A closer inspection of Rolex’s box reveals leather texturing that mirrors Rolex’s earlier wooden boxes covered in green leather. The box also has a sense of weight that enhances its perceived value. The market for pre-owned Rolexes puts a price premium on the box. The price of a complete set Rolex, including the original box and documentation, can increase the price of a Rolex by as much as 10%. The value of a Rolex box is not just perceived but also reflected in the market.

Luxury brands will elevate their packaging with high-quality materials. Take the Johnnie Walker Blue gift box (see Figure 5). This box, made with MW Luxury Packaging, is made with a high-quality rigid board. The box is dyed with Johnnie Walker’s iconic blue color and accented with gold foil letters. Strong magnets hold together the box halves, which reveal an elegant bottle of whiskey and two glasses. An EVA foam fitment form is wrapped in a satin cloth to protect the delicate contents. The big, double-wall glass bottle is no less stunning. Without a doubt, this gift box features premium materials that impress.

Luxury brands have shifted towards more sustainable packaging to appeal to younger consumers who increasingly. Sustainability’s importance grows when shoppers buy more goods online instead of in-store. Unlike other industries, the luxury industry must balance their image of indulgence with its goal of be resourceful. Gucci, the iconic fashion brand, has struck this balance. In 2020, Gucci switched to a new green packaging, in color and sustainability.

Gucci’s package design is green with an embossed decorative pattern. Made from “responsibly managed sources,” the paper and cardboard components are not covered with plastic, which aids in recycling. Regarding green e-commerce packaging, Gucci has included reusable cotton tote bags and a reversible outer box that can function as a return box in their shipments. These moves reduce waste and ensure packaging materials are sustainably sourced.

While ensuring packages arrive at a customer’s doorstep intact is a priority for every retailer, such guarantees are even more important for luxury brands. In this industry, customer relations are a top priority. Today, 65% of luxury goods buyers expect packaging to continue their luxury purchasing experience. Failing to meet the lofty expectations of these customers is detrimental to these brands. An unsightly bruised product or, even worse, a broken product will negatively impact a customer’s perception of the brand. Thus, luxury brands must consider innovative ways to ensure products arrive safely. The packaging must maintain elegance and adhere to sustainable practices, including reducing excessive plastic waste.

Options include using rigid cardboard boxes that hold products in place. Shipping box designs can match a brand’s identity, as in the case of Louis Vuitton.

Brands may also substitute plastic fillers and bubble wrap with sustainably sourced paper fillers and wrapping. Foam inserts can add an extra layer of protection for goods. With all these possibilities, customers can be sure that products will arrive in pristine condition while adhering to values of aesthetics and sustainability. As luxury brands look to the future, these brands must make an impression on the younger generation. This younger generation will be future customers as older customers fall out of the market. According to a report from Bain & Co, a consultancy firm for millennial, and Gen Z consumers they accounted for all growth in the luxury market during 2022. By 2030, it is projected that millennials and younger will account for 80% of global luxury purchases. The trend of today’s younger consumers driving luxury sales will only accelerate as incomes rise among this demographic.

One trend that resonates with younger consumers is the unboxing experience. The expanding reach of social media has lowered the barrier for influencers to show off their designer clothes to hundreds of viewers. Platforms like TikTok, popular among the youth, are teaming with unboxing showcases.

By designing packages worthy of being displayed online, luxury brands can shift the youth’s brand perception in their favor. Packages appearing on social media can kick-start relations and establish brand awareness among younger audiences. A consistent social media presence reminds younger audiences of these luxury offerings.

The elite status of luxury brands makes their goods coveted. Consumers go to these brands for an unparalleled experience. Elegance and craftsmanship are core values for this industry. Packages from this industry are made to an exceptionally high standard. Aligned with consumer expectations, luxury packaging is functional yet beautiful. It is indulgent yet sustainable. This packaging embodies high aspirations, captivating future generations with timeless appeal.


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