David Lemley Q&A: Simplicity and sustainability does the trick for today’s product packaging

Packaging isn’t just about creating “pop” in the aisle, it also tells a story when the consumer unwraps it at home.

Has your brand innovated its product packaging lately? Packaging isn’t just about creating “pop” in the aisle, David Lemley, president of brand strategy firm Retail Voodoo says. It also tells a story when the consumer unwraps it at home. Big and bulky packaging is out — as it screams wasteful and cumbersome — while small and simple packaging is in for its sustainable story. Find out how the brand helped Ruffwear update its packaging. Plus: Will we ever see the perfect reusable packaging?


What are some of the top trends and changes in retail packaging and POP displays that the outdoor industry HAs seen in the past few years?
We see a movement to simplify and also create a premium experience. Outdoor gear has moved from strictly feature and benefits to human emotions.

Has increased online sales affected or altered thinking on packaging in any way?
We have always held the belief that packaging needs to be made from sustainable resources (and where appropriate should be minimal). However the increase of online sales hasn’t changed our core belief that packaging has two roles: to inspire and inform at the point of retail., and to reassure, post-purchase, that the brand is able to deliver on the promises they are making.

Why does some packaging seemingly require the “Jaws of Life” to open and is an unusable mess afterward? 
Easy answer: shoplifting. More involved answer: Some products display better in forms that allow for a header and a protective clam shell (of sorts) to house it. This is an industry standard, based upon cost engineering (and lack of imagination).

Is there a trend for more reusable packaging? E.g., boxes and containers that could be repurposed by the consumer for other uses in the home?
Yes, there is a small movement toward reusable packaging. The challenge is that most brands have cost-engineered the soul and pioneering spirit of their brand right out of their packaging. And a reusable package will likely cost more. Another challenge is that a person can only have so many reusable pieces. That means they will keep only the ones that look cool, from their most favored brands, and the ones that have the highest functionality. Manufacturers that are interested in creating reusable packaging need to step up their game when it comes to design and functionality or risk creating more expensive disposed packaging. If budgets are tight, it’s best to use traditional packaging with recycled and/or biodegradable materials. A brand’s best bet, going this route, is to create a reusable package that can also be recycled.

You recently helped Ruffwear on some new packaging. What did you change and why? 
Our research for Ruffwear showed that people would be more willing to invest emotionally in the story if they knew they could absolutely trust the gear to perform. We wanted to highlight all of the proprietary hardware in their gear. We also simplified their messaging and efficacy promises through iconography and made Ursula (Patrick’s first dog and company mascot) the hero. Last we leveraged packaging as an invitation to for people to co-author the brand’s stories online by sharing real photos of real dogs (and their humans) in real outdoor places.

--David Clucas



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