7 February 2023
‘Inclusive’ is a hot buzzword and a big topic at the moment, but what does it mean for the packaging industry?
Essentially it means that your packaging does not exclude anyone from being able to purchase it. For example it’s got big enough text, or perhaps a raised pattern to physically distinguish one product from another for individuals who are visually impaired. Your marketing isn’t targeting a specific group of people, meaning that it isn’t excluding anyone on the basis of their ethnicity, gender or sexuality. Your packaging is easy to open and use so that anyone – regardless of physical ability – can access your product. A product or service is supposed to solve a problem, it is meant to bring a solution to the consumer’s life; not to add more problems.
Lots of brands have recently been looking into inclusion – how much their choices in packaging and design affect the ‘invisible’ consumer, (i.e. the 1 billion differently abled individuals across the globe, as the World Bank estimates). But companies have been putting a lot of pressure on the sustainability of their brands, because that is something which we can all relate to and connect with; finally the focus is now being balanced with inclusivity. Packaging that is easier for someone with limited physical movement to open will be ten times easier for people with unlimited physical movement to open, (and I think we can all agree that some packaging really is completely impossible to get into, even with scissors!).
But what is inclusive design? Well it’s defined as: a concept which helps enable as many consumers of all abilities as reasonably possible to use products without difficulty.
Doesn’t seem too challenging does it? But you’d be surprised how many companies do not implement easy-to-use packaging with their products. Either because they feel it won’t help conversions, it might not resonate with consumers, or they don’t believe that they have a big enough customer base who would be affected by the alterations. Part of the packaging problem is that a lot of the people who cannot get through to the product they have bought or want to invest in, is that they just choose brands who do cater for their requirements. This means that inclusive packaging has become a niche rather than the normal. How do you change that? The same way that we saw it change with sustainability. Ten years ago 90% of brands liberally used plastic and non-biodegradable/ recyclable options. Now every brand is striving to be able to list themselves as sustainable, planet friendly and climate conscious. Why? Because consumers put pressure on the companies they were buying from to change – otherwise the company was and still is threatened with boycotts. No company wants a boycott, no matter the amount of influence they might have in the sector, that is down to the relationship they have with their customers. No customers equals no money, which equals no influence.
And it’s the same with inclusivity. Lots of brands – especially in the beauty sector – have recently started advertising with the LGBTQ+ community as models and ambassadors; men’s makeup brands such as Warpaint For Men are growing in popularity as niches become mainstream due to the requirements of a brand’s consumers. Terms on packaging now include all genders and ethnicities, rather than specifying what is for who – giving the consumer more agency and helping to break down social boundaries. Advert campaigns such as the Imagine campaign of 2020 tackled gender bias which changes the perceptions of the consumer, eventually impacting the brands they buy from.
Businesses are beginning to listen to the individuals and communities who are affected by biases rather than focusing on continuing the biases because it’s easier. Physically, packaging is becoming easier to open – perhaps that is thanks to unboxing videos which highlight the flaws in both product and packaging for all to see and hear. Or maybe it’s because – thanks to the pandemic’s increased reliance on e-commerce – consumers have embraced minimalism, both in style and engineering.
If you’re looking for ways to make your brand more inclusive check out the article This Is Not A Trend: Inclusive Packaging for more ideas.