It’s funny to think that in the 1950s Elvis was the scorn of parents everywhere for his harmless hip-jiggling, while qualified doctors were actually promoting the health benefits of smoking! But that was the 1950s. A cultural crossroads where creativity, consumerism and conservatism often battled. The Second World War had ended, prosperity was starting to return to most of the countries that were involved (well the ones that won anyway) and television sets were becoming a focal point in homes across the developed world. As a result, advertising was becoming more prominent and about to enter its Golden Age, leading supermarkets to explore and expand their offering, meaning consumers now had more choice than ever before. With this explosion of consumer choice came an intense battle for their attention, causing a revolution in packaging that hasn’t slowed down in the 65 years since.

It’s often said that first impressions are the most lasting. It’s also widely accepted that somewhere between 73% and 85% of decisions are made at the point of sale. So it’s easy to see why packaging has evolved so much since the 50s. For instance, at the turn of the 20th century packaging was just the means for getting a product safely from supplier to buyer. Yes it was always properly sealed and great care was taken with it, but style and seductivity played little, if any, role against functionality. However, in the early part of the century, an increase in counterfeiting and copying of products led producers to realise that their packaging could set them apart from their competitors and become an authentic representation of themselves, their values and their product. So they set about developing retail advertising strategies to stay ahead of the curve. But by the end of the 1940s, their packaging was becoming less inward looking and for the first time, started to focus on promoting their brand personality and grabbing peoples’ attention both on TV and increasingly crowded shelves. What they had realised is that packaging could be a self-driving media form.

By the 1950s, the cultural revolution mentioned was leading to another evolution. Packaging started to say and display more and more things – including the health benefits of smoking – and curious consumers were more ‘informed’ than ever before. Bolder type, more stylised imagery and prominent brand names became the order of the day and before long it was hard to see the wood from the trees. Fast-forward to today and information is still is one of the most important factors in buyer behaviour. But there is now a whole host of new trends that have come into play. Just as the culture of the day played a pivotal role in packaging of the 1950s, today’s culture of connectivity, sustainability and technology is doing the same.

When was the last time you saw milk in an actual milk bottle?! The plastic revolution of the 1990s and the high price of producing, collecting and creating glass bottles led to their demise. Now, the high environmental cost of plastic is causing a revolution of its own. Both the packaging industry and retail advertising agencies are under huge pressure to meet environmental standards and create products that are lighter, smarter and more appealing than before. And as always, it’s adapting. Firstly, packaging customisation is becoming expected, especially by millennials, and understanding how they experience it is a must for any brand or retail advertising agency wanting to stay in the game. Information-rich consumers are demanding adherence to a new set of unwritten rules and now your packaging has to work with your brand identity more than ever:


Consumers are turning in their droves to products that don’t just sustain our quality of life but better it, with 86% of them expecting manufacturers to increase recycling of their products. So make recycling or sustainably-sourced packaging a priority for your business.


Transparency is now one of the leading factors in buyer behaviour. But rather than fill your packaging with information the way they did in the 60s, include a scannable QR code that leads consumers to where they can find the information they desire.


You’d have to have been living under a rock to have missed the social success of the ‘Share A Coke’ campaign whereby they simply replaced their logo with people’s names. A really, really simple idea that rightly caught the imagination of their modern socially-active audience. It’s no longer enough to just talk about your product through packaging, today’s wrappers, boxes and carrier bags all include a long list of social media platforms where consumers can engage with your brand.


When Heinz rotated the labels on their bottles by 180 degrees, one of the most annoying problems in consumers’ cupboards was instantly solved! More and more brands are getting creative with their packaging and solving simple problems such as transporting products and getting rid of the packaging.


I’ve already mentioned the role of QR codes in packaging but there are other ways to entice shoppers like augmented reality boxes, smart ‘sell-by-date’ yogurt labels, social media campaigns to create a new flavour of crisp and even interactive packaging where Rihanna dances on the cover of a magazine. Don’t believe us, Google it and watch in awe at what the next 65 years has in store for product packaging!

First Impressions Matter

Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. So put a plan in your retail marketing and advertising strategy to take a good long look at your packaging and really, honestly ask yourself these few things. Is it good enough? Is it working hard enough? Is it a good representation of your brand and your values? And most importantly is going to attract attention and turn that initial interest into a sale. Because if it isn’t doing these things you could find yourself still jiggling your hips like Elvis when everyone has already moved on to screaming at the Beatles!