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18 June 2020

Design with community in mind

In part three of our four part series on responding to the Covid-19 pandemic, Andreea Grosanu who heads up our Sydney operation talks about how we design for the evolving consumer landscape. 


If there is one lesson to be learned from the Covid-19 crisis, it’s that for better or for worse, we are tied to the communities around us. From the supermarket cashier to the postman to the teachers looking after the children of frontline and key workers going off to fight each day against a remorseless, reasonless foe, our wellbeing depends on the selflessness of others and our health depends on others making day-to-day choices responsibly.


In a recent survey commissioned by the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission (FFCC) and the Food Foundation, more than 40 percent of individuals are feeling a stronger sense of community in their local area since the virus shut down “normal” life, while one in 10 respondents were sharing food with a neighbour for the first time. Calls on social media to buy local and support family businesses abound, as consumers attempt to stem the flow of businesses defaulting in the face of the crisis.


For their survival, brands are now confronted with the urgent directive of reflecting the current public mood of community mindedness. In our series of articles on brand responsiveness to the Covid-19 outbreak, we have already discussed ways to assess your brand’s messaging amid today’s rapid shifts in consumer value perception as well as strategies to boost your brand salience. In this post, we’ll be discussing how packaging design will be shaped around community mindedness, from easing everyday tasks for those who are sheltering or vulnerable, to highlighting the communities that produce our food and drink, and providing information which promotes wellbeing.


Making packaging accessible


Everyone has struggled with packaging at one point or another – grabbing a knife to slice open an unwieldy plastic packet or asking someone in your family to read tiny font for you.


Although all consumers struggle with packaging, the ageing population, arthritis sufferers and consumers with disabilities have the greatest difficulties. Research from Arthritis Australia tells us that 65 per cent of consumers have been forced to wait for someone to come and open packaging for them. However, in these challenging times when those who are vulnerable are finding they must shelter alone, waiting for someone to come and open the container simply isn’t an option. 


Another sobering statistic is that in “normal” times, 67,000 people in the UK visit hospital emergency departments every year due to an accident involving food and drink packaging. Again this is problematic in a Covid-19 landscape as people avoid visiting hospitals for non- life threatening afflictions.


For these reasons, prioritising the packaging’s ergonomics, ie designing the packaging around human use, rather than expecting individuals to adapt to the design of the packaging, is now an imperative. Packaging designers must consider use by vulnerable communities throughout the project delivery cycle to reduce the risk of injury, as well as the reduction of stress and hardship.


This necessitates working with a packaging design team which has a deep understanding of relevant design requirements and the ability to implement the latest research on ergonomic design as well as insights which come direct from the communities themselves, such as Accessibility Packaging Design Guidelines.


Demonstrating support for local producers


The public has a new appetite for uplifting stories, and this is bolstered by our shared need for human connection. Highlighting the “human side” of our businesses has never been more vital, and putting a face on our products, literally and figuratively, is an extremely effective way to connect with consumers, while helping to bridge feelings of isolation and distance.


Small producers are already struggling, with potential catastrophe looming: the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition reports that farms could see a decline in sales of as much as $688.7 million in the wake of the pandemic.


Some small producers are simply waiting out the pandemic and hoping for the best. However, the Washington Post reports that many are rushing to adapt, pivoting from supplying restaurants, specialty shops and schools to selling directly to customers. They’re trying out new ways of interacting too, such as no-touch deliveries and drive-through pickups. 


Today, lots of companies are unsure of what’s appropriate in branding and marketing. However, a well-defined brand manifesto and effective messaging do not just take what’s appropriate into account – it’s also about what aligns with current public sentiment. In this case, what’s emerging is an emphasis on family values, inclusiveness, compassion and showing that people matter most.


Throughout the lockdown crisis and beyond, demonstrating support for small businesses and impactful supply chain players will be a key area for building brand equity. This must manifest in real world approaches such as support programmes and initiatives. The communities of line employees, the pickers and factory floor workers, within those areas of provenance can and should be part of the human face of the business. Showing this via the packfront, supportive POS artwork, photography and across a host of deliverables works to bring that messaging home.


Informing consumers


Living through the Covid-19 outbreak is leading many of us to reassess our position in the “rat race”. Even if you’re not philosophical about the whys and hows this disease landed on our doorsteps, you’re likely to recognise that some of the ways in which we live have been personally damaging. Namely this has been overwork and overstretching, deprioritising family time and losing touch with friends who have meant a lot to us.


Driven by these bursts of insight, people are making fresh resolutions: we’re vowing to lead cleaner, more meaningful and more sustainable lifestyles than we previously did. This newfound motivation in wellbeing should be triggering a response from well-heeled brands to action a shift in packaging and messaging around consumer wellness and education.


A shift in attitudes may see consumers more interested in healthful ingredients and become more savvy about the varying reliability of callouts, so brands must ensure these are prominent, but above all accurate. As an industry, we have a responsibility to aid consumers living in less than ideal situations – perhaps experiencing unemployment, the fallout of a business, divorce, a surge in stress or anxiety – and help them to manage their personal physical and mental wellbeing. On-pack information around nutrition, and moderate calorie and alcohol consumption, can likewise help individuals who are struggling to make food and drink choices more responsibly.


Working with a branding and packaging design agency which is proactive in its approach to market research and responsive to shifts in consumer value perception means your brand will have the ability to pivot in the face of the fast-moving “seismic” shifts brought by the Covid-19 pandemic. Our design to shelf model means a delivery cycle which takes weeks, not months to respond as consumer behaviours and supply chain patterns evolve.


We’re happy to discuss your brand’s needs and how we can assist you and the individuals who rely on you. Feel free to give us a call and we’ll help however we can – after all we’re a community, and we’re all in this together.