Consider the senses when you think of packaging. Visual is, of course, foremost, but what about audible, fragrant and tactile appeal? Colleen Bate talks to Rohan Widdison, founder and managing director New Laboratories, about this extraordinary and expansive trend in sensory packaging that is fast-gaining appeal.

With 34 years in the cosmetics industry in local and inter-national markets, Rohan Widdison has much to share about the ‘selling’ side of beauty and his knack of creating a unique point of difference in packaging.

Rohan Widdison, founder and managing director New Laboratories
Rohan Widdison, founder and managing director New Laboratories

As founder of New Laboratories, a cosmetics contract manufacturer based in Melbourne and offering brands a boutique contract manufacturing and product development experience, Widdison has first-hand experience of guiding brand owners down the sensory packaging path.

“To some extent, many companies only focus on the visual side of their brands and don’t consider the tactile, fragrant or even audible experience. Exploring these paths can add tremendous value to a product,” Widdison says, dissecting the sensory experiences and highlighting the ways in which they can be incorporated in the packaging and branding of a product.

The soft touch aesthetic is becoming desirable in the health and beauty market, as well as in food and beverage packaging, as it greatly improves the exterior appearance of carton.

Popular methods used to achieve soft touch are spray coating to add a flat or matte look and rubbery hand feel; and in-mould to produce a matte effect, which has a subtle tactile feel. As an example of a soft touch application, Widdison mentions a client that produces luxury hand washes and lotions for premium hotels, who has developed a bottle designed to interlock.

“When picked up, it’s not just a round bottle. It also has a nice feel and touch, which lifts the product to the next level,” he explains.

Another of Widdison’s clients has introduced braille to its haircare packaging, illustrating that tactile packaging can also be used to promote simple and socially responsible communication.

Using sound to create brand appeal is an interesting concept and one that most of us may have experienced, but possibly not joined the dots consciously. An example of this is the ‘pop’ sound, synonymous with Pringle chips, when the packaging is first opened.

“I’ve seen clients go down the pathway of designing canisters specifically to create a nice sound when opened,” says Widdison. “It’s almost like tuning a vehicle, and becomes part of that brand experience and ethos.”

To further enhance the visual appeal of a product, various print finishing methods, such as debossing, can be used to promote a perception of luxury on packaging.

"We’re currently doing a lot of debossing on bespoke bottles, which then makes the brand synonymous with the bottle’s shape,” says Widdison, using Kevin Murphy as an example of a company that has gone down this particular path.

“Although not a client of mine, the Kevin Murphy brand is a very good example of using a tactile element to add value – the company’s debossed, unusually shaped bottles create a specific perception of how the product is viewed.”

Kevin Murphy’s unusually shaped bottles create a specific perception of how the product is viewed.
Kevin Murphy’s unusually shaped bottles create a specific perception of how the product is viewed.

The sense of smell can also be used to promote a brand. Widdison points out examples such as individual fragrances used on (or attached to) packaging to boost brand loyalty; ‘peel and sniff’ labels that help consumers experience the smell of the product before they open it; and test strip labels for deodorant sticks which can reveal if the packaged product it is attached to, contains aluminium.

Although creating a sensory experience via packaging may require some ‘out of the box’ thinking, if done correctly, it can provide a rich and rewarding platform for innovative storytelling and ultimately, a way to get a product to fly off the shelves.

This article is published in the September-October print edition of PKN Packaging News, on page 32-33.


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