Don’t get me wrong. We’re all for brands scaling back the amount of packaging they’re using to reduce costs and improve their carbon footprint. Seriously, big cheerleaders. But trust me, there is a right way, and a wrong way, to do it. For example, when I opened a “luxury” subscription box I received a few weeks ago, I found a banged-up cardboard box with all the contents rolling around and one thin balled up piece of tissue that I suppose once wrapped around the products inside. Sound luxurious? Nope. If you’re considering reducing your packaging, or just curious about what goes into decisions like this, here are our 3 tips to avoid an epic fail like the one I just had the displeasure of experiencing.

Don’t throw out your brand with the packaging

Like the old baby and the bathwater story, don’t discard the essential while eliminating the unnecessary. And what’s the essential of your brand? Why it’s YOUR BRAND. And what is your brand? It’s not the logo, or the colors, or the social media posts, although those are all a part of it. Your brand is whatever the public thinks it knows about your product or service, and it includes every touch point with your consumer. In my example above, as a luxury brand, I expected materials with an elevated look and feel, an attention to detail, and a box with every element impeccably thought out. In other words, the exact opposite of what I received. When you start a packaging reduction initiative, remember what your customer expects when they interact with your brand, and make sure the choices you make, such as switching to a different stock or eliminating a secondary outer packaging, keep what makes your brand surprise and delight.

Do look for silver linings

You can always find ways to turn lemons into lemonade, right? When you are looking at reducing packaging, get creative and keep looking for small tweaks you can make that would enhance the consumer experience. For example, if you reduce the size or complexity of a package, is there a small flap that could be added that would secure your product inside the box, and give you a place to print a clever “secret” message that your customer would see when they opened the top? It would add a minuscule amount of weight but would add tremendously to your customer’s unboxing experience. Maybe there’s even a piece of material that would otherwise be discarded that could be reutilized as a tray that held your contents in place, and presented them in a jewel box manor? (Hint, hint, luxury subscription box brand.)

Don’t forget the big picture

Reducing the amount of packaging you use might be able to save money in the long run. But if you make a switch that doesn’t adequately protect your product in transit, or reduces its shelf life, what are you really saving? Any change you make will require trial and error and testing through every point of your product’s life cycle. And if switching to a more sustainable packaging releases more carbon into the atmosphere or changing to a different type of structure uses more energy to transport than your existing materials, it’s increasing your carbon footprint, not reducing it. When you begin this initiative, it’s best to have a plan and work with people knowledgeable with the process.

If you don’t want to be like “luxury brand subscription box”, we’re always here to help point you in the right direction – we love working with businesses of all sizes to find ways to decrease or offset their carbon footprint, while keeping their brand, and their bottom line, in mind.

Photo by Gary Chan from Unsplash