I just returned from speaking at an invention show on how to package your invention to sell. I saw a lot of great, innovative products that had a lot of merit. Some of them could become the next, new, "hot" consumer product. However, what struck me the most was that everyone focused on what they were developing not whether it would appeal to the consumer. They seemed to even ignore a consumer need for their product.
I watched American Inventor while I was in away and that same judgment was reinforced. People invented things that had absolutely no market potential whatsoever. Not matter how clever, catchy or innovative the packaging might be to lure the consumer into the purchase, it can't save these inventions from an unmitigated disaster.
It got me to thinking about unfulfilled or unmet needs of the consumer. These are needs that we all face -- whether we know it or not. How does the package play a role in satisfying a consumer need or creating consumer satisfaction?
Look at the growth of the prepared or ready to eat market. All these new food products have been developed because the packaging allows the product to be created. Without the package, the product couldn't even exist. The consumer's lack of time is a major unfulfilled need and consumer goods companies are creating products that address that demand
Take an everyday item such toothpaste. Where would we be without the package? Consumers never even think about why that product package was created and how it works to contain and dispense the product while keeping it sanitary. The toothpaste tube fulfilled a need.
The next great wave of packaging innovation/inventions will come from problems not yet resolved or ones that haven't hit the consumer awareness button. Be aware of issues such as security and integrity of the products we buy and consume. Look at all the recent flourish of product recalls and contamination issues: pet food, peanut butter, common everyday items that could kill you or your pet. Are consumers getting worried and paying attention? You bet! Just from the pet food issue alone there has been a slow down of pet food sales and an onslaught of people making homemade pet food.
Getting back to toothpaste, have you read about the Chinese counterfeit toothpaste that is here in the US? It's quite obvious (according to what I saw in the news) that by looking at the packaging (misspellings and so on) that it's not a legitimate product (that is only obvious if you read the package, of course). The warning signals are there for the consumer to see. But what if the packaging looks normal and the product inside is contaminated? In the next wave of innovation, the package may tell us if the product is bad, contaminated or counterfeit. Seriously, the package may talk, change colors, or do a myriad of other things to inform the consumer to be wary.
A packaging company just sent me this staggering statistic. "Product tampering at the retail level is growing at more than 13 percent each year." That's scary. So, what is your packaging innovation that could nip that in the bud or prove that the product had been tampered with before the consumer purchased it? That is a huge an unmet need. It is an important one because most consumers don't recognize until it's too late. Remember the Tylenol poisonings? That created havoc, after the fact. It created a whole new category of product packaging "tamper-evident."
So think about future consumer issues. Product security is going to continue to grow. We have just seen the beginning of the consumer's awareness to it. Can you create a packaging innovation that will inspire trust and create peace of mind? Think about the untapped market potential and opportunity for the next packaging invention that can save lives.