What is the best approach to lead Generation Z towards packaging - The Noel D'Cunha Sunday Column

Rajesh Nath, MD of VDMA India has been busy during the pandemic. Last week he participated in a webinar that focused on the Indo-German trade potential: Financing India. He puts on his thinking hat and says Generation Z are pretty creative, questioning, sophisticated and principled. In other words, they are pretty fab.

The question we asked him is, can a jaded, aging industry live up to their standards?

01 Nov 2020 | By Noel D'Cunha

WhatPackaging? How have packaging efforts shifted in 2020 due to the pandemic?
Rajesh Nath
. The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted society and industry like never before. Large portions of the global population have been ordered to stay at home, maintain stringent social distancing measures, and have been subject to lockdown conditions. A lasting effect of the pandemic will see first-time users become regular online grocery purchasers, as convenience, along with a desire for health conscious and safe practices, are here to stay and will be the driving factor for change.

WhatPackaging? Are there new opportunities for packaging?
Rajesh Nath:
In fact, packaging has even a bigger role to play as it needs to add value at the time of use.

WhatPackaging? How so? Should we be more solution opriented?
Rajesh Nath:
For example, how a package and its design offers convenience in use, storage and disposal. Packaging for online might also not be the same as retail. The manufacturers have to learn the new requirements for shipping, especially in the case of liquids.

WhatPackaging? How can we make packaging technology enticing for Gen Zs?
Rajesh Nath
. Today, print and packaging technology uses very specific machinery that is designed to work on the packaging of a very specific size or type of item. There are different configurations available, but one machine alone cannot handle mass customisation. I think, customisation and mass production were always looked at separately. Now the demand of the day is to mass customise in order to completely fulfil the needs and wants of the consumer.

WhatPackaging? How can the technology have allure?
Rajesh Nath:
The technology can be made more enticing for the Gen Zs by introducing Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics into manufacturing. The Covid-19 pandemic has put more focus on automation to be a key link in manufacturing in order to ensure accuracy, quality and mass production. Gen Zs are adopting this trend quickly and are equipping themselves with the right skill sets in order to contribute to automation, as they see the potential in this field for the future.

WhatPackaging? Let us flip the question. What according to you do Gen Zs look for packaging?
Rajesh Nath:
With processes, needs and wants changing rapidly, retaining attention of the consumer moving with time is an important task. The Gen Zs have ever changing expectations and reaching Gen Zs early can help one cultivate a loyal following for what will be an enormous sector of the economy in the near future.

WhatPackaging? In what way can our industry facilitate this?
Rajesh Nath:
The industry must be transparent and accountable with respect to their packaging. Adding details to packaging that explain where packaging materials come from and what elements are considered sustainable is a way to illustrate the transparency to Gen Z consumers. Moreover, Gen Zs are heavily concerned about the environment and look to engage with brands that use environment friendly print and packaging systems. Gen Zs have a ‘on the go ‘mentality and for this reason, they demand a high shelf life and affordable forms of packaging.

If these needs are met, tapping the Gen Z markets becomes easier. Creating packaging that is suitable to be sold via eCommerce platforms is also something Gen Zs look for as they are now shopping online more than ever. With mediums to reach the Gen Zs are changing, the print and packaging requirements need to change simultaneously.

WhatPackaging? How should the packaging industry approach social media for a generation born with it?
Rajesh Nath:
Social media is a powerful tool to reach out to them and communicating your environment conscious approach is a great way to educate and engage the Gen Zs. 72% of Gen Zs follow a social media icon or public figure, hence having a brand ambassador to showcase one’s print and packaging will increase the ability to tap the Gen Zs. Print and packaging needs to foray into this sphere by associating themselves with a social or environmental cause that resonates with the Gen Zs.

WhatPackaging? Nuance is the key to understanding Generation Z. They’re highly digitally connected, how do we ensure our message reaches out to them …
Rajesh Nath: The affinity towards a brand or style of packaging increases when there is a story associated with it. Gen Zs are a more conscious and sentimental generation that look to give back to the society in any way they can. Social media is the best medium to tap the Gen Zs emotive side by showing them everything you stand for.

However, the Gen Zs do not like to be pushed, hence the print and packaging industry need to make all the information available to them, educate them about your brand and give them space to decide. This way, the Gen Zs can be effectively captured by the print and packaging industry.

WhatPackaging? What methods are likely to cut through with Gen Zs?
Rajesh Nath:
Traditional marketing methods over the years have lost the ability to actively convert the viewer into a potential sales lead, increasingly so with Gen Zs. A more hands on approach is required when you try to market to an individual belonging to the Gen Z. The marketing method one needs to adopt is that, ‘sell an experience, not a product’ and put out more video content rather than the general flyers and photos.

WhatPackaging? There are quite a few challenges for brands, today. First, this generation doesn’t buy into the traditional idea of celebrities or airbrushed images.
Rajesh Nath: A major marketing method that cuts with Gen Zs would be to actively pursue Micro influencer marketing as Gen Zs actively look to emulate the influencer they follow. Micro-influencers drive 60% higher engagement levels and 22.2% more weekly conversions—in addition to being 6.7x more cost efficient per engagement compared to influencers with larger followings. Customer service is something every individual looks for and it never goes out of fashion, hence actively engaging with your customers to satisfy their needs and wants can go a long way in converting a potential sales lead to a realised sale.

WhatPackaging? Final thoughts?
Rajesh Nath:
Finally, safeguarding the privacy of your customers is something that Gen Zs are strongly concerned about. Once you establish their trust, your retention cost is reduced and money spent to acquire new customers would also drop as chances of cross selling and upselling to the existing customer base rises. Effective customer relationship management reaps benefits in the long run.

Niten Shah of Vyoma Graphics

Shift in print and packaging efforts during 2020 due to the pandemic: Commercial printing was dying a slow death. I think, Covid-19 has hastened the process. This has compelled many print firms to swiftly move to packaging.  If everything goes as per plan, Vyoma’s packaging plant will commence operations early next year.

Three tips to entice Gen Z: The Generation Z has witnessed global warming and the Covid-19 pandemic at a very young age. They will be enticed by print which can be touched and felt like textures, foiling and fragrance. Also, sustainable and recycled packaging will excite them. And finally, plastics will be a total no-no.

Three things Gen Z seek in print and packaging: They look out for value-added print. They seek bare minimum packaging which protects the product. Also, they look for reusable packaging and carry their own shopping bags and glass water bottles.

One social media mantra to engage with Gen Z: We need to change the concept of print and packaging in order to appeal to them. They have been taught in school to use less of the global resources. We need to tailor our message in accordance with the times.

Two marketing tools to deploy in order to entice Gen Zs: Instagram and Snapchat.