Nine Ways to Connect with Millennials Through Packaging

How to make your packaging Hundo P (translation: 100%) authentic.

Today, smart brands are rethinking packaging. Why? Millennials! The Pew Research Center states that millennials, those born between 1981 and 1997, “have surpassed Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living generation,” which translates to growing spending power.

Attractive mixed race woman reading label of food item at supermarket

Millennials sometimes seem to speak an alien language, though, leaving many marketers wondering…Just what do millennials want? What are their requirements? What are their demands? …Take me to their leader!

While making your packaging “W,” pronounced “dub” (translation: a win), for this particular generation may seem challenging, with a little insight, brands can gain millennial trust and market share.

Meeting millennial demands

Nielsen reports, “Millennials are a social, community-driven generation that values the voice of the individual.” They desire “a more balanced, healthy lifestyle, and they want to be more informed about companies, their products and their business practices. They also expect products to do more for them and for their community.”

“They excel in a fast-paced world that requires an on-the-go lifestyle. They value, even demand, connectivity, convenience and options that allow them to be in control,” Nielsen adds.

Rod Gonzalez, VP, Group Creative Director of east|west marketing group notes that “Millennials invest in properties in ways that the generations that came before them did not. They tend to stream on devices and binge-watch many episodes in one sitting. What took an older generation a year to watch, they may inhale in a one-week period. This deep-dive mindset may be a window for marketers to better understand this generation.”

Nine ways to make contact

How do you make the millennial connection? Here are some ways to step up your packaging game in 2017:


That’s, Keep It Simple for Shoppers. “Presenting your brand with simplicity and authenticity resonates with millennials,” says Keith Manzella, VP, Group Creative Director of east|west marketing group. “Auto-play videos dominate our Facebook scroll. Our kids communicate with Emojis. Short-form videos are replacing TV as the go-to entertainment choice of millennials. More and more we are shunning words and seeking out images as our preferred method of communication. This yearning for visual, effortless messaging doesn’t end on our phone and tablet screens. We want it, and expect it, in every aspect of our lives, even in-store.”

Additionally, he adds, “Brands that limit copy and design elements position themselves to appeal to shoppers who just want to find, grab and go. It’s so tempting to add one more claim or symbol—but this practice can only bring overwhelming disorder to the eye, turning your package into white noise for the consumer who’s scanning the shelf.”

Offer exclusivity – Millennials want to feel special, but they also want brands to reflect who they are, reports Packaging Digest. “Millennials are constantly seeking the latest and greatest products that strike a chord with them, whether it is a passion for a hobby, a commitment to wellness or a sustainability promise.”

Releasing limited-time availability of a product creates “a unique purchase experience in which brands effectively satisfy the pronounced desire of millennials to have the latest, greatest and most exclusive products,” adds Packaging Digest, citing a Mintel report, Marketing to Millennials, that indicates “nearly one quarter (24%) of consumers like packaging that has an appealing design [dedicated to a] limited edition, seasonal or special release.”

Promote self-expression – Millennials like to march to their own beat, and smart brands are playing up to this desire for self-expression. Take, for instance, Dr Pepper’s Pick Your Pepper campaign launched during the summer of 2016, which allowed millennials to get their groove on with hundreds of limited edition, custom-printed labels for Dr Pepper 20-ounce bottles. Tricked-out labels featured novelty designs such as unicorns and fish, paw prints for the woof-obsessed and leopard for the fashionista, along with bright swirly pop art, stylized vintage rockets and literally hundreds of other distinctive designs.

Deliver convenience – Campbell’s Go soups packaged in convenient, microwavable pouches, introduced several years ago, catered to time-crunched millennials. “Campbell’s Go soups represent the next generation of soups from Campbell Soup Company,” Darren Serrao, Vice President Innovation and Business Development, Campbell Soup Company announced in a company press release. “In many ways, these soups were made for millennials by millennials. Our Campbell team traveled around the world, meeting with millennials and experiencing firsthand what excites them. Eating from food trucks, at their favorite neighborhood restaurants and in their own kitchens, we learned about their preference for bold, adventurous flavors in food.”

Get your ‘social’ on – Campbell also played up to millennials’ love of social, in several ways, including partnering Campbell’s Go with Buzzfeed to share content and “collaborating with Spotify, a digital music service that offers users on-demand access to over 18 million songs, to develop custom playlists using the bold flavors of Campbell’s Go soups as inspiration. The partnership will enable users to create synergies between the music and the soup flavor—for example, a playlist of songs that are all about cheese will align with Campbell’s Go Creamy Red Pepper with Smoked Gouda soup. Each time a user listens to a song on Spotify, they will be rewarded with a coupon and gain access to the entire playlist,” stated a Campbell press release.

Exhibit altruism Newman’s Own had been donating all of its profits to charity for decades, yet millennials seemingly weren’t paying any mind, reported The New York Times. While many know the legendary screen star for his acclaimed movies and race car driving prowess, the name “Paul Newman” appeared to be drawing a blank among millennials.

To counter that, Newman’s Own “is making more of a show of its record of magnanimity, rolling out a marketing initiative aimed at millennials who might not recognize the famous face of the brand and might have little to no knowledge of its altruistic story” the Times reported, adding this “follows a growing pattern among large corporations to highlight their philanthropic work to appeal to a younger audience. Millennials especially have demonstrated a propensity to favor companies with a generous mission.”

In addition, “Newman’s Own is also rewording and repositioning the ‘All Profits to Charity’ banner that typically frames Mr. Newman’s face. … The wording has also changed to ‘100 Percent Profits to Charity,’ which Newman’s Own feels is a slight but significant clarification to consumers,” the Times added.

Wrap up added benefits Who doesn’t like to get more? “Unlike previous generations, millennials are more concerned with the added benefits a product can provide. These ‘extras’ should be more emotionally charged to improve quality of life, energy, healthfulness, etc. Because brands must now make a connection between the benefit and the product, the front product packaging should be a billboard of motivational statements that will showcase more benefits. The packaging for belVita’s Breakfast Biscuits reads, ‘Nutritious, sustained energy all morning.’ The claim is explaining the emotional benefit of the product. It may also tout that it’s made with whole grains, but the leading message is about sustainable energy, which is a benefit most millennials desire,” reports Forbes.

Spin the wheel of the past In a complicated world, a toss back to happy childhood memories can be a powerful draw, reports Forbes. Remember how millennials went bananas over the Pokémon GO craze of 2016?

“The key is to create an emotional hook using nostalgia while also offering something new. The perfect combination of past and present, ‘Pokémon GO’ links a beloved story with the first real-life example of augmented reality. For many, playing the game satisfies dual criteria—innate happiness and exploration into something new and exciting,” adds Forbes.

Be transparent, highlight sustainability – Sustainability is a golden word these days. “No brand today wants to tout the fact that they are created in a factory. Much better is the product ‘crafted’ with ‘simple ingredients’ and made from a ‘family recipe.’ Brands that use ingredients that we recognize (and can pronounce) that do as little damage to our planet as possible are without a doubt the ones that are rising to the top, ” says Rod Gonzalez, VP, Group Creative Director of east|west marketing group.

And consumers want transparency. Forbes states, “The movement to buy locally grown products has created food-smart millennial consumers, who demand to know what’s in their food, who is making it and where the ingredients are sourced. Brands that can bring food knowledge into their product experience could be big winners in the race for transparency.” Forbes adds, “An example of this is packaging that allows consumers to only open and use what they need. Providing a quality seal for what they don’t use allows millennials to avoid being wasteful, an important value to this environmentally friendly demographic.”

Speaking their language

Although millennials may judge a package by its cover, simply by getting to know their needs (and demands), you can create packaging that bridges the generation gap—and that’s pretty trill (translation: true, real, deserving of respect).

To learn more about how we can meet your packaging needs and help get it millennial-ready, contact us at

Laura Huhn researches and writes on trends and emerging technologies in relation to CPG, food and beverage, health, luxury brands and more. 

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