In a world where choice on the shelf was limited and the online distribution channels did not compromise the dominance of the offline channels, the functional role of the packaging was to be a strategic and differentiating tool, capable of clearly communicating product's properties, with a colour and design that made it appealing to consumers.
Today, not only has the strategic role become increasingly important but also its functional role has gained new significance.
Consumers have become more and more in-tune and aware, and consequently more attentive to every detail: they select products according to the way in which the packaging makes the product easier to carry, open and use. Its functional role is no longer just "business-centric" but consumer-centric. The packaging protects the products more and more efficiently from exposure to external factors and is the key to optimising logistics. But not just that: most importantly, it has become the fifth pillar of marketing, that makes the product convenient to consume anywhere and at any time, in line with consumer habits.
Its functional consumer-centric role is all the more significant when the packaging becomes the differentiating tool amongst the information noise from the products on the shelf (online and offline), not only capable of conveying a message, but also incorporating it. The packaging is now part of the products themselves and is increasingly playing a crucial role in enhancing the value of the product. It supports our lifestyles and consumption choices, and strengthens the identity value of the products. The ability to use packaging as a marketing tool is now a well-known principle, but today more than ever, the packaging is the message; it is the story of the product and the brand's values.
Packaging still continues to play a functional and strategic role for the products it contains: if its functional role has changed focus, its strategic role has gained momentum. Functionality has increasingly shifted towards the consumer, and the form has become the substance itself: the product message and information is no longer merely "conveyed" through the wrapper, it becomes its basic ingredient.
Today, more and more, it is a case of the form being the substance and the packaging being the message.