4 opportunities to reduce marketing waste

Shoppers are driving environmentally beneficial innovation in established businesses and start-ups alike. From small changes like reducing single-use plastic usage to wider movements such as the reshoring certain elements of the supply chain, business leaders across every industry need to make sustainable changes to address the concerns of today’s consumer.

Retailers must adapt to purpose-driven consumption or risk losing out. Marketing leaders should be assessing the environmental impact across the entire marketing ecosystem and considering where they can make changes to mitigate waste production. In this article, we will look at four opportunities that brands can act on right now.

  1. Lightweighting

Reducing the density of your packaging materials is a popular method of reducing the emissions released in the packaging lifecycle. When Evian redesigned their recycled PET bottle, they used 11% less plastic and reduced the carbon footprint by 32%.

Secondary and tertiary packaging can also be lightweighted. Heavy materials such as wood, corrugated board, and metal can be replaced by stretch wrap, shrink wrap, non-corrugated reinforced cardboard, and alternative plastics. Protective materials such as traditional bubble wrap can be swapped for sealed airwrap, reducing the amount of buffering material required in transit. As upstream substrate producers are developing more sustainable materials, such as post-consumer recycled resin, rigid packaging is being replaced by more flexible materials, decreasing weight and increasing volume.

McKinsey says that 60% of companies’ commitments are focused on full recyclability and increasing the percentage of recycled content. 26% focus on total plastics usage, and 14% on innovation and promotion of change in the use of packaging.

However, lightweighted materials are often more difficult to recycle and the materials are even less likely to be re-used. The savings made on carbon emissions can be undermined by a short product lifetime and usability. If materials are made too light, it can be less economical to recycle them as the material recovered does not merit the amount of energy required to recycle it. Lightweighting can be regarded as a short-term improvement whilst companies develop long-term solutions.

  1. Redesign and dematerialisation

Visibly excessive packaging regularly comes under fire from consumers. From oversized boxes to individually plastic-wrapped components, one obvious way to avoid a packaging faux pas is dematerialisation. This is the act of reducing packaging without sacrificing utility.

Analysing your packaging design and removing superfluous components or rethinking the overall design should be the first step in reducing waste. There won’t always be a more sustainable material that can be swapped into your current design and finding a solution might require thinking outside of the box.

Diageo decided to remove the plastic wrap from the necks of their Smirnoff vodka bottles. This saved 137g (12.6%) of each container’s weight, across approximately 8.7 million bottles sold. This demonstrates how elements that do not add significant utility can be removed entirely to reduce both material usage and weight.

In secondary packaging innovation, PLASTIC PAPER developed a lattice design paper shopper bag inspired by the iconic smiley face plastic bags. With the structural integrity of a lattice formed from sustainable bamboo fibre, it used 70% less material than a standard paper bag. Currently priced at $20 USD per bag, the creator hopes that this design will one day be brought to the masses and become more affordable as the design demonstrates the potential to completely rethink some of our most used retail items.

  1. Connected packaging

In reducing marketing waste, we must also consider inventory management and customer use of the product. Connected packaging can significantly reduce the number of materials that go to waste due to over-ordering or poor in-store compliance. Tag can generate QR codes for packaging and display components to enable clear traceability and inventory management from production to installation.

QR codes can also be used to give further purpose to your materials in your customer experience. From augmented reality features to social media and eCommerce connectivity, you can extend your branding beyond the physical materials. Furthermore, as consumers demand more than ever for clarity around what goes into the products that they buy, QR codes can be used to share product and supply chain information that would usually be printed on a leaflet within the packaging, or on a website’s product page.

  1. In-store displays

A core source of marketing waste in retail is in-store displays. Short campaigns and product launches are often featured on temporary or semi-permanent display materials. These are often not suitable for reuse. Choosing more sturdy materials increases durability and therefore compliance and product lifetime. Replacing temporary and semi-permanent in-store materials with digital displays can significantly reduce material turnover, as well as provide a more engaging customer experience. They are also easy to update with new designs, either between campaigns or between brands, reducing the risk of non-compliance and material wastage as a result.

Digital displays help your product to stand out on shelf, as well as providing a platform for interactive product education, online reviews, social media, and eCommerce materials. This gives a more convenient and differentiated experience for the customer in-store and encourages them to make the purchase there rather than online.

Tag helped a retail pharmacy chain develop a digital display solution to help customers find the right product for their skin type, using a product selector and smart shelf technology. It was also future-proofed to allow implementation of voice activation. Overall, Tag’s solution led to a 35% uplift in sales over the first 6 months compared to control stores.

According to McKinsey, as many as 79% of consumers include sustainable packaging in their purchase decisions, and we are seeing more and more consumers shopping their values, even when there is a price premium. Tag offers a centralised analysis of your current marketing production choices and advice for strategic changes that can be made to reduce your overall wastage.