5 branding and packaging trends for 2020

With every new year comes a new opportunity to elevate your brand, thinking beyond cool designs and memorable slogans to connect with users in a way that shows you can be trusted. Successful brands in 2020 will be those that find creative ways to express their over-arching brand attributes—delivering clear, unified brand assets telling stories that have the power to change consumer behavior and, in some cases, start a revolution on store shelves.

I refer to it as breaking through your brand silo. When you consider the broader impact of your product—including the packaging it comes in and how it supports consumers in their aspirational goals to lead better lives and be good to the planet—you have the potential to change the playing field of an entire industry.

In my firm’s role helping companies elevate their brand to gain consumer attention and trust, being at the cutting-edge of what’s next in branding and packaging is key.

Here’s what we’re seeing as the top trends for 2020 and beyond:


1. Sustainable packaging

Leaders are already offering edible wrappers for individually wrapped foods, and more zero-waste packaging concepts are on the way as companies continue to promote packaging that’s both good for you and good for the environment.

Eco-friendly innovations to watch for include:

• edible plastic film fruit coverings;
• potato-based wrappings for ice cream bars, sandwiches, bagels and cookies;
• compostable wine bottles;
• seaweed-based packaging for coffee sachets; and
• water-soluble packaging for all types of products, including detergents, personal care items and food.

Maple Hill, a leading producer of grass-fed, organic dairy products, for example, opted to fill its new line of single-serve shelf-stable (aseptic) milks in a container that is not only 100% recyclable made mostly of raw paperboard from responsibly managed pulp trees, but equally important, stays true to the company’s core values while providing a feel-good choice for consumers (see image above).


2. Transparency with consumers

The notion of transparency will take a literal turn in 2020 as companies address growing consumer demand for honesty about product ingredients and how products are made.

Traditional packaging is being reinvented to embrace clear, to-the-point wording and when appropriate, see-through cut-outs that reveal what’s inside. By managing consumer expectations in the packaging itself, companies are removing the element of surprise. It has been shown that, when given a choice, consumers will choose transparent packaging over opaque packaging.

A trendy whole food protein bar took the approach of listing simple food ingredients in large font on its packaging, followed by ‘No B.S,’ enabling consumers to quickly identify its ingredients as healthy.

High-tech giant Apple also took an elevated approach to transparency in its latest product rollout, displaying the Apple logo in translucent color layers to underscore a message of honesty and trust.


3. Sophistication

A creative flight to the safety and brand elements typically seen in the trusted worlds of finance, real estate and law will continue to enjoy a broader, more general appeal in the coming year.

It’s no surprise then that global color authority Pantone selected a rich deep blue as 2020 color of the year. Companies are increasingly using strong, uncluttered messaging in simple, yet sophisticated bold colors and big type to communicate trust and respect.

We’ll continue to see more one-word brand names—such as Casper (sleep products) or Chobani (yogurt)—anchored by straightforward slogans so consumers quickly understand product attributes at a glance.

A cottage cheese brand recently led an industry revival by introducing snack pack sizes and new flavors in sophisticated packaging, elevating a boring, declining food category back to the spotlight. Key to success was a unique one-word brand name, Muuna, in a bold, curvy logotype, and the use of wavy patterns and shapes throughout all brand collateral to convey the notion of creaminess.


4. Consistency

If you haven’t done so already, 2020 will be the year to refresh your brand story and ensure you’re conveying it in the most compelling way possible, across all brand assets, packaging and touchpoints. We’ll see new and innovative packaging structures that support consistent brand values across product lines—such as a disruptive trend on the horizon in the way leafy greens are packaged on grocery store shelves.

To promote a healthy, better-for-you brand message, we’ll see single-use harmful-to-the-planet blister plastic packaging replaced with newer, compostable containers that enable greens to stand up on store shelves.

The over-arching trend is that brand, packaging and industry goals will start to come together in one unified brand expression.


5. Tech-centric

Health conscious consumers love their smart devices, and increased use of technology is, in turn, putting pressure on companies to deliver “smart tech ready” packaging. The more economical it becomes to infuse radio-frequency identification (RFID) sensors in water bottles, coffee mugs and other new-tech offerings, the more innovations we’re seeing.

The beverage industry is an early leader, where forward-thinking companies are introducing health drinks, tonics, and herb- or CBD-infused products that “speak” directly to devices, enabling users to automatically track their beverage consumption via health apps. Not only can they easily track their progress towards achieving health goals, but the packages can help them get there by sending alerts when it’s time for consumption.


WestPack-2020  WestPack 2020: Ideas. Education. New Partners. Feb. 11-13