co-creation: the secret to better packaging design

by: Sarah Kneebone

Co-creation is one of the best ways to engage customers. With social media playing such a huge part in our daily lives, it’s now second nature to want to share our viewpoint and offer our ideas on all manner of subjects. Consumers are crying out to be heard and co-creation gives them that opportunity.

In this article, we’ll be explaining how co-creation can help your customers contribute to and influence your products, branding, packaging and more, giving you a deeper insight into their needs and ensuring they’re more involved in your brand.




What is co-creation?

Co-creation, put simply, is the process of creating ideas and concepts collaboratively, between brands and consumers. It’s more than just a brainstorming exercise with a bunch of people; it’s about allowing others to take an active part in the conceptual process.

Of course, this kind of fluid and collaborative creative methodology can be at risk of spiralling out of control. It requires clear objectives and expert management to ensure it generates insightful and actionable results.


The benefits of co-creation.

Co-creation is a truly effective way to gain true consumer insight. At PLAY we find it helps our clients to:

  • Speed up the idea generation process.

  • Weed out potential issues and concerns, early in the process.
  • Access a range of perspectives and a wider knowledge base.
  • Make strategic decisions quickly.
  • Reduce failure risk, as consumers are involved throughout the process.
  • Gain insight and creative thinking from a wider, less invested group.
  • Align products more closely with consumer needs and demands.


The dangers of co-creating without an expert.

Of course, co-creation is not without its challenges! 

Restrictive thinking: within FMCG companies, packaging is often treated as a commodity and an expense, so manufacturers often opt for shelf-ready packaging, to keep down costs.

It’s important to clarify with all stakeholders that this process is an investment. Yes, the process may take a little longer and be more costly than shelf-ready packaging, but essentially you’re future-proofing your products. By investing the time now, you’re creating a look that will fit range extensions and new products later down the track.

Destructive consumers: some consumers can hijack forums, adding negative ideas and criticising current company offerings, especially those with a strong brand presence.

In a face-to-face setting a strong moderator is important to guide the group and manage negative elements. In online communities, close and regular moderation is also vital to limit the amount of unhelpful input and keep the positive creativity flowing.


What's the best co-creation approach?

At PLAY, when we’re planning a co-creation project, we work with our clients to decide the following points:

1. Offline or online?

Choosing a face-to-face approach or conducting your collaboration online can have a big impact on the end result:

  • Online co-creation communities tend to be faster and allow for a larger number of people to collaborate across different demographics and geographical regions.
  • Offline co-creation offers opportunities for real consumer connection, and the smaller groups enable you to truly nurture ideas.

2. Integrated or parallel community platform?

The most common co-creation approach is to involve consumers and stakeholders in the same community. This allows for more interaction and often a faster conceptual process. However, we find that it’s sometimes advantageous to run separate co-creation communities in parallel, using a moderator to exchange ideas between groups, for discussion and refinement.

3. Content or discussion?

Using a competition to generate ideas for a new flavour, pack design or product name is a tried and tested co-creation tactic. It’s great for engaging customers and generating positive word of mouth about your brand, but while it can yield some great results, it offers less opportunity for interaction.

Discussions between company stakeholders and consumers allow a more in-depth understanding to develop by first identifying consumer needs, then brainstorming, conceptualising, optimising and refining ideas collectively.


Co-creation and packaging redesign.

We have a proven methodology when it comes to using co-creation for packaging redesign. Our six-step process is as follows:

Step 1: Pre-design: Here we explore consumer needs, experience and product usage. We may investigate how your customers choose, transport, store, prepare and consume your product.

Step 2: Brainstorm: Now, we’ll gather together key stakeholders, suppliers and carefully selected consumers to brainstorm possible problems and frustrations or work through a specific brief.

Step 3: Concept: At this stage, we’ll start to look at packaging design – how the package will open, be sealed and how it could be stored.

Step 4: Design: We’re now ready to pass our initial learning to the design agency, for them to produce a range of draft concepts for feedback.

Often, we work with the brand incumbent design agency, but it can be interesting to work with a new design group, and one that specialises in refining and tweaking concepts in this dynamic co-creation way.

Step 5: Evaluation: The evaluation process may involve a number of discussions, rounds of amends and feedback sessions, as all parties work together to refine and optimise the packaging design and function.

Step 6: Validation: Now the finalised packaging design or prototypes are ready for re-testing with fresh consumers. This is an important step before eventually rolling them out in-store and officially launching the new look.


Over to you.

Have you ever taken a co-creation approach to packaging? What were the outcomes? What did you learn? We’d love to hear your comments, so please share them below.

If you’d like to discuss a co-creation project for your brand, just call PLAY on 02 8218 2186 or email us at, and we’ll help you decide if this research method is best for your product and objectives.

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about the author

Sarah Kneebone

Sarah is PLAY’s go-to content writer with a passion for marrying creativity and communication with clever strategy. A former marketer with PLAY and for international brands such as QBE Insurance and General Motors, Sarah moved home to the UK to raise her little family and start a health coaching business. Luckily for us, she continues to share her talent for the written word with the team in Australia.

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