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Beyond certifications: How packaging can communicate a brand's mission

Alaffia's new packaging shows how companies can communicate their brand's mission and products' benefits—all in the store's HABA department (no QR codes required).

Beyond delivering a quality product, what sets apart many companies in the natural products industry is their connection to a cause—the overarching one being to bring healthier, safer products to consumers, but also the meaningful stories and missions specific to their brands. The challenge is finding a way to exchange this information in stores. A product’s packaging, as Alaffia proves, can be the ideal vehicle.

Do certifications tell a brand’s story?

At its core, this conversation is about traceability and transparency—and, as I’ve discovered, is closely tied to the power of labels and certifications. They jump out at us on packaging, but how much do they really say about a brand’s mission?

The USDA Organic label, for example, is a quick hit, but does the O word truly reflect a brand’s mission? Fair trade certainly can connect with consumers on an emotional level, but again is this label alone enough to set a brand apart? 

There are a couple of issues with relying on a certification to tell a story. One is that consumers are overwhelmed by and even skeptical of the abundance of labels and claims. Plus, as certifications appear on more and more large brands, to some people they become less meaningful.

In the future, a brand’s story—and how it communicates it beyond a certification—may be even more powerful than a certification. Technology can help to communicate this. But Alaffia shows that it's not always necessary. 

How Alaffia’s packaging gets it rightAlaffia's new packaging

Alaffia’s new packaging—which replaced glass with fully recyclable plastic—got my attention not because it proudly boasts the Fair For Life certification but because it provides insights into what fair trade really means, while communicating the benefits of the products. Kudos to the company for proving the power and potential of packaging—no QR codes required.

It used the transition to a new material (a response to consumer concern about lack of usability) to also change the colors, images and language on the packaging and accomplish two important goals:

1. The packaging tells the brand’s story.
Alaffia has done a great job of building its identity on its work in rural Africa. But its new packaging makes this mission pop without being overwhelming. Muted colors and more white space make the key stats and points of entry accessible. And Alaffia’s signature bright orange is now just an accent rather than a main component of the packaging. 

Plus, the company doesn’t use the front of the box to communicate its mission; rather, it thoughtfully incorporates these elements on each of the other three sides (in addition to listing every ingredient, even those that make up its fragrance—go Alaffia!).

2. The packaging presents Alaffia as a more sophisticated beauty brand. Alaffia's new packaging
Along with its packaging, Alaffia launched four new facial skin care SKUs, including a facial scrub, toner and renewal facial cream that feature ingredients like shea, neem and baobab. The front of the box and the bottle itself focus on these new products' benefits, which appeals to women who want effective beauty products that meet their specific needs.

The company does an excellent job of highlighting the main skin care features women look for: targeted benefit, key ingredients and the type of skin for which that particular product is best. 

This packaging got my attention. What gets yours? Leave a comment.

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