It seems trust is eroding in all areas of society. But what is society doing to forge new bonds of trust and maintain those that still exist?

It’s a question I continually asked myself during Chicago’s TEDxChicago event, “Press Pause” on May 1st, 2019.

Throughout the series of talks, I was reminded that trust is ruptured in many areas: in our medical system, in the government and with large social media corporations. Dr. Richard Baron shared that when people feel isolated or alone, they seek information in random places (like the Internet), while losing trust in their physicians, and Dr. Sandra Matz spoke specifically about psychological targeting; should we trust Facebook and advertisers? She challenged the attendees to first examine intention, and then judge intention over method.

This question of trust really got me thinking: Is product packaging something consumers can trust; how can it remain reliable?

Because without trust, relationships are ruined and reputations damaged – particularly in product packaging.  A misplaced decimal in a dosage instruction or a missing ingredient on the ingredient list and people can have allergic reactions, lawsuits may occur and consumer loyalty can be decimated.

TEDx speaker John Mak quoted an April 2019 Pew Research study with an eye-opening statistic: a mere 17% of Americans trust the government. But according to another recent study, 71% of shoppers said they trust brand packaging, and 74% said they trusted the ingredients listed on the packaging.

It has always been clear to me that product packaging is influential in purchasing decisions and forges relationships with consumers, but I never imagined that we as a society would trust product packaging more than a government body. With this knowledge, keeping trust at the forefront of your brand’s product packaging is imperative now more than ever, so what are you doing to create and maintain it?

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Trust is typically earned in three ways:

  • Providing value in everyday interactions
  • Consistent experiences
  • Social-proof

Applying the above to a packaging strategy should create and maintain the trust and loyalty that consumers crave in today’s wavering societal ethics and norms.

  • How does your product packaging provide value for people’s lives?

People trust persons, places or things that add value to their lives. Packaging in and of itself is a conduit of information directly to the consumer that adds immediate value. The package makes the product portable, sometimes usable. The information on the package provides value with product information like nutritional facts and ingredient labels, helping the consumer determine whether or not they want to purchase the product. More importantly, packaging reflects consumers’ values, helping them make decisions that determine what they are willing to give to their loved ones or how they feel about certain causes and social responsibility.

  • How consistent is your product packaging?

People trust those who prove they are reliable through repetitive experiences and constant communication. In product packaging, consistency means the message, color, and brand presentation are the same across channels and SKUs in a product line, enduring order after order and print run after print run. Without it, consumers question the authenticity of the product and may deem it outdated or even counterfeit.

  • How does product packaging utilize social proof?

People trust their friends and family, so it’s only natural that consumers rely heavily on Instagram influencers and YouTube vloggers to validate the credibility of a product or experience. It’s easier for a consumer to purchase one product over another when he or she has received positive feedback in conversation and (social) media, including review sections of e-commerce websites, that supports the brand’s ethics and good judgment. Taking selfies and giving online tutorials with products has also become the norm: Is the product and subsequent packaging glamour shot ready, straight off the shelf?

Reliable Packaging A Must

In its current state packaging is powerful, but with great power comes great responsibility. Building trust through value-added interactions, social proof and consistency creates the trust consumers desire, which in turn has positive impacts on your bottom-line. However, this trust isn’t built overnight.  It requires frequent, positive interactions over time, and it only takes one sloppy mistake or misstep for it to quickly vanish.

Knowing how much consumers trust packaging means packaging leaders’ have an even greater obligation to produce error-free labels and artwork. Brand leaders, similarly, need to be able to trust both the people and the systems that manage their packaging for them.

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