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4 Brands Turning Packaging into the Prize

How smart brands are impressing young consumers with packaging that’s as interesting as the product (and guilt-free too)…

When it comes to impressing today’s young consumers, packaging design might matter more than ever. From the social (and marketing) unboxing trend to hyper-personalized package campaigns to the social fervor that packaging like Starbucks’ red cups can create, packaging has the potential to become the spotlight stealer.

Innovative packaging can also alleviate Millennials and teens’ purchasing guilt. Packaging has become a major concern, as they fret that the waste they create with their consumerism is destructive to the planet. Even Millennial-all-star brands like meal-plan Blue Apron have been sparking concerns and remorse over unnecessary packaging excess. Brands who work to alleviate this concern earn kudos. We included rising sneaker brand AllBirds in our roundup of fashion startups to watch, but they’re not just earning buzz for their shoes. Their patent-pending box doubles as a shipping container, cutting down on waste—a detail often mentioned in reviews of the product.

Now other smart products across industries are putting that eco-concern and innovative design together to create entire container campaigns. Here are four brands thinking outside the box to make packaging as interesting as the product:

1. KFC

KFC is making a habit of incorporating tech into their fast food packaging. Following last year’s release of a photo printer built inside a fried chicken bucket, the chain has now unveiled a new meal container complete with a phone charger in select stores in Delhi and Mumbai. “Watt a Box” is a 5-in-1 mealbox outfitted with an “integrated powerbank.” Consumers can charge as they eat, so they never miss an important text—or opportunity to Instagram their food. The #WattABox campaign asked consumers to tag friends whose phones are always out of power and tell KFC why they need the powered-up box. 


Disney decided to combat the concerning statistic that only 30% of packaging in the U.S. goes on to be recycled with the toy line from their upcoming film Moana. The Classic Moana doll, which is part of Amazon’s 2016 holiday toy list due to expected strong sales, comes in a box that is 70% recycled paper, printed with vegetable-based inks, and can be easily transformed into a boat—no tape or glue needed. With one-third of U.S. waste coming from packaging, the Toy Industry Association advises for brands to use recycled materials to effectively reduce the environmental impact. 


Online shoe retailer Zappos chose to ditch the idea of a traditional box all together. In June, the brand launched the #ImNotABox campaign, and started shipping products in boxes that can be repurposed into fun and bonding experiences for consumers with just a pair of scissors. With the aim of continuing engagement after a purchase has arrived on a consumer’s doorstep, the activities range from making a new cardboard animal friend to creating a prop that holds up an iPhone. The strategy was put together by the company’s in-house experiential campaign team THINK, and aims to “Inspire people to see not just the Zappos box, but also themselves and the world with a new perspective.”


Pizza Hut wants consumers to play with their food—or at least the box it comes in. Towards the end of the summer in the U.S., the chain began delivering pizza in boxes with a Flick Football Field printed across the top, detachable goal posts, football triangles, and a scorecard to let fans “get in on the game in a whole new way while watching their favorite team.” Fans could play for prizes by submitting videos to the brand showing off their skills. In the U.K., they introduced a limited-edition playable DJ box that could be transformed into a musical device by syncing via Bluetooth and connecting to a MIDI-compatible DJ software. Then in Hong Kong, pizza was delivered in special-designed boxes that doubled as a “smartphone-powered projector.” Customers could easily assemble the projector by popping the accompanying lens into the box, and scanning the QR codes for downloadable movies. 

To download the PDF version of this insight article, click here.