Data shows that consumers tend to stay loyal to companies with strong brand values and experts within packaging say they are the key to building loyalty in packaging. 

Energy PR’s managing director Louise Findlay-Wilson gives Packaging Gateway an insight into the importance of brand values for the wider sector.

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Louise Findlay-Wilson is an investor in green energy ad founded Energy PR 27 years ago

It may seem intuitive that we’re much more likely to buy from and stick with brands that have values similar to our own, but our research has actually proven this to be true. When questioned for our Brand Love study people were three times more likely to recommend a brand with values they rated, and more than twice as likely to stay loyal to it even when it made mistakes. That’s potentially doubling the typical lifetime value of a customer.

Interestingly for the packaging sector, values matter not simply for consumer brands, but for organisations that sell to other businesses. Over half (55%) of the 100 marketers we interviewed argued that we’re more likely to deal with businesses with values that are in sync with our company’s. Indeed values are the biggest driver of love and loyalty. 

Yet few manufacturers genuinely give this aspect of their business attention.

The key question is ’how’ not ‘what’

In terms of values, values mean it is the ‘how’ that is important rather than ‘what’ a company does. 

This possibly requires quite a shift in mindset. After all, in such an innovation-driven sector as packaging, there is inevitably a huge focus on what companies do. Packaging companies are constantly working to develop new materials, closures, printing and labelling technologies. These might be for a myriad of reasons such as to improve environmental performance or production speeds. 

While such innovation is clearly important, few companies realise that for your customers overwhelmed by choice, your values – the ‘how’ you do things – might also be very important. Indeed in a ‘me too’ world, values could be a crucial competitive advantage.

Before you dash off to look at your most successful competitor’s values, I should say that while you might ape a rival’s pricing policy or product/service portfolio, values aren’t something you simply try on. To work, they need to be authentic. That’s because if properly applied they will truly shape and inform behaviour.

At this point, I’d ideally include lots of examples of packaging companies that are getting this right. But to be honest, the many packaging companies I looked at had values I’d describe as worthy but meaningless. “Reliability, highest standards, expertise, integrity, collaboration” was a classic line-up I found. 

Is this really helpful? Surely a customer will expect reliability, high standards and integrity as a given. And if I had a £1 for every company promising ‘collaboration’ then having ‘me too’ values isn’t going to shift hearts and minds.

Rather than platitudes, companies need values with meaning, which really encapsulate them, can be adopted by the whole organisation – from the top down – and will determine how it behaves. 

For instance, Kite Packaging, the employee-owned business, is an interesting example. Its values centre around people. It expounds that “customer satisfaction matters so much more when you own the business”. This is undoubtedly true, but its people focus goes beyond this. From almost year one, Kite has operated apprentice and graduate programmes. In addition, today it operates telesales and field sales academies and is keen to cultivate an environment of constant learning and development.

Values-led businesses

Beyond the packaging sector, ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s is a good example of a values-led business. While the company is focused on making a sustainable profit and fantastic ice cream, in addition to those two goals, Ben & Jerry’s wants to use the business to make the world a better place through charitable work. To this end, the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation which funds community projects was founded in 1985 and receives 7.5% of the company’s annual profits. It also looks to make a difference in the world through activism on topics such as climate change.

Retail brand Timpson’s values-led approach is based on a culture of trust and kindness. The values are exemplified by its upside-down management model where staff are called colleagues, given great training and then trusted to do things their way, rather than being nailed down by a lot of processes. These values also shape Timpson’s HR policy, with a tenth of Timpson employees being ex-offenders. Indeed at least seven of the group’s 2,000-plus stores are run by people still serving their sentences, who are able to work under day release schemes.

Applying this to your packaging company

A business of any size can develop such a values-led approach, but there are a few golden rules. Like Timpson, as said before you must be authentic. It’s no good adopting values that aren’t your own just to appeal at a particular moment in time or fit with a trend. Consumers will see through this. 

The values must mean something. No platitudes, please. You must also be wholehearted and joined-up. It’s no good the marketing team talking values when the rest of the organisation sees them as a gimmick. The power of the Timpson example is that the entire organisation – HR, management, marketing, and even the CEO – gets and operates in accordance with the company’s values.