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June 15, 2010
Imperfect Is the New Perfect in Packaging Trends
The Authenticity Trend has been fully infiltrated into mainstream culture for years. We see its implications from politics to household products. 

Consumers are attracted to “the real.” This is evident in the rise of farmer’s markets and the dislike of preservatives like parabens, for example. When the recession hit, as if through a prism, the Authenticity Trend evolved to that of “Imperfection.” We still want “the real,” but now, we don’t believe the hype. We sense when something is fishy and want to see behind the curtain. Think of these great Ally Bank ads with the pony. If nothing else, we learned from the recession that there is no such thing as perfect.

Consider the decline of plastic surgery, down 18 percent since 2009. The cancellation of "Nip/Tuck" shines light on the beauty pendulum swinging from synthesized perfection to that of a more natural look. On one end, we have 23-year-old Heidi Montag, who had 10 plastic surgeries in one day, while on the other, Hoda and Kathie Lee had a “no makeup day” on the "Today" show. While that might be taking it a bit far, Montag can’t even hug people due to her resulting physical sensitivities. 

In the consumerscape, the Imperfection Trend is evident in handmade objects moving from the periphery toward the mainstream. Etsy, the online retailer, has increased sales 98 percent from February '09 - February ’10. They sell beautiful, one-of-a-kind objects ranging from accessories to toys. 

How do we apply this trend to HBA packaging? Well, it has already begun in the luxury sector with perfumes by Balenciaga and Alexa Lixfield. With its “cracked” top, Balenciaga Paris emanates a feeling of fragility, begging to be coveted. Alexa Lixfield, out of Germany, uses concrete for its bottle cap, alluding to strength of character. It makes sense that we first see imperfection in the luxury sector as it is no longer fashionable to flash bling. 

By using naturally made -- or naturally looking -- materials, you separate yourself from the pack. More importantly, consumers connect to the imperfect. It reminds us we’re human. 

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Cheryl Swanson founded Toniq in 1999 after leading several design firms to world-class status with her emotions-based, visual approach to brand strategy development. Swanson’s years of trend tracking, design management and research have coalesced in a theory of “Brand Effervescence ™” an innovative approach to brand building. This image-based approach is a synthesis of cultural anthropology, consumer trends research, marketing and design, and a study of the psychology of symbolism and color. 
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