Coronavirus pandemic has disrupted our daily lives in an unprecedented way. The broad impact of lock downs and social distancing forces businesses, including retailers — big and small, to innovate at a rapid phase in order to minimize the disruption by the virus and in some cases to reverse the negative impact into more sustainable and profitable solutions.
Some of the pandemic-resistant solutions at brick and mortar retail has been developed prior to the pandemic. They were done mainly as an E-commerce packaging designs that demonstrated functional advantages during the lock down and the social-distancing with many people switching to or increasing their online shopping significantly. But with the uncertainty of lock-down duration, the solutions mentioned above can be further redesigned to address pandemic specific needs beyond their e-commerce related use.
Here I will discuss some ideas and approaches to achieve a better design, broken down into three goals:
1. Minimizing the number of physical touches when shopping in a physical retail store
To command customer’s attention, temporary displays equally leverage their structural performance and aesthetic features — both relying heavily on effective utilization and manipulation of surface area. With graphics, it is about strategic positioning and maximization of visual elements to elevate the product’s or brand’s appearance. Structurally, it is about smart balance between rigidity and durability of its surface area and its supporting features.
illustration: Hood Container Corporation Design
Although surface area optimization is very important during lock-down and social distancing, it needs some additional features that will allow consumers to find what they are looking for at the physical store and explore the information on the packaging with minimum touches. The display also has to optimize space utility — although this is normally the default — it is more about how correlated products can be packaged together with a unifying theme rather than the usual goal of “how many products can it fits” approach. It is more about thoughtful curation in addition to smart placement.
Smart curation of related products with unifying theme, if done well, will help customers significantly reduce the amount of distance they need to cover in the store. And in the case of E-commerce, this will reduce the number of web pages, tabs and shopping-cart icon clicks that a customer needs to go through.
2. Multi purpose design to bridge physical and E-commerce packaging.
Over the last 5–10 years, there have been many innovations around creating packaging solutions that can transcend the gaps between the physical store and E-commerce consumption. Most of these innovations primarily focus on manufacturing and fulfillment supply chain optimization and not on customer experience who often oscillated from physical store to online store and back. I think there are many new opportunities for advancement here, especially when we shift our attention to customer experience. These can be achieved structurally and graphically.
Structurally, the spatial consideration for the finished form and dimensions can be optimized to allow cross-utilization — both for physical and digital channels. From the supply chain and the brand owner standpoint, harmonization with fulfillment and manufacturing still needs to be addressed. Finally, when the package is on the customer hands, we want them to immediately know what they received as the package’s visual content is consistent to what they previously saw on her device.
Bridging physical and digital experience is a new wonderful frontier, especially when we start thinking about artificial intelligence (AI), an immersive digital medium such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). I will discuss this in the future as the richness of this topic deserves its own blog.
3.Turn secondary packaging into a standard format promotional display vehicle (Tertiary Packaging) effortlessly at physical retail.
Think about a generic yet iconic Lego brick. A modular unit that can be transformed into any imaginable forms. Ultimately, retail displays complying to retail specifications are “varieties of forms” with dimensional restrictions to optimize retailer’s real estate utilization on the floor or on shelf. I am aware that it is way more than that. Still, this abstraction helps illustrate that a display can be created by creatively constructing, laying-out, stacking, and decorating smaller secondary packaging as long as the result complies with the formal and dimensional limitations of the retailer specification.
illustration: Hood Container Corporation Design
Actually, this is not a new idea. We often see beverage packaging being stacked and organized to build a wall of display. Imagine if we did this intentionally, early in the development of the design with the goal of gaining flexibility to achieve a full range of retail-driven specifications starting from smallest to largest format such as full pallet display. They are all done with minimizing touches and smart thematic curation to help customers do a ”one stop shop” at physical retail.
Conclusion & Solution : Hood Smart Pack
After months of living with the coronavirus pandemic, we still don’t know how long it will last. We also don’t know what the post-pandemic retail environment will look like. We know that minimizing touches can help slow down the spread so conscious design that takes this into consideration is needed. We also know that E-commerce misses some of the nuanced experiences that we get while shopping in a brick and mortar store. Using all of these design ideas, Hood Container Corporation created the Hood Smart Pack to enable brands to secure strong positions both at physical and digital retailers while helping them protect their customers during the pandemic and beyond.
As technology has been reshaping our online retail experience, it makes sense to take an earnest look at how manufacturers utilize these new advances in the retail display industry as well. It wasn’t long ago that the digital team at Hood Container did just that, and launched the revolutionary Hood Platform — The platform designed to make workflow and collaboration between clients and internal associates easier than ever.
The Hood Platform
It was this initiative that led the digital team at Hood Container to envision how to improve content management and workflow even though there was no clear roadmap for the display industry. Of course, nobody could have imagined back in 2016, how the world would change with the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, even back then, the digital team wanted to pursue access to work from any computer platform, home or office and insisted on doing away with outdated workflow.
Once the platform was launched, it opened new doors to what was possible. Customers liked the new accessibility it opened up and gave the team great feedback on how to grow. Because a ‘platform’ is a structure that can be built upon, there were many novel ideas on how to make the design process more functional and collaborative. One technical field that has been quickly making advancements, is the realm of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality.
Adding Product to Virtual Display Tray
VR and AR had once been exclusively relegated to video gaming with its unwieldy hardware and expensive software. In the last few years however, it has become much more affordable and accessible. Large tech companies like Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon have all recently launched extensive hardware or software projects (often both), giving VR and AR a serious future outside of gaming.
Engineering CAD in 3D
The design engineers at Hood Container, regularly work with CAD files for their designs. The digital team saw the opportunity with modern software that could open the door to allowing all of these designs an extra dimension in the design process. Could this be a new technological milestone in the display design industry?
Historically in the display industry, pen and ink drawings were used to make concepts, along with hand-cut prototypes. Then 3D software allowed the ability to virtually ‘photograph’ designs as renderings. What if designers, customers, and sales could all get ‘hands on’ with concepts before they’re manufactured — Could such a platform be implemented? If so, the team knew that this technology would save time, money and waste by improving communication and reducing the time it takes to share concepts.
So the developers on the digital team got to work, and the new Hood Platform is currently testing this vision, with the Hood VR Planogram Tool and Hood Omni Visualizer Augmented Reality tool. Together these additions to the platform are light years ahead of anything ever before seen in the marketplace.
Change graphics with a touch
With the Hood VR Planogram tool, customers have the ability to virtually stand in front of their life-sized display design — Accurately modeled down to the precise millimeter in 3D from designer CAD files. The customer can view and ‘walk around’ the display, using hand motions to reach out and touch the display, and with a swipe, change out any number of graphic artwork treatments. This is a traditional way to reuse the same display structure and change the artwork to fit a new program or seasonal campaign. The ability to upload artwork and see it applied to a display will help avoid errors as well as help visualize all the opportunities available.
Applying 2D graphics to 3D structure instantly
Selecting Product from the Database
The planogram portion of the tool begins with a turn of the wrist. This gives access to the customer database of 3D product models. Product can be virtually ‘grabbed’ off of this menu and placed on the display in any combination. To ensure accuracy, the product is unable to defy physics or collide with the display structure, thereby ensuring that the maximum product count cannot be exceeded. As a helpful reminder, the planogram tool implements an artificial assistant who can speak to the user, letting them know if counts are exceeded. The user can also speak to the assistant in plain English and ask for more or less product to be loaded to the display.
Take pictures from any angle and ‘render’ your finished display
In addition to this, product SKUs and inventory can be changed with a swipe of a finger as well, even after it’s been placed on the display. The Hood VR Planogram Tool has been designed to be easily picked up without training. Within minutes a user feels comfortable walking around the display, swapping product and artwork, taking pictures of their own renderings and starting over, as many times as needed. By putting this process in the hands of the customer (or sales team, or other designers), rendering tasks are streamlined and new combinations and opportunities can be visualized, all much quicker than by passing these tasks to multiple parties to achieve.
Another new tool, the Hood Omni Visualizer is the latest Augmented Reality tool added to the Platforms suite of capabilities. Typically users of the Hood Platform are able to view 3D models in their browser. These are visual models that can be rotated and viewed at all angles by moving the mouse around on the picture. With the Hood Omni Visualizer, the user can do much more.
Augmented Reality, requires the use of a mobile device such as a smart phone or tablet. The effect of AR, is where the device superimposes the image within the camera of the device, thereby creating an illusion of a real display in the world viewed by the camera phone. Many people have seen this technology before with marketing promotional applications. The barrier to entry with these applications are that they require the user to ‘join’ or sign up for an app, register, make an account, and maintain and update the app on their device. Most people have ‘app fatigue’ and simply don’t want to install and update another app.
Augmented Reality: A display cast seamlessly into a real space
With the Hood Omni Visualizer, the app is already installed in the cloud and the user simply presses the ‘View AR’ button within the platform — That’s it, nothing to install or sign up for. Special added features are a ‘screen capture’ button to take virtual photos of the display in the retail environment or hold down the photo button to take a walkaround video of the display. These 3D representations of the designs on the Platform are based on actual CAD files from the designers and uploaded to the cloud. On the Hood side, no extra programming is needed to deliver the experience, and if the customer asks for a change, it is simply uploaded and instantly viewable on the Visualizer, no hassle.
As you can imagine, everyone who’s had a chance to view these new VR and AR features in the Hood Platform are excited about the future in retail display design. Truly, this is something that harnesses the uncertain future and brings all parties together in an interactive way, no matter where they are. The Hood Container digital team continues to look forward to the opportunities that continue to expand, even in todays challenging retail environment.
Since 2016 our Mill Division has organized a health fair to help quickly connect employees with preventative screenings by bringing healthcare right to Hood Container’s door. These screenings focus on assisting employees in managing their health and well-being by offering immunizations like Flu shots and TDAP shots and Bio-Metric screenings that include cholesterol checks, BMI, Blood Pressure Screenings, and Covid antibody PSA testing.
Senior Vice President Mill Division, Wayne Morgan stated, “These fairs are a key component of our Health and Safety activities and provide an opportunity for us to care for our valued employees. Each year these tests provide early detection of health issues that can be properly managed once identified. Thanks to all the employees who organized, facilitated, and participated in these efforts”.
So many communities were and still are grappling with the devastation left behind from Hurricane Ida. Last weekend Heather Jenkins, Trades Manager at Hood Container organized efforts with Comeback Coolers to help get some essential items into the surrounding communities of our Saint Francisville Mill. Hood Container was honored to be able to donate 300 coolers and some supplies needed to pack them out. Logistics organized to have the coolers brought in from Texas and delivered to Louisiana.
Heather Jenkins and other volunteers were able to hand-deliver over 1400 coolers in one day. We are extremely thankful to the Hood team that helped this come to fruition: Wayne Morgan, Cami Fabre, Michelle Scott, Janet Stovall, Tom Pelling, Jeff Arp, and Jordan Darwin as well as comeback coolers for allowing us to play a small part in the help they give. Learn more about Comeback Coolers at www.comebackcoolers.com.
On Saturday, August 21, 2021 several counties in Middle Tennessee experienced catastrophic flooding and flash flooding from the line of rain and storms that moved through the State.
Hood Container stepped up and offered its support to the local communities affected by the flooding and is proud to work with its corporate partners, Water Event in Carrollton, Texas and W.S. Darley in Chicago, Illinois to provide emergency water resupply, Safe Water Boxes to the citizens of Waverly / New Johnsonville Tennessee. Wayne Morgan, Senior Vice President of the Mill Division for Hood Container commented, “The Hood Container paper mill in Humphreys County has operated since 1970. Through those years the mill and the citizens have developed a close bond and it is a privilege for us to reach out to the community in this time of dire need.”
On Thursday 26 August, Hood Container shipped a full trailer load, 1840 Safe Water Boxes / 4,900 gallons of Premium Drinking water to Waverly, Tennessee. Each Safe Water Box holds 2.64 gallons of drinking water. Hood Container New Johnsonville Mill Manager Jimmy Gibson coordinated setting up a trailer containing the bag in box water outside of Waverly Church of Christ, one of the designated disaster shelters. This trailer remains open 24/7 for anyone in need. Greg Hall, President and COO of Hood Container said, “Being there for the community in which we operate is our responsibility. It is our duty to ensure we do our part to help ease the situation that our employees and all those in the area currently face.”
Hood Container is a leader in the paper and packaging industry and prides itself on working closely with its corporate partners to provide best-in-class technology and sustainable solutions in times of need. For more information and to learn more about Hood Container products and solutions please go to www.HoodContainer.com or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Congratulations to our New Johnsonville Scholarship recipients Cheyenne Branch & Hannah Hewlett! Each year our New Johnsonville paper mill sponsors a scholarship program for employee’s children. Each employee submits an application for their graduating senior and then the student submits an essay This year the topic of the essay was “How the paper manufacturing business has personally impacted your life.” Jimmy Gibson, Mill Manager, was pleased to present these special young women with an investment in their future. For 2021 Cheyenne took first place and received $2,000 and Hannah placed second and received $1,000.
Shown Left to Right: Richard & Cheyenne Branch, Hannah & Chad Hewlett
Read Cheyenne’s first-place essay:
My name is Cheyenne Branch, I am the daughter of Richard Branch. I attend Waverly Central High School as a graduating senior in the class of 2021.
The Paper Manufacturing business has personally impacted my life in many ways.
One way is, due to my father’s employment at Hood Container, I am able to see and spend time with him. In the past he worked more than he was home, now he is home every night and weekend. He now comes to my inductions and will be able to attend my graduation. He even has more time to build things and teach me how to be an adult.
Another way the Paper Manufacturing business has personally impacted my life is the things my family members are now able to do. Only a few years after my father started working at Hood Container, we had our very first family vacation! We got to spend two whole weeks together, driving across the United States, we were able to live comfortably. We have added two rooms and a bathroom on to our house due to my father’s employment in the Paper Manufacturing business.
A third part of my life that has been impacted by the Paper Manufacturing business, is without it, we wouldn’t have boxes to ship things, paper towels to dry our hands, boxes for take-out food, we wouldn’t have textbooks to learn, or paper to show our knowledge we have learned. We wouldn’t have stock paper for our diplomas, which is something we may need later in life, depending on your life decisions.
There are many ways the Paper Manufacturing business has personally impacted my life. While all the reasons above may be valuable, the most important way my life has been impacted is, the quality time I have with my father now. He is treated well at Hood Container, he works day shift and has weekends off. This makes for so many more memories, so many days watching movies, so many little projects being done, and most importantly, finally having my dad around again. He has always worked so hard and only came home to sleep, but now he spends more time than ever with us, and I am ever so grateful for that.
The Paper Manufacturing business is one of the most successful businesses in this world. I am very thankful to be a part of that through my father. My life has been positively impacted in every aspect throughout this 9 years of my father’s employment. Thank you Hood Container!
Hood Container has been participating in the Shop! Global Awards for the past 20 years. The 2021 Shop! Global Awards recognize excellence in point-of-purchase advertising display, marketing-at-retail activations, and retail design. This competition welcomes Gold winning displays from individual Shop! affiliates’ own industry awards from around the world to celebrate international best in class. This year Hood Container is proud to have won two Silver and one Bronze OMA Awards. Congratulations to all of our team members in Burbank, Chicago & Cincinnati that worked hard to create these award-winning displays.
Entertainment – Bronze
SCOOB! Walmart Mini WOW Merchandiser
We wanted to bring the Scooby Doo to the consumer larger than life. Scoob! was depicted to be large, whimsical and cute. The tall footprint was easily visible and inviting throughout the store. While it was important to be functional and a compliant to store standards, we felt it was critical that the display needed to be somewhat experiential rather than just a means to showcase the products. While also ensuring that the display be inviting and thematic, we needed the display to have a photo opportunity for social media.
The delivery, set up, and in store execution and compliance achieved very high marks from both the retail chain and client. The display execution on the floor was truly superior and well above normal. The 3rd party merchandiser involved commended the unit on its ease of set up and confirmed that fact with conformance reporting exceeding expectations. The display quickly gained social media traction from store guests, fans and store staff posting photos of themselves & groups with Scooby. Retailer feedback was exceptional and client feedback exalted this was a success! Exact sales figures were not available, but it was noted by all that sales goals exceeded expectations.
Snack Products – Silver
2020 NCAA Basketball Display
The assignment was to build on the long-time partnership between our snack brands, the NCAA and the Final Four to deliver an exciting basketball themed display that would secure placement during March Madness and underscore Nabisco’s official partnership. Since insights show college basketball fans seek out brands that support the NCAA, our goal was to make sure we provided POS that would attract these fans while driving consumer engagement, making sure cookies and crackers were the winning choices.
Specialty Retailers and Services – Silver
Fancy Feast Advent Calendar & Gift Display
The Advent Calendar was produced in 0.24pt SBS, printed both sides. The Sleeve that was removed at home had an Embossed 3-D relief of the Cat image. Each Advent Calendar held 24 cans of 3oz product.
The Gift Display was produced in corrugated B-Flute board. Each Gift Box was printed as a 4 color process spot label, mounted to corrugated board and die cut. Each Gift Display held 10 Advent Calendars. The completed display shipped assembled on a wooden pallet. At retail each display was topped off with a Golden, three-dimensional bow.
In celebration of Earth Day, April 22, 2021, Hood facilities are choosing organizations and/or locations in their community to beautify. While these events are kicking off our Earth Day celebration, these opportunities will be ongoing and there is always a chance to join. There are non-profit organizations in every city.
Atlanta, GA: Mark Boyd, General Manager at Hood Container Atlanta and his family volunteered to clean up with a nonprofit public charity who creates, supports & implements children & youth’s community service projects. KIDS CARE is all about youth volunteer opportunities & community service. KIDS CARE hosted a youth planning session on community service. They discussed what community service is and why & how we do it. They listened to their ideas on how they want to give back to the community and who they want to help. Their input was heard and will influence the choice for our next big service project. KIDS CARE briefly discussed environmental awareness as they handed out our litter picking tools and got to work! They spent some time cleaning up the local park of litter, then they evaluated what we found and discuss it.
Dallas, TX: Janet Stovall is a member of the City of Irving Green Advisory Board which partners with Keep Irving Beautiful (KIB) a nonprofit, grassroots, leadership organization dedicated to educating our community about litter abatement, recycling, and beautification in order to help preserve the health and promote the social and economic prosperity of our city. As an award winning affiliate of Keep America Beautiful and Keep Texas Beautiful, KIB reaches out to and partners with all sectors of our city including government, business, church, cultural, neighborhood, and civic organizations.. In celebration of Earth Day 2021, they hosted the Great American Cleanup / Texas Trash-Off where they cleaned Trinity View Park, a large park boasting several athletic fields plus playgrounds, picnic areas & barbecue grills as well as Campion Trail which runs throughout the City of Irving.
Lincolnton, NC: Tina Hayes passes this park daily and noticed the litter building up by the tree lines. To celebrate Earth Day and to show HCC’s love for our community, Tina gathered volunteers from her Hood location and they brought out nature’s beauty by removing the debris.
Houston, TX: Mike Espino, Hood Container Houston Plant Manager, got the team together to clean up and beautify vacant lots near their plant in Jersey Village. The team takes a lot of pride in the community so it was easy to gather teammates to go out and do their part in celebration of Earth Day 2021!