Patagonia and EVRYTHNG are re-thinking the product packaging process
Technology drives business agility and sustainability efforts for brands
June 9, 2022
At the NRF Supply Chain 360 conference and expo, you can explore the modes and methods needed to build a stronger, more sustainable supply chain and ensure resiliency in challenging times. Learn more about the conference, held June 20-21, 2022, in Cleveland, here.
At first glance, Jennifer Patrick of Patagonia and Niall Murphy of EVRYTHNG might seem to represent different aspects of retail.
Patrick is all about the packaging. As global branding and packaging director for Patagonia, she is responsible for driving the company’s branding and packaging initiatives in support of its mission to save our home planet.
Murphy, meanwhile, is a technologist and entrepreneur who co-founded Digimarc company EVRYTHNG, which works with retailers to create a more transparent supply chain.
Read more for their thoughts on the overlap of technology, brand integrity and sustainability.
What’s something most people don’t realize about your job?
Jennifer Patrick: I don’t think a lot of people realize that packaging and branding touches every aspect of the product and company — marketing, product design, product development, data management, legal, factories, retail and distribution centers.
Niall Murphy: As Wayne Gretzky famously said, “Skate to where the puck is going to be.” A key aspect of my role as an entrepreneur is to anticipate market and customer needs. I spend a lot of time listening and learning, engaging with customers and partners to understand emerging needs and practical approaches to solutions.
What’s getting in the way of retailers making bigger moves in sustainability?
JP: From a packaging and labeling standpoint, I think regulation requirements are a barrier. Regulators require us to print so many different languages and symbols on product labeling and packaging that we are forced to use more material than the product actually needs. If all of this information could live behind a digital access point / QR code, we — the industry — could save material and money on packaging and labeling materials.
NM: More collaboration is needed to improve the economies of scale in gathering data across the supply chain, and in defining standards that can meet regulatory needs. I believe sustainability is an outcome of transformed business process. It's important to challenge every aspect of how we do business.
How can technology help retailers be more agile?
JP: Packaging development starts when products are being designed and has to be ordered eight-12 months in advance of products being in retail. That leaves a lot of room for change. Any information printed on hang tags is locked in. If information changes, we have to re-sticker or reprint. When we use technology like QR codes, it allows us to make these changes in the digital space, which can be an instant change.
NM: If you can't see it, you can't manage it. Technology makes it possible to gather real-time data across the supply chain, at retail and from the consumer even post purchase. This makes for more insight, more dynamic intelligence and, ultimately, more responsive businesses. Technology also enables us to innovate the interaction with consumers to provide richer and contextually specific experiences, reduce the need for a lot of printed materials, and simplify the integration of physical and digital channels.
Why is it important to get retailers together around issues of brand integrity and sustainability?
JP: If you don’t have brand integrity, your customers can’t trust your products. We are living in a world with limited resources. If we keep taking there will eventually be nothing for it to give back. Brands that don’t focus on sustainability now will have to by necessity in the future.
NM: Often these issues are thought of as separate items, while in fact they are closely linked. Increasingly protecting brand integrity is about tracking an item across its supply chain journey. Similarly, sustainability requires us to know where everything comes from and where it is going. Everyone wins by making it easier to gather data across the supply chain. We need common approaches to create economies of scale, and good standards of practice that make data more trustable for business applications and consumers alike.
Want to learn more from retail supply chain leaders? Join us at NRF Supply Chain 360, June 20-21, 2022 in Cleveland. Learn more.