JoAnn is a syndicated packaging writer who is arguably the most prolific “packaging person” on social media. I have been following her for years and thought it extremely appropriate to have her featured here for the WhatTheyThink Labels & Packaging audience. Following are the highlights from an interview with “The Packaging Diva”.

Karstedt Partners: JoAnn, tell me a bit about your business, who are your clients and what do you offer them?

JoAnn Hines: Much of my work now is with clients who have new products, or product lines they are looking to bring to the consumer and they need guidance in a lot of areas. I help clients with everything from graphic design, as it relates to color choices, and creating a branding message that will resonate with consumers, to packaging substrate choices. I even help them source suppliers.

I focus mostly on branding and marketing needs; if my client needs technical assistance I would pass them on to someone else.

Karstedt Partners: Can you give me an example?

JoAnn Hines: A good example is how I helped The Weather Cannel. They were taking a lot of different products from different suppliers, such as umbrellas and NORAD Radios, and putting them into a single product line. I helped them to make the entire line look as though it came from one source, The Weather Cannel.

I also had an interesting project where I helped a client based in the UK to get his product patented. It was one of the most innovative new packaging ideas I have seen and I helped get doors open for him. That was a very rewarding project.

Karstedt Partners: What are some of the packaging trends you see that will be shaping packaging over the next few years?

JoAnn Hines: Well, sustainability is not really a trend anymore, it is mainstream and every company must have a position on how they are addressing sustainability in their businesses. Part of the reason sustainability is so important is because consumers are so aware of it and place such a high level of importance on it, AND because the consumer is now so “connected” and vocal. Social media gives consumer a platform they never had before and brands are forced to listen to them. Rants on social media can be devastating to a brands future, just as “positive buzz” can help brands.

Another trend I am seeing gain momentum is intelligent packaging. There are so many examples of intelligent packaging from cartons that have lights and say, “buy me” to pharmaceutical blister packs that tell users when to take their pills. The liquor sector is leading the way for high-end packaging because of the high value of the product but I see this migrating to other product types as prices come down due to volume and availability.

Private label products are continuing to grow with many having product and packaging that rival branded products. Likewise there are increases in convenience foods for fast moving households and the need for “senior friendly” packaging for our aging population. This points to the increase in more finely targeted products to smaller and smaller demographic groups, this is going to increase with the use of digital printing which is something you are very aware of. This is also driving order sizes down.

While I’m on the topic of trends, I am also seeing a big push to bring manufacturing back to the US.

Karstedt Partners: Who is driving this In-Sourcing? And is it for packaging and products?

JoAnn Hines: The brands are driving the move so they can take advantage of shorter lead times and satisfy customers desiring/demanding “home grown” products, but the cost of manufacturing, in China for example, is going up with the growing middle class of people over there, and that is making off-shoring less attractive. And this is being seen for both the consumer products and packaging.

Karstedt Partners: So JoAnn, you are known as the Packaging Diva and are prolific on social networking, particularly on Twitter (@packagingdiva). What can you tell me about that?

JoAnn Hines: I’ve been on Twitter for five years now, that is a long time in social media. When I started there were very few people talking about packaging on Twitter, now there are thousands, I now have almost 20,000 packaging followers around the world and have made almost 40,000 updates. As a matter of fact, I now generate all my work directly from social media connections particularly twitter. I get inquiries and speaking invitations from twitter almost daily.

The other social tool that I love is Pinterest; this is my baby. My main page is where my “pin board group” has 37,000 images “pined”. I have boards for dozens of different packaging types from cosmetics to breakfast cereal. This is such a great tool for designers and brand managers to look and get ideas from packaging all around the world. My “Packaging Pick of the Day” board has 625 contributors from all over the globe. What a great tool to get visual feedback on packaging, and its free! My advice to anyone who is trying to connect to “creatives” is to do it through social media.

Karstedt Partners: I read on your website that you have spoken at the White House, tell me about that.

JoAnn Hines: That was during the Clinton administration. I had just returned from a trip to China looking at packaging operations over there. The administration wanted to know what things we had that could be leveraged when speaking to the Chinese government. That was a very interesting meeting. I told them that the Chinese want everything we have.

About JoAnn Hines:

Ms. Hines is a packaging consultant with more than 37 years global packaging experience and expertise. She has a comprehensive command of the power of branding, design and merchandising on packaging and how it can influence the consumer to buy, or NOT. As an industry leader, she is committed to promoting packaging as a merchandising tool.

She has traveled the world speaking on packaging trends and technologies and was invited to speak at the White House on US packaging innovations and how that could translate into business opportunities with China.

Her day is spent researching packaging trends and technologies for her clients and in doing so keep them abreast of trends and innovations that impact their business. Because she is independent she can offer an unbiased opinion on the viability of new or breakthrough packaging concepts.

Her packaging trend columns are syndicated around the globe.  In addition to advising numerous analysts about packaging, and creating the global platform she is also member of “Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve” and the number one packaging person in social media. Follow JoAnn on Twitter at twitter/packagingdiva or reach her at [email protected]