Second life packaging? It's child's play

* 4 min read

The prospect of school summer holidays can fill even the most skilled parents with dread. And for good reason. From clubs to day-trips to the latest Xbox game, the cost quickly adds up. In fact, 60% of parents anticipate spending £300 or more on keeping their children entertained. But the summer holidays don’t have to break the bank – there are plenty of opportunities to get creative, especially when brands give us a helping hand.

Take Fairy’s “Fairyconomy” campaign from last year, which reimagined its classic Fairy Liquid bottle as a toy rocket. Be it an empty bottle of dishwasher detergent or a cardboard box, kids can make a toy out of anything, repurposing what might otherwise be considered rubbish into hours of fun. This is second life packaging in action, when packaging lives on to serve a second function after protecting, preserving or marketing the product it once contained. It’s reuse at its best, which trumps the often convoluted process of recycling.

Brum min

What’s more, second life packaging can be educational too, offering a sustainable spin on traditional DIY arts and crafts. Savvier brands are increasingly honing in on the concept, getting innovative with packaging and showcasing the designs in their ad campaigns. Children’s bike brand Brum Brum, took inspiration from the young mind’s creative impulse and pushed the idea further with its minimalist balance bike. Its packaging design isn’t just pleasing to the eye, it also transforms into a nifty garage covered in quirky drawings, perfect for kids to colour in and make their own.

Douwe egberts

But the world of second-life packaging isn’t just limited to young consumers. This 2015 advert from upmarket coffee brand Douwe Egberts markets its product as 'no ordinary coffee', its packaging as 'no ordinary jar'. This may sound like lofty sales speak – except the jars really were special, created in collaboration with award-winning designer Orla Kiely. And far from being merely collectibles, the ad shows them being repurposed as functional containers, whether it be a flower vase or a pen pot. Talk about value for money.

Repositioning a well-known item as collectible is a subtle way to add additional value to a product. Scottish whiskey brand Johnnie Walker cleverly capitalised on this concept in its 2012 high-profile collaboration with Porsche, charging an eye-watering £230 for an engraved case with a lid that doubled up as an ice bucket. Both Johnnie Walker and Porsche successfully demonstrate how second-life packaging can be a unique selling-point, allowing a brand to stand out from the crowd and justify further cost.

Coke bottles

Ultimately though, second-life packaging appeals most when it works to benefit the environment. Collectible, functional containers can allow a brand to move toward more sustainable practices, while retaining the same quality or aesthetic. It can offer an opportunity for brands to balance good brand citizenship with the practical demands of running a business. Take Coca-Cola’s ‘2nd Lives’ campaign, though slightly less glamorous than a high-end whiskey cooler, its range of 16 screw-on caps breathed new life into old plastic bottles, transforming them into a multitude of things, from lamps to paintbrushes to soap dispensers.

Though Coca-Cola may have made in-roads into solving our plastic bottle dilemma, over 2.5 billion coffee cups still end up in UK landfills every year, not to mention coffee capsules. Second life packaging then, could offer a way forward for brands. There’s no doubt that packaging is becoming more and more sophisticated, Waitrose's recent innovation into food waste packaging being a case in point. In fact, some brands, including Berlin-based supermarket Original Unverpackt, are choosing to forgo packaging altogether. But kids will always want a spare cardboard box or empty Fairy liquid bottle to play with. And this is may well be where second-life packaging can come into its own.

Got any of your own packaging creations to share? Share them with us on Twitter @SunBranding