Second Life Packaging Ideas to Encourage Box Reuse

July 9, 2019 by Erin Behan

A box is just a box? Not with a custom-designed box at Distinct Packaging. When you put effort into making your branded box look just-right, you might as well encourage your customers to get the MOST out of, not just your product, but the box itself — and that means giving your box a second life.

Upcycling and reusing (and eventually recycling) are worthy goals for your custom packaging, both because they're beneficial to the environment and also because they're a way to keep your company name and logo in front of your customers and their cohorts — with the chance of living a second life on social media, too. We've got a few ideas for how to create custom packaging that looks so good in transit and on your customer's doorstep, that they'll have a hard time tossing the box directly into the recycling bin.

A Box Made to Be Repurposed
Being clever gets a lot of attention online, and companies have used a bunch of smart ways to keep their box in the conversation long after it's served its purpose of transporting goods from point A to B. In one such marketing stunt, Pizza Hut in Hong Kong created custom pizza boxes, called Block Buster Boxes, which could be converted into a movie projector (watch it unfold).

Sometimes boxes are just so sturdy and attractive that customers are loathe to throw them away, turning them instead into storage, something Birchbox's eye-catching designs certainly encourage.

Photo from Birchbox

For inspiration for when the box itself is the gift, take a look at this collaboration between Memac Ogilvy and Volkswagen, which designed The World’s Most Eco-Friendly Calendar, which was really just a box that folded out into an iPhone holder. A unique box design like this one just might inspire an unboxing video or two, too.

Photo from Pakki

A Box as a Snoozing Space for Pets
Cats are masters of box reuse (see the Instagram hashtag catsinboxes and revisit Maru the cat's box antics), as are dogs and even bunnies. If you're shipping pet food, pet treats or anything animal-related and not capitalizing on the marketing opportunity of social media posts with your box and your customer’s pets, you're missing out. Online pet supply shop Chewy has capitalized on pets’ box proclivities with #Chewyboxlove, while online pet treat subscription service Barkbox has #barkboxday.

A Box as a Project for Kids
Children's clothing subscription company, Rockets of Awesome (which we've talked about before), launched its service with a doodle-heavy box designed to be colored in by their pint-sized customers, just like a coloring book. Yes, it's true; kids like empty boxes almost as much as pets, and if you're shipping kids' goods, you should definitely be taking advantage of their natural creativity. Whether it's by printing images of castles (after all, what's a cardboard box good for, if not a fort?), a cooktop, or other imaginative image to get them thinking … outside the box. Don't forget to feature them on social media with a catchy hashtag.

Ryan Romanes
Photo by Ryan Romanes

A Reusable Interior Box
Packaging is often more than just the outer corrugated box and extends to interior packaging as well, often as a custom gift box printed with your company name and logo. To get creative with inner packaging, designer Ryan Romanes create the Urban Survival Pack, which used cardboard tubes both to package various items in the gardening pack meant for children, but those containers also doubled as pots for growing seeds.

In a similar vein, skincare line Pangea Organics packs its bar soap in a molded fiber box that includes tree seeds. Remove the soap from its box, soak the box, and then plant it and a spruce seedling is born.

You can even plan a whole campaign around your reusable container. UK coffee brand Douwe Egberts ran an advertising campaign focusing on how to reuse its glass jars — in concert with a limited edition run of packaging designed by well-known artist Orla Kiely.

How to Make It Work for You
Encouraging box reuse with cute, clever designs and promoting their second life on your website and through social media channels are two important ways that you, too, can get double use out of your packaging materials. To quickly and easily design and print custom packaging, try Distinct Packaging, which offers an intuitive design tool that includes a 3-D preview of your box from all angles and guarantees shipment of your boxes within 10 days of placing your order.
Erin Behan

Written by Erin Behan

Erin Behan is an L.A.-based writer and editor who considers fine paper one of life's little pleasures.


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