An Idea Whose Time Has Come -- Tactile Packaging


When I was in my twenties (and knew it all), I had just read Alvin Toffler's book "Future Shock". It was highly interesting, but quite stupid I thought. I was wrong. When I re-read it fifteen years later, I was amazed at how accurate the predictions were.

At the time, there was a new wave of marketing. Dave Nichol who introduced "President's Choice" line of products was the marketing guru at Loblaws and was doing a whole bunch of innovative marketing and packaging. It struck me that the next big thing would be tactile packaging. I wrote Dave Nichol a letter to the effect that he should look into tactile packaging for Loblaws to ride the wave of the future.

Tactile means touch, and I predicted that shoppers would like products to have a unique touch as well as look. It was like putting the FEEL into look-and-feel. The ultimate example of tactile packaging was the classic coke bottle. It fit perfectly into your hand, was a pleasure to hold, and became an icon for a meme, a theme and a lifestyle.

Well, Dave Nichol never responded personally to my letter. I got a polite letter from one of his flunkies saying that they would look into it, but don't hold my breath. He never did bring in tactile packaging, and his star faded dramatically. He ran Cotts foods, and the stock dropped by a factor of ten from $35 to $3.50. His glory days passed. I figure it was because he refused to recognize the genius of my idea.

My idea is simple. Things should not only look nice, but feel nice. Your bottle of peach nectar should feel fuzzy like a peach. Orangina the orange drink from Europe had a bottle that feels like the outside of an orange. If whatever you buy has nuts in it, the package should feel like nuts. The Fruit Loops box should feel loopy. Chicken breasts should feel like ... never mind, that is the exception that proves the rule. Anyhoo -- you get what I mean.

I did some Googling, and I found one example of tactile packaging on a wine bottle:


It's a shame that there aren't more examples. Maybe I was ahead of my time in suggesting tactile packaging to a supermarket chain.

Here are some of my fearless predictions. Materials engineering will not only produce new products based on function -- like the bullet-proofness of Kevlar, but they will also make new products that have different textures and feels. It will be a whole new world. If I choose to join that line of endeavor, I will make a product that feels exactly like human skin. I will make a mega-fortune and be richer than Bill Gates. After all, humans are the ultimate example of tactile packaging.

And this is a song that is as anti-packaging as it gets:



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