In this month's blog I am going to give you a few tips on how to create great packaging. This list and information isn't exhaustive, but will list some of the basics that you need to keep in mind.
Monash University Marketing Dictionary defines packaging as ‘the materials (glass, aluminium, cardboard, etc.) originally intended merely to contain and protect a product; in recent years the role of packaging has been broadened so that, in addition to containment and protection, its purpose is to attract attention, provide additional product information, and assist in promotion’. 
Great packaging is so important because ‘it can influence purchasing decisions and it has to communicate in 1/10th of a second your brand identity and features and benefits’.
To create great packaging you must:
1. Ensure your packaging shouts your brand identity (it’s a mini billboard!)
First things first, and to follow on from last month’s blog about branding, it goes without saying that once you have decided on your branding, your packaging must have the same look and feel as your brand.
You need to consider the mood you want to create when someone looks at your packaging – just as you would when people think of your brand in general.
Although the images might be different on your packaging than on other marketing material, make sure the images are in the same theme. For example if your logo and images on your website, brochures and other marketing material are in a cartoon type theme, you should carry on this theme onto your packaging as well.
Even if you aren’t stocking products on store shelves, it’s important to get packaging right. For example, if you are a luxury shoe brand that sells shoes online, your customer would expect the box their shoes arrive in (either as a gift to someone else for for themselves), to be packaged in a good quality, beautiful branded box. “Everyone loves a pretty package. Unwrapping, opening, unfolding – customers enjoy the experience of receiving a package almost as much as the product itself. Your product packaging is your best way to make sure that your customer’s first impression of your business is a good one.”
Secondly, but just as importantly, you need to spend time thinking and researching about what your customer wants and needs. You should already know who your target market is, so you need to put together a few different packaging ideas and present this to your target market to find out which is the most appealing to them.
Go to the supermarket or shop shelves where you are planning to stock your product. Look at who your competitors are and what your competitor’s packaging looks like. Should you be really original and have bright pink packaging if all your competitors have dull green packaging, so that you stand out? or is your aim to 'fit in' and look like you've been around for years? Or are you going to position yourself as the cheap alternative, or the luxury alternative to your competitors? This all depends on your brand image and strategy.
If you can’t find any documents on consumer opinions on your competitor’s packaging, you should carry out the research yourself: get a dozen or so of your target market together (or send out a survey to people in your target market) to find out why they would choose one packaging over another on the shelf for example. Use this information to design your packaging.
3. Make it easy for your customers to choose you!
Again, research will assist you to find out what is important to your customers and what you should include on the front of the packaging.
There are the basics such as what the product is, but you could try to be different to stand out. For example, if you have a breakfast cereal business, and you find that your target market always has to pick up a cereal packet and turn it around to find out the dietary info, why don’t you put that info on the front of the packet? (make it look nice of course). That way, the customer can take a peek at your dietary info whilst scanning the shelves, and may choose your packet over the others, just due to that added convenience.
Or, if you are a soap business and you want to target the gift market, why don’t you package some of your soaps with a beautiful bow and a small gift tag attached? That way if a customer is in a rush for a last minute present, they can pick it up without also having to pick up gift wrapping accessories and a card.
4. Practicalities – make your packaging easy to transport, easy to open and easy to use
Think about how your customer is going to use your product, think about their lifestyle and what would be convenient for them.
Many times, I have gone into a convenience store looking for a small bottle of flavoured milk whilst I’m out and about shopping. Sometimes the flavoured milk options are only in cardboard packaging with a flap lid opening the top (like the traditional milk cartons). If the convenience store does not have a short straw that I can pop into the milk carton, I would have to pour the milk into a cup to consume (which of course I don’t carry around with me!). Obviously I don’t want the awkwardness of trying to fit my mouth around a triangle shaped carton opening. Even if I did get a straw, or want to drink out of the carton (which would look disgusting anyway) I certainly cannot pop the carton back into my handbag after a few sips, and finish the rest later!
In many instances I have ended up getting a bottle of orange juice with a screw top – even though I don’t want orange juice! All those flavoured milk companies have just lost a customer (and many more like me) just because the packaging for the target market’s lifestyle is not practical! Then again, maybe these companies are targeting only males, and maybe from the feedback they have gained during various research sessions, is that this is the type of packaging their target market will reach for over a bottle with a lid.
5. Be distinctive
Again, look at your competitors. Are they all quite similar in look and feel? Why not be a bit different in your packaging images or design. If it fits with your brand image, try to be distinctive! Look at Nudie Juice. http://www.nudie.com.au/#
They stand out brilliantly amongst all the other juice packaging on the shelf.
Like all things, if you want to be successful, look at what other successful people / companies are doing and take note. If you are particularly impressed with someone's packaging, ask yourself why.
6. Be creative, be unique, but keep it simple
This quote sums it up entirely: “The entire packaging could speak for the product even without someone telling you what it is.”
Taking the above example of Nudie juice – when you see their juices on the shelves you know that they are a fun, modern, quality juice brand. Their simple packaging explains simply what the product is and the ingredients, whilst using images and fonts to attract their target market and convey a particular mood.
7. Labelling – make sure labels are easy to read
Only once or twice have I come across a product where I absolutely cannot figure out what it is! I remember coming across a bright, fun, new, modern bottle range sitting amongst other shampoo and conditioner ranges on a supermarket shelf. I wanted to buy one shampoo and one conditioner out of the range, but nowhere on the packaging – front or back - could I figure out which one was shampoo and which was conditioner! I started to think, maybe it was only a shampoo range, or maybe it was only a conditioner range, or maybe it was just soap –but then why would it be in-between all the other shampoo and conditioner brands?! – it would be in the soap isle....I just couldn’t tell. Needless to say, I put them back and just bought my regular shampoo and conditioner.
So, what I’m trying to get across here is, stick to the basics – ensure you have covered the basics, then start to think about adding phrases, images etc. around the important information. This is where you will need the help of a graphic designer who has an artistic mind and knows how to put images, phrases and words together to make them look great.
Again, when you have a few different versions of your packaging, you need to show them to your target market and get feedback.
8. Have relevance and speak to your target market: use images and the right language
“Package design is the most important investment for effective product positioning. Packaging is more than just pretty graphics and some of the best packages create a billboard effect for the brand, getting that product off the shelf and on to the consumer's plate”.
If you’re a frozen pizza company, targeting the family market, you would use different wording, images and mood than if you were targeting the gourmet pizza market targeted at professionals.
Of course this all comes down to research – find out what your target market looks for when they glance across the frozen pizza freezer isle. What information, wording, images and phrases are they looking for? For example the pizza company targeting the family market, might find that parents want a pizza that can cook in 20minutes, that is tasty and has simple toppings. Parents might be looking for the words ‘quick cooking time’ and ‘great for children’. Professionals looking for a gourmet pizza might be looking out for the words ‘gourmet’, 'premium ingredients' and ‘tasty’, for example.
There is so much more to packaging, but I have listed out the basics above. Remember that keeping in mind your brand strategy and carrying out research is so important in every step .
In next month’s blog, I will discuss the ‘war’ going on about governments around the world wanting to enforce plain packaging for cigarettes. It’s very interesting, and again enforces the important role packaging plays.
I'll leave you with some packaging quotes:
“There is an old adage that taught us: “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” but in a world where there are thousands of competitors for any one specific product, this does not hold true. We are raised in a society, where generally, looks are often perceived as most important and this instance, it holds true”.
“You can even easily distinguish your favourite food with just one glance because of its packaging”
Check out these amazing designs in the website below to give yourself inspiration. Don’t copy the designs for your product packaging, but at least by looking at these your mind will start formulating ideas so when you go to your Graphic Designer you will have an idea of what you want for your packaging:
Clara Cassidy, Founder and Marketing Manager of Custom Printed Bags & Boxes, is a marketing professional with years of experience in branding, promotions and events.