How to maximise the potential of your packaging design

By Caroline Hagen

Many brand owners realise that their product’s packaging is a powerful tool for communicating with their consumers and of course to actively sell their product. Many of these are right to focus on the brand identity, reinforcing key messaging and capturing the consumer’s emotional engagement with the brand’s unique set of values. However, there’s a lot more that well-designed packaging can do for a range of products; it can persuade consumers to buy more varieties across the range, prompting them to move beyond their usual choice; brand loyalty can be enhanced, building a stronger bond between the brand and consumer; brand awareness can grow, with consumers increased propensity to recommend through word of mouth and online.

First off, you need to get your brand noticed when it’s sitting alongside your competitors on shelf in store or online. You need to jump out and be seen – be brave, break some rules. Use white where others use block colour; create a clean stripped back pack when others in the category have complex graphics and messaging; introduce a new colour to the category; play with the hierarchy of communication and adopt a new way of describing the product or variety.

If you have more than a couple of SKUs listed, make sure the differences between them are very clear to the consumer; give them a reason to buy not only their usual variety but also to try a new one. Clear front of pack differentiation is crucial; make it clear what the similarities are between products and just highlight the differences (use small blocks of colour to highlight these differences); provide benefits for each variety as the reason to buy, don’t let the consumer have to work this out for themselves because they won’t bother.

Don’t just think about the supermarket or online environment, what about when they get it home or start using it when out and about? This is where packaging can really affect brand loyalty and repeat purchase. You have the opportunity to subtly influence the consumer to form a stronger bond with your brand by designing packaging that empathises with the way they use the product.

For example, is it easy to store? Is your pack format stackable? Do the front or top faces carry a product descriptor too or is that just on the front face (that is often hidden when stuffed into a cupboard, shelf or fridge)? Is it easy to use? There’s been some interesting innovation in the soup category recently, with New Covent Garden Soup finally acknowledging that their old fashioned tetrapak format was not gaining them any fans and have introduced an easier to use screw top; Tesco’s have launched a neat little innovation to what has become a standard clear plastic pot format for the category, by introducing a little pouring spout.

If you’re selling an ingredient, don’t patronise consumers with a side of pack recipe – one recipe is not going to inspire a consumer! Don’t fill the pack with boring stuff – tell them something they might not know or hadn’t thought of. Give them an entertaining brand story. If your brand is a cleaning product, give them some helpful cleaning tips. The pack is right there in your consumer’s hand, they don’t need to access the website to find out these things, they can read them on your pack – in isolation of the distractions of the internet.

So have another look at your packaging design – are you really leveraging all its assets? Start thinking big about what it can do for you.