About 6 years ago I was in charge of launching a new brand in the durable goods category, consisting of over 1000 products, with everything it involves: brand differentiation and positioning, product sourcing, brand identity creation, packaging design, and communication strategy development.
The most difficult decision we had to make was how to differentiate the new brand from the current (established) players. The product itself offered very little opportunities to set the brand apart.
During the brainstorming process I noticed a commonality with all our future competitors: their packaging sucked.
The Role of Packaging In Building a Brand
The wine industry taught me the importance of packaging in selling the product. Hence, I immediately saw an opportunity to differentiate the new brand: using packaging to gain a competitive advantage.
Many organizations see packaging’s role as purely functional: it is designed to contain the product, protect it from damage during storage and transit, and comply with the regulations that govern the industry.
In the constant battle for differentiation, packaging should be used at its full potential: as a silent ambassador for the brand.
Brand packaging is part of the intimate interactions consumers have with brands.
On the shelves, it has the huge task of getting noticed, and convince undecided consumers the product it contains is the best choice. Packaging gets examined, read, flipped over, and often abused.
Here are some ways brands can create purchase preference through smart packaging.
Make it Informative
One the packaging’s basic function is to communicate what the product inside is all about.
Smart brands use packaging to communicate more than the manufacturer’s name, product number, contact information and website. They make it easier for consumers to choose their brands by using packaging to provide answers to many additional questions:
-how does the product look like? (include a product shot)
-what should I expect to get when I open it (list all the components, parts and accessories)
-how should the product be used, maintained, cared for (if it’s practical have all this information on the packaging, rather than an insert inside it)
-what is the warranty
I personally avoid specific brands of over the counter drugs because their instructions are written in such a small font that makes them impossible to read. With so many options available, why bother even trying?
Reinforce Your Brand Message
Packaging is a great opportunity to communicate what your brand stands for and make customers feel good about choosing it.
Brands can achieve this multiple ways: by writing inspiring copy, carefully selecting packaging materials (a common practice among eco-friendly brands), or through unique design and functionality.
Apple pays as much attention to its packaging as it does to its products and marketing message. I still have all the packages my iPhone, iPad and Mac Book came in, and remember the great experience I had opening them for the first time.
Make It Functional
A functional packaging eliminates the perception that packaging becomes waste as soon as the product is bought and used. Brands that pursue functional packaging turn a need (product container and protector) into a value-added benefit.
Returning to the wine industry, most wine comes packaged in bottles or carton boxes that get discarded, or, best case scenario, recycled.
The wine package designed by Icon Packaging for Aquilegia turns an ordinary carrying case into a beautiful and reusable wine rack. What a great and beautifully executed concept!
Make it Eye Catching
Good design costs as much as bad design. With so much competition and our attention span getting shorter and shorter, brands have seconds to get noticed and make a good first impression.
When it comes to designing packaging, make sure you study the competition, and add as many value added elements that are missing from their packaging, to yours.
The next step is to go beyond my direct competitors and borrow ideas from industries where packaging is vital in selling the product, such as beverages and personal care markets.
Aside for being more noticeable, attractive packaging can help you gain more distribution for your brand. That’s exactly what happened to the new brand I had to launch: independent distributors appreciated the modern look and bold color scheme that elevate their showrooms to those of retail stores.
How do you make your package stand out? Through the use of colors, shapes or graphic design. If your competitors use conservative colors, go for bold ones. If they use rectangular boxes, go square. If their packaging looks busy, adopt simplicity.
In the highly commoditized categories most businesses compete in, brand packaging can become the secret weapon for creating awareness, desire and preference for your brand. And unlike other aspects on the business environment that a brand can’t control, “out of the box” packaging is within its reach.