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Packaging is more than simply a container for your product. Well-executed product packaging communicates key information about your brand to a prospective buyer, encouraging them to select your product over a competitor’s.
On the other hand, poorly implemented product packaging creates confusion, and the buyer may pass it over in favor of another. Whether a simple paper box or a fantastic, embellished parcel, packaging includes a few consistent Do’s and Don’ts. Here are some tips to help you nail your product packaging the first time around:
First, figure out your budget
You can do some amazing things with your product packaging, but in the real world, there are always limits to how much you should spend before your package will eat into your profits. Before you start to dream, define how much you can afford. How many units per month do you plan on selling? How much per piece can you afford to pay for packaging and still turn a profit on the sale? Only once you’ve answered those questions can you begin to actually design the package.
Grab customers’ attention
Store shelves and online marketplaces are packed with more products than most people have time to browse thoroughly. First impressions are vital when shoppers make decisions in a split second. To help your product stand out from the crowd, consider one or more of the following:
- A uniquely shaped bottle, box, or other container
- An unusual color or finish (i.e. foil or vellum)
- Bold or non-traditional labeling (think of Apple’s extreme minimalism)
- Anything else that your competition isn’t doing (do some research!)
Remember: custom packaging costs considerably more than standard issue. To avoid cutting too far into your profits, it’s often helpful to pair a lower-cost standard item, such as a paperboard carton or plastic bottle, with a striking accent like a unique die-cut label.
Pay attention to the message you’re sending
Customers have a lifetime of experience with packaging, and their expectations have been shaped by products they’ve encountered since childhood. When designing your package, be aware of what you’re saying to the customer about its contents. In particular, pay close attention to:
- Design elements – Using the wrong embellishments can make your box of cereal feel like laundry soap, or your hip new product feel dated and retro. Do your research before you settle on that starburst or scrollwork.
- Colors – Customers have expectations about what certain colors mean (for example, green and brown together on a chocolate bar usually mean it contains mint). While you can certainly defy tradition, taking it too far runs the risk of alienating the consumer.
- Materials – Paper texture and thickness, transparent or frosted plastics and glass, wrappings, and other elements all play an enormous role in many people’s decision-making process. By adjusting your package materials, you can take your product from budget to premium – or the reverse.
So, the customer has bought your product. They get it home. They unwrap it. Now what?
In order to ensure that you attract repeat customers, your package needs to stand out without getting in the way. A beautiful box is useless if it takes five minutes to open or is impossible to open without ruining (think of the ubiquitous-but-hated blister packs that many electronic devices come in, or the difficult-to-unwrap film that covers CDs). Be creative with your packaging, but only challenge established conventions if you have additional value to provide (or, at the very least, the changes aren’t detrimental to the product). An innovative bottle top isn’t a feature if it makes the bottle’s contents more difficult to get to. Always consider the experience of the buyer before settling on your packaging. After all, while you are designing with the intention of attracting a sale, the customer is buying value and utility.
Ask for honest feedback
Before your materials hit the press, take a minute to run your proposed ideas by a focus group. This can be anything from a simple handful of family and friends to a formally organized review. Take note of what each person says, and where their opinions overlap. Then, fix the problems!
Creating an effective and attractive package for your product(s) can be challenging, but the rewards of doing it right are clear.