Is the Package the Product?

Run a couple package design web searches and you’ll see this phrase repeatedly: “Packaging is just as important as the product.” It’s almost common sense, really. Some even go as far as saying, “The package is the product.” That may be bold, but nonetheless, packaging plays a tremendous role in selling your product-it’s the last chance (or maybe even the first chance) to advertise just before consumers make a purchase and studies have shown that most people make brand choices at the point of purchase. Spend the time researching packaging while thinking carefully about your audience and the stores you’ll be featured in and brand your product accordingly. Bring a designer into the picture early on and he/ she will help the package design solutions develop from the information and ideas that have gathered.

Branding is important. Companies brand themselves to configure their ideals, benefits, identity and develop their ad strategies from this characterization. Branding helps keep their image consistent, ensuring that their message won’t stray away. Products need to do the same. What are your product’s advantages? How is it different from the competition? What is its personality? You have to do more than inform customers. You must provoke emotions by branding your product with logos, advertising, press releases, etc., and, of course, the packaging. The following are basic steps that all designers must follow for successful packaging.

Research: You’ve researched plenty during the development of your product and you’ll continue to do so throughout the duration of its life. Assuming you’ve already studied the market and potential audience, you should now begin learning about packaging. Your designer is also an avid researcher, but it never hurts to figure out what attracts you and to bounce ideas off of each other. Go to different stores and look at packages. Focus within your product family and the stores you’d be featured in, but also look beyond. You never know where you may discover something useful. Search the Internet with Google web and image searches. Look through publications for packaging info and examples-magazines, books, online-both packaging sources and your product category’s industry publications. Find a handful of inspiring ideas and trends.

Structure/ Materials: A package’s shape and material play a big role in communicating to the customer. Take a stroll down the grocery aisles and notice all the competing brands within the same product category in all their different shapes, sizes and containers that create unique perceptions. Some products aim to be higher end, others affordable. Some are concerned with being all-natural, others would rather be a fun part of your day. A straight and narrow glass bottle will look more classy than a plump, plastic one. An uncoated cardboard box will look more environmentally savvy than a plastic wrapped container. How can your package’s structure and materials expand your brand?

Copy: Figure out what will be written on the package before you dig deep into the design. Space is limited, so be brief and figure out a hierarchy. Leave room for the brand name, the company name, a slogan (if desired), some quick, but important attributes/ benefits/ descriptions and any supplementary copy (instructions, storage info, warnings, etc.). Copy is another branding tool where you can be creative. If you want to be as clever and brilliant as possible, you may consider consulting a copywriter.

Graphic Design: Graphics compel the audience and quickly communicate significance. They can either be printed on the packaging materials or may appear on a label or tag of some sort. The basic design essentials are: color, typography, composition, logo use/ development, photo/ illustration use and the overall style/ concept of it all. This is another area where research is important. Setting up all the elements neat and orderly is a start, but it does nothing for your brand. Let’s say you have an exercise product that’s branded as a high-quality, high-energy, extremely efficient piece of equipment. Research those themes to inspire provocative imagery. What are some sources of energy that you could conceptualize around? How can you tweak it to connote quality and efficiency as well? With these rough concepts in mind, what fonts, colors and graphic elements could interplay in harmonizing your brand identity?

Remember to be practical. Of course you want to stand out, but your package can’t be too outlandish without the budget. Research pricing and be honest with manufacturers about your need for short runs where custom packaging would be too expensive. There are plenty of stock options that can be tailored to your needs, so spend more time thinking intelligently about branding with graphics. Besides, you’ll always continue to make improvements along the way, so this allows flexibility until your product’s growing demand provides you with a larger budget to spend on more drastic branding measures.

Do you think the package is the product? When it’s on the shelf introducing itself to shoppers, the answer is definitely yes. You want your products to fly off the shelves, so this is not the place to cut corners.

Leave a Reply