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10 tips for designing seasonal packaging

4 Min Read
10 tips for designing seasonal packaging


By Michael Connors, Contributing Writer


The season is upon us. Holidays and other special occasions provide brands with a license to put aside their typical constraints and innovate. It's also an opportunity to drive incredible sales performance. Icons like Coke and Starbucks have been capitalizing on holiday cheer and holiday spending habits for decades—and you can, too. 

Here are some best practices for staying above the holiday fray and showing consumers a new side of your brand. 


Beer 12-pack

1. Don't put an expiration date on your design
Design packaging that has a shelf-life beyond December. Consider forms, materials and visuals that can withstand the season and weather the holiday shopping hangover.

Example: Instead of focusing just on holidays, Widmer Brothers, Redhook and Kona Brewing Co. create brews and packaging that evoke the tone and spirit of the season all winter long.



2. 'Tis the season of gifts and traditions
Add value beyond your product, but in a way that is contextual to your product. Help consumers create a ritual around your brand. 

Example: Ballantine's packaged their product with a unique and festive ice tray.



3. Create collectables
Packages that are part of a set or able to be repurposed in an innovative way help make your brand part of some of the strongest traditions families have.

Example: Pangea Organics created an easily wrappable and "easily plantable" holiday gift box for its line of body care products that will grow a spruce tree.


Johnnie Walker

4. Make shopping easy
Promote "gifting" through fancy, unique or personalized packaging that is beautiful enough to be a gift itself.

Example: Johnny Walker allows consumers to personally engrave its coveted Blue Label bottles for the holidays. 


M&Ms Dark Christmas

5. Create a campaign
Build "fanfare" around your product launch. Tie your special-edition package into a campaign or topical event. Create a story around the specialness of the product that plays on the brand's core attributes.

Example: M&M's does a great job of using their quirky candy characters to build seasonal or holiday specific awareness by tying packaging to print and TV ads. 




Marmite Gold


6. Change the product (if possible)
Packaging may come and go, but if you can create a product that will only be available for a limited time, you've immediately jumped into the premium category and created urgency around the purchase.

Example: Marmite Gold added edible gold flakes to its product.


Vaseline Pink Bubbly

7. Make the purchase an experience
Work with the distribution channels to help provide them with point of purchase materials that make the purchase part of the product experience. Better yet, create pop-up in-store experiences to help them sell-in the product. 

Example: Vaseline created engaging in-store experiences around its limited-edition lip therapies, and its latest Pink Bubbly flavor became the fastest-selling product in history at Selfridges department stores.


Starbucks Christmas

8. Frosty is safer than Santa
Design packaging that is evocative of the spirit of the season, but isn't specific to individual religions. In addition to being a political quagmire in recent years, the holiday season is booby-trapped with clichés. Wade in at your own risk.

Example: Starbucks beautifully balances the holidays into its packaging design and products. Each year it has a slightly new take on the season so brand enthusiasts have something to anticipate.


Pot Noeldle

9. If you can't avoid clichés, have fun with them
You will be entering a market saturated with Santas and snowmen. Look for visual and tonal treatments that evoke the season without being overly dependent on overused symbols, or look for ways to turn them on their head.

Example: Pot Noodle became Pot Noeldle, cleverly embracing the hype of the holiday season. And the company took it a step further by adding the tag line "The Gift That Keeps on Giving" to the front of pack, paying homage to the infamous line from the holiday classic Christmas Vacation. 

10. Start early
No one wants to think about the Holidays in July, but to have your ducks in a row for a product or package roll out that doesn't drown in the sea of red and green, you need to start thinking snowmen even while you're still soaking up the summer sun!


Michael Connors is vp of design at Hornall Anderson (www.hornallanderson.com). The company uses a 360-degree design approach to create branded experiences from print to digital and packaged goods, to environments, virtual worlds and beyond.



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