In a matter of seconds, packaging can inspire a customer to buy your product—or not. Packaging is an important touch point because it may be the first physical encounter your customer has with your brand. It may also be the final impetus for buying your product. So make the last few moments of the purchasing decision matter by getting your packaging right.
Using five tips and tools from “Inside the Box: A Proven System of Creativity for Breakthrough Results,” marketers of consumer packaged goods (CPG) can help make packaging do some heavy lifting and increase the chances of new product success. Here’s how:
1. Find fusion: Creative marketers use a clever tool called fusion. Fusion links the packaging to both the product and the brand message in a way that communicates product value. Fusion creates a visual connection between the packaging, product and a metaphoric symbol.
To use fusion, describe the message you want the packaging to convey. Usually, this is the product’s value proposition. For example: “Orange juice that’s so good it tastes fresh squeezed.” Then, make a list of elements or symbols that are directly associated with your message. For the orange juice example, the list might include: whole oranges, orange peels, orange slices, orange wedges, orange trees and so on. Next, make a list of typical packaging components for your product. For example: container, labeling and spout. Finally, take one packaging component and design it to take on characteristics of one of the symbols.
The Juicy Juice orange wedges that connect into a ball (see image above), designed by Preston Grubbs, is an example of fusion.
Next, task unification…
Designed by Yeongkeun
2. Task unify: Packaging can move beyond its traditional role of protecting the product or providing product information. Using a technique called task unification, you can assign additional jobs to existing components of the package to create new value for the customer.
Here’s how. Make two lists. One is a list of every component on the traditional packaging for the product. For example: container, lid, label, handle and so on. Create another list of the steps the consumer must perform to use, store or dispose of the product. Then choose one random component and one of the process steps to create a hypothetical solution. In the example below, the lid of the container also acts as a spreader to help the consumer get the butter out of the package and onto the bread.
Next, partial subtraction…
Designed by Lacy Kuhn
3. Make less do more: Using a technique called partial subtraction, you can remove subtle areas of the packaging to find creative ways to promote the product or brand. Start by making a list of the components of the packaging. Pick one randomly and imagine only part of that component is removed or reduced in some way. Ask yourself, does this help the consumer? Will they visualize the product in some new creative way? Will it help them better understand the product form or value proposition?
Beehive honey squares cereal is a fun example of how the cut out and art on the packaging reveals the product.
4. Divide and rearrange: Using a technique called division, parts of the packaging can be divided to create convenience and functionality. There are two ways to put this technique into action—physically or functionally. Here’s how. Make a list of packaging components. Pick a component and imagine its function being performed somewhere else, either on the packaging itself or in the immediate vicinity. Do you see any benefit for the customer or in how the packaging is made?
The other approach is to select a component randomly and imagine cutting (or scoring) it along some physical aspect, preferably in a way that is not obvious or intuitive. Once again, ask yourself if you see any benefit for the customer or in how the packaging is made.
The box above is an example of corrugated product packaging that is scored and foldable along non-traditional lines. The consumer can use the box for almost any application they can think of, like a funky box to hold supplies, a boat for the bathtub, origami sculpture or a gerbil carrier.
Next, attribute dependency…
5. Make it smart: Packaging can be designed to adapt to changes in its environment, making it seem smart. How? By providing information useful to the consumer or perhaps presenting itself to the consumer in different ways, depending on who’s looking at it.
Here’s how. Using a technique called attribute dependency, begin by making a list of attributes of the product. For example: temperature, age, quantity, performance and so on. Then imagine something on the packaging changes when one of these attributes changes. Do you see any benefit for the customer? How would it help them consume the product by having this new information about what’s inside?
A simple example is a color-changing baby bottle that alerts the parent if milk is too hot or safe to drink.
Great packaging is much more than a slick, protective wrapper around your product. It offers you opportunities in both the consumer and business-to-business markets to influence customers and brand perceptions. Leveraged to its fullest, you can use packaging to launch new product success and maintain long-term brand loyalty.
Drew Boyd is co-author of “Inside the Box: A Proven System of Creativity for Breakthrough Results” (Simon & Schuster, 2013). He is a 30-year marketing veteran, keynote speaker and professor of innovation, persuasion and social media.