Lisa McTigue Pierce, Executive Editor

September 22, 2015

4 Min Read
6 packaging designs that herald back-to-school season

It's time again for buses, backpacks and lunchboxes, with parents everywhere jumping for joy as they send their little minions back to school. For the last several weeks, marketers have used packaging graphics to entice buyers of school supplies and other school-related products to pick this, not that. Here are a few standouts.

Nutella packaging ‘busses’ back to school

A label makes all the difference: This 16.5-oz PET jar of Nutella hazelnut spread (above), found at a local Target Store, sported one of the niftiest “back to school” packaging themes we came across: the shrink-wrapped film is printed with an illustrated bus and smiling driver on the front of the package.

The back of the package seamlessly continues the shrink-label-printed theme by depicting the rear of the bus along with an encouraging message printed along the bottom—on the bus bumper—that states “Send them back to school happy!”

Next: Little Debbie


Little Debbie chalks it up to related graphics

Long a favorite lunchtime or after-school snack for kids, Little Debbie helps parents remember the brand during their shopping trips. A blackboard graphic with “Back to School” written in chalk, along with other drawn school-related icons, quickly makes the visual connection. It also lets Little Debbie highlight their value price in high contrast white-on-black.

Next: "Free from" tags


Tags tout ‘free from’ materials

In the loosest description of “packaging,” here we include tags on a couple products, specifically a padded lunchbox and a backpack. One of two tags on the Disney Junior lunchbox for “Sophia the First” (left in the picture) reassures parents that the product is free of both BPA (bisphenol-A) and PVC (polyvinyl chloride), two materials that have been widely covered in the general media as ones to stay away from because of possible negative health consequences. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles backpack also highlights the product being 100% PVC free in two languages. In both examples, the “free from” tag stands out as a point of differentiation next to competitive items.

Next: Eco friendly #2 pencils


The ubiquitous #2 pencil gets an eco boost

Made from 53% pre-consumer recycled wood, the Ticonderoga Renew #2 pencils from Dixon Ticonderoga drives home the environmental message several ways for discerning shoppers: the paperboard carton is printed in green, which is recognized as the color for environmentally friendly items; the product name is “Renew,” another clue; the carton is cut-out in the shape of a leaf;  the recycle symbol is prominent with the exact percentage inside; the PEFC (Pan European Forest Council) certification logo identifies the product as one that promotes sustainable forest management; and the copy at the bottom of the pack explains that these pencils are made from recycled wood.

What about the carton itself? Well, the packaging for sister product Ticonderoga Renew pencils made from recycled tires is made from 100% reclaimed fiber, with a minimum 35% from post-consumer waste. It's likely the same for the Ticonderoga Renew #2 pencils. We're waiting on the company's response.

Plan to spend a little more green to get green, though. This 10-pack is just a couple cents less than a nearby 12-pack from a competitor.

Next: Wet Ones wipes


Portable pack of Wet Ones bears fruit

This 20-count portable pack of Wet Ones antibacterial hand wipes features school-related graphics on the resealable label, including a lunchbox, a backpack, a pencil, art supplies and a soccer ball, which all surround the more subtle ultimate school icon: a red apple for the teacher. The red-with-white-dots background is a mainstay from previous pack designs.

Wet Ones also comes in singles and travel packs, equally suitable for dropping in a backpack or lunchbox. But this school-special design was displayed in the school supplies section at a local Target, making it super easy to add it to the cart.

Next: 3D movie look


Sleeved and labeled lunch packs go to the movies

Lunches need protection, too: Found at a local Office Depot and intended for packed lunches, the made-in-China lunch containers distributed by Peachtree Playthings, Atlanta, GA, played off one of the year’s most popular movie tie-ins with Disney’s “Frozen” to target girls, as well as Marvel’s “Avengers” for the boys. Purple thermoformed polypropylene lunch kits or sandwich containers are used for “Frozen” and blue for the “Avengers.”

What was most striking was that the presentation offered a 3D look with a printed paperboard unitizing sleeve band highlighting the product attributes—including BPA-free plastic (even though PP has never had BPA)—that wraps around the kits to literally frame an inner pressure-sensitive label printed with the movie characters that’s affixed to the top lid.

Movie tie-ins on packages worked well before the fall back-to-school season, too. Here’s a look at some brands making the most of summer blockbusters.

Editor's note: Thanks to our technical editor Rick Lingle for his Nutella and Peachtree Playthings contributions.

About the Author(s)

Lisa McTigue Pierce

Executive Editor, Packaging Digest

Lisa McTigue Pierce is Executive Editor of Packaging Digest. She’s been a packaging media journalist since 1982 and tracks emerging trends, new technologies, and best practices across a spectrum of markets for the publication’s global community. Reach her at [email protected] or 630-272-1774.

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