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Have your brand and packaging tell the right story

Have your brand and packaging tell the right story
Borrowing an “ingredient” convention from skincare packaging was a clear way to tell the Salon Series haircare story.

Humans have been telling stories for thousands of years and brands have as well, if not for nearly as long. In fact, every brand tells a story whether the brand owner strategically and carefully writes that story or not. If the latter, then in the absence of a clear story the consumer fills in the blanks as they see it, not necessarily as a brand owner desires.

Controlled story telling through packaging is something that Sheri L Koetting, co-founder and chief strategist of MSLK, a branding agency based in New York City, can help with. Koetting will be moderating two conference sessions during WestPack 2016, Feb. 9-11, in Anaheim, CA, including a panel on Using Packaging to Tell the Right Brand Story on Wednesday, Feb. 10, from 3:15PM - 4:00PM.  

In this preview, Koetting provides advice for brand owners who want to control how consumers feel about products by having them not just tell a story, but telling the right story assisted by proper packaging design.

What’s the most important step in telling the right brand story?

Koetting: It may seem obvious, but the most important step in telling the right brand story is understanding who you are and what you want to tell. Some visionary brand leaders know straight from their gut what their brand story is going to be—think Steve Jobs or Blake Mycoskie. Other brands struggle to find their voice. When asked who they are, they can’t tell you anything more than, “We make ‘x’. We were founded by ‘y’ and we are based out of ‘z’.” In a crowded market, that is not a very compelling story.

For brands looking to develop a brand story, it is often easier to begin defining who they are by looking at the competitive market and defining who they are not. We believe every brand has a unique voice and a personality—like snowflakes, they may seem the same, but no two are alike. The great news is, for every unique brand there is also a unique target audience out there who is looking for that product.

In what ways can packaging help tell the story?

Koetting: There are elements of a brand story that can be conveyed with visual design —shape, color, materials, touch, etc. Together, these create an overall attitude, showcase professional quality, convey synthetic vs. natural, etc. Then there are elements of a brand story or messaging that can only be expressed with words and language. This is where naming and overall tone of the copy come into play. We believe that it is important to make sure a packaging design works hard to visually convey everything it can. This is the first line of attraction and will draw customers in. Then, copy will solidify the message.

Can you point to a project that exemplifies this philosophy?

Koetting: When we created the Salon Series line for Ouidad, we used a sophisticated gradient of black combined with images of key product ingredients. In their competitive market, images of key ingredients were common in skincare packaging, but not haircare. Ouidad products are designed to treat both the hair and scalp. Borrowing the ingredient convention from skincare was a clear way to tell this story.

The packaging showcases a large logo touting the words “Salon Series” to leverage salon heritage alongside Ouidad’s personal signature to reference the parent brand and create a hand-touched feel. The side of each package features a photo of Ouidad in the salon and touts the story of how these products were originally mixed by hand and used as treatments in her New York salon before becoming take-home products.



Sheri L Koetting is the Co-founder and Chief Strategist of MSLK, a branding agency based in New York City. MSLK specializes in helping beauty brands find their voice in today’s crowded marketplace through 360° brand positioning across brand identity, packaging, retail experience, websites and marketing campaigns. Sheri has worked with clients such as Aveda, Chanel, Johnson & Johnson, L'Oreal, John Masters Organics, and Sephora, in addition to many smaller brands. Sheri co-founded the non-profit organization Spark Design Professionals and Evolve Symposium. Both produce events and workshops dedicated to best practices and business acumen for design agencies.


Driven by design? You’ll find a diverse 2-day packaging conference and dozens of booths with ideas for your next packaging project at WestPack 2016, Feb. 9-11, in Anaheim, CA.


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