Package design can no longer be approached as a one-off challenge requiring a solution. That approach does not leverage the full power of brands because it fails to lead to consumer brand recognition. Translation: missed opportunity to build additional sales and to reinforce consumer trust and loyalty attributes.
As companies strategize, plan and package new products or assess current products that need revitalization, they should be thinking in terms of developing an overall package design strategy. Given the plethora of consumer products crowding every category, intensifying competition in the marketplace and lessening consumer loyalty, failure to develop a system, may lead to sluggish sales, or outright failure for products that carry high expectations.
All of the advertising and multiple platform marketing in the world cannot ensure the success of poorly packaged products. Media campaigns are designed to bring consumers into retail stores to look for specific brands. However, consumers scanning shelves in stores make a purchase decision very often at the point of sale, when confronted with myriad competitive products in tangible form.
The last three feet and several seconds to the retail shelf make or break the sale. That’s how crucial packaging is to the consumer in making a final purchase decision. That’s how important it is for consumer product manufacturers to get it right. With increasing pressure to maintain sales during periods of economic downturns, it’s more important than ever to invest in a viable package design system and standardized style guide for every brand. Right now.
A brand’s most powerful assets are uncovered by conducting research. Its overt and hidden drivers must be uncovered to enable packaging to align the brand with consumers’ needs and aspirations. Then, tapping into cultural and lifestyle drivers reach the targeted consumer on an emotional level. All of these considerations take place during the pre-design research process.
Armed with profound brand and consumer insights, and finding the place where they intersect, enables package design experts, in collaboration with product manufacturers to develop an overall strategy as they revitalize packaging, add line extensions or fill pipeline with new products. That strategy should lead to the development of strong and differentiated package design systems and elucidative, detailed style guides.
Functional package design systems and standardization through style guides lead to visual consistency. Visual consistency leads consumers to immediate brand and product recognition. When a properly positioned brand identity, graphic architecture, color, artwork, structure and communication hierarchy are part of a cohesive system, packaging maximizes the retail presence of a brand. Furthermore, it enhances the experience consumers have with the brand.
Sounds simple. In theory, it is; in practice it’s anything but. In many companies there is a tacit understanding that packaging has cost and revenue implications, as well as profit potential. However, due to demands from various managers, sales and marketing executives, conflicting demands arise that sometimes leads to that less than desirable scenario: one-off packaging. Likewise, when packaging products in various categories a number of issues arise, and those often lead to making final design decisions that result in one-off packaging. Again: it is best to avoid this result.
A well-conceived package design system and a style guide ensuring standardization, helps avoid these inherent problems during the design development process, saves time and maximizes the packaging development spend. A well-developed style guide takes the guesswork out of packaging new products by standardizing, yet allowing for flexibility.
Package Design System Components
Key package design system components include: brand and sub-brand identities, package design architecture, segmentation, imagery and brand communication. By establishing consistency in these areas, and standardizing them within a style guide, package designers and manufacturers basically give themselves working blueprints. The resulting packaging enables consumers to connect across the brand’s entire product line.
Consistency and standardization do not have to be boring. In fact, companies should consider developing structural packaging that becomes “ownable”. Distinctive package structures can be developed for each product category. Remember that people are primarily visual, and as shoppers, they are making purchase decisions in a scant 4-6 seconds. Few packages on the retail shelf can be scanned in that period of time—experts say that consumers take in five or fewer. Packaging structure that involves a distinctive shape, graphic architecture and color palette enables consumers to easily and readily identify a specific brand. How important is that in a few seconds?
The brand identity, graphics and color used in a consistent manner for each product segment are crucial. Key brand communication in a well-designed hierarchy is easy to scan and quickly conveys the information consumers want to know about the product. Product imagery that speaks to the consumer—“this brand and product is for me”—that clearly identifies with the target consumer’s aspirations, desires, needs and lifestyle choices, helps seal the deal.
Segmentation should also be part of a package system strategy. Segmentation is necessary for packaged products that target different consumer groups under the brand umbrella. With a strategy in place for segmentation, all products can be packaged in a readily identifiable and predictable manner as part of the overall brand.
By taking package design components and standardizing them in a style guide, the brand can be consistently leveraged. Without style guides, companies make the costly mistake of developing one-off packaging solutions and lose the consumer in the process. A style guide also helps marketers to avoid making the mistake of emulating competitors’ latest packaging rather than being consistent in their own packaging. Constant packaging changes as a reaction to competition, lead to customer confusion and have a detrimental effect on brand recognition.
Like everything else, revitalization is necessary but it should be managed, planned and well executed. A package design system and style guide take the present and future needs for revitalization, as well as various products and their package shapes, sizes and materials into account. A style guide makes provisions for a number of product segments. Marketing segments due to new product lines that appeal to various consumer demographics, behaviors, attitudes, or combinations of these require packaging variations that should also be allowed for in a style guide.
Packaging is one of the most important consumer touch points for every brand. It is the only marketing vehicle that actually delivers branded products to consumers in a tangible manner. As such, packaging is one of the most important parts of the overall brand expression continuum. So why leave it to one-off solutions?
Isn’t it time to invest in immediate visual recognition in a marketplace that has become a sea of sameness? Isn’t it worth investing in a package design system and a standardized style guide for your brand?
Ted Mininni is president of Design Force Inc., the leading brand design consultancy to consumer product companies with Enjoyment Brands™. Design Force helps clients market brands that deliver positive, gratifying experiences by connecting consumers to brands emotionally with compelling visual brand experiences. Design Force, Inc. can be reached at 856-810-2277, or online atwww.designforceinc.com.