Great Packaging Delivers On A Brand’s Promise

12.04.12 / David Lemley

There’s a lot of adequate packaging out there. But it’s the reason why so many category products don’t stand out. What we ought to be aiming for is disruptive packaging. It garners immediate attention and sells the brand because it connects with the consumer. Well-executed package design not only appeals to consumers’ rational thought process but to their emotions which trumps features and benefits every time.

Decision made, the consumer’s choice is reaffirmed when the packaged product delivers on the brand promise. The process begins to build trust and loyalty as the consumer consciously looks for the brand when repurchasing products within the category and in new categories.

Great packaging isn’t status quo. It doesn’t blend into the appropriate product category; it transcends it, often in a highly disruptive way. Translation: it makes the brand stand out in a highly differentiated manner. Standing out and standing above the competition creates category leaders. Not only that: it makes the competition irrelevant to brand devotees. The behemoths of the CPG industry, like Procter & Gamble, Nestle, Johnson & Johnson and Unilever, have understood this for a long time.

Before package design is developed, a strong brand, well-positioned and offering articulated value, must be in place. A go-to market strategy with clear focus of the targeted customer is the next order of business. Research uncovers the brand’s key drivers as well as the customer’s. Package design can then be developed that aligns with the core brand, its values and the consumer. A hierarchy of visual cues and brand communication is developed to support the brand and to cue the targeted consumer that this is a “fit” with their lifestyles. The correct imagery and key words make the point quickly and efficiently.

Every component of packaging: substrates, structure, color, imagery and texture should come together to tell the brand story. This is achieved by using imagery and targeted and selective brand communication to show the consumer why this is the only brand for them. Remember that packaged products are an important representation of the brand for consumers, so it’s crucial to get this right.

Great packaging isn’t status quo.

Method Home presents great brand packaging.  Unique structures, minimal materials and pared down brand communication deliver the brand’s core assets: our products are lean, clean and green. As cool as their brand packaging has been from the start, Method hardly rests on its laurels. The company mission of sustainability moves forward with its latest packaging coup. Its new “2 in 1 Hand & Dish Soap” is packaged in recovered ocean plastic and post-consumer recycled plastic. The “ocean water droplets” molded into the packaging communicates this very well. Environmentally sound products in pioneering environmental packaging: great storytelling or what? Consumers have flocked to this brand and still do, passionate about its values.

Brand values and stories don’t only hinge on sustainability as their core. How about getting the idea of clean food products across with few, simple ingredients sans a hodgepodge of impossible to pronounce chemicals via packaging? How is the message delivered? With clean, simple packaging that tells the story to a contemporary audience that is ever-more conscious about what they’re consuming. Great visuals, selective brand communication tell the story. The Haagen-Dazs “Five” line is a perfect example. Nabisco Shredded Wheat and Nutella are a couple of others.

Luxe and high-end brands?

It’s tough to beat Godiva chocolates in those beribboned gold-foil ballotin boxes. Luxurious packaging opens up to reveal equally luxurious inner wrappings. Unfolding them leads to a great deal of anticipatory pleasure for the brand’s fans. The same is true of Apple. Sleek, black packaging says “cutting edge tech” rather than “decadent luxury”. Unfolding the layers of packaging to get to that new iPhone or iPad is part of the experience. Minimalist packaging isn’t the focus of these kinds of brands. In both cases, the packaging tells the brand story and aligns with the core of each very well. It’s no accident that these brands have such powerful fan bases. The people who love these brands are true zealots; these are brands that align with their lifestyles perfectly.

Starbucks packaged coffees deliver the brand perfectly, as well. Pared down white packaging intimating the purity of the product, features the mermaid cartouche more prominently than the Starbucks brand identity. At this point everybody on the planet knows that the iconic mermaid stands for Starbucks and only Starbucks. The name of each coffee variety, a short descriptor and the words “whole bean coffee” keep brand messaging short and sweet. Imagery does the rest. Veranda Blend features a lovely porch swing. Pike Place roast features the Starbucks at that historic location. Fair-traded Italian Roast features a motorcycle in front of the Coliseum. Brand and product messaging: perfectly delivered.

Retailers are catching up as they market and package their store brands in a meaningful manner. Aligning private label packaging with core brand values and their customer’s lifestyles is the goal. Think Zara. The high fashion Spanish retailer’s clean fragrances appeal in simple, contemporary packaging with beautiful fashion illustrations, of course. Simple one-word perfume descriptors simply state: Iris, Violets or Rose. As an international brand, Zara’s simple package designs are elegant and break language barriers. This is packaging that delivers the Zara brand and meets customer expectations.

Brand of the Street?

H&M is terrific for its urban chic and the way it incorporates that arty edge when it comes to packaging. What else would you expect from the European retailer that specializes in quick change artist fashion apparel, accessories and fashion for the home? There’s nothing snobbish about H&M. Responsive to new fashion trends at price points that the street can bear gives the brand plenty of cred among the hip youth of the world. So why shouldn’t the retailer’s packaged items reflect the brand’s arty attitude?

It’s really crucial for brand owners to get it now; packaging isn’t about selling products. It’s about selling the brand as the one and only.

Part of turning consumers into brand fans and then into zealots is the ability to align core brand values with their own; and with their lifestyles, becoming indispensable to them in the process.

What is your packaging saying? Is it selling the brand? If it isn’t delivering its core values or telling the story, it’s time to repackage.

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