Packaging design and branding for retail distribution is about getting noticed. Products compete for consumer’s attention. Design on the package itself can mean the difference between a product selling, or staying on the shelf collecting dust. Designers must empathize with shoppers, and serve the main goal of sales. The aim should be attention, so consumers pick your product, rather than the competitor’s.

But what about brand building? Is there a place in packaging design to conveying the bigger ideals and underlying ethos of the product (and the brand that is bringing it to market)? Packaging can help build brand awareness too, right? Should package design risk not communicating the “buy me” message in pursuit of getting across the “remember my branding” message?

The challenge of serving both of these objectives is particularly real for brands with modest resources. If you are a major, multi-national consumer packaged goods manufacturer, you likely have allocated marketing dollars for brand building on a larger scale, using advertising, events, and public relations. But what about the start up-brand? Or the David looking to challenge Goliath on the shelves? What do you do if you have a great product but a not-so-great budget.

For retail packaging projects where stretching every dollar counts, we offer a few suggestions when considering retail packaging design for sales and branding.

Be different.

Consumers make fast decisions at retail. Often what they see first is what they choose to buy. Strong design that stands apart can win the day. Color, scale, format, brand identity, and language can be used to create a package design that appeals and stops shoppers as they scan the section. Remember that differentiating requires an understanding of the landscape you aim to stand out against. One must take time to visit retail locations, experiencing first-hand what the shelves look like when full of products in a particular category. By doing this research, package designers give themselves a huge advantage in finding a design that is different.

Be true to the brand.

With differentiating established as a top priority, designing to authentically express the brand should be the next area of focus. In addition to bringing the product to market, what is the brand’s promise? Can design be used to express the promise to shoppers? Maybe a well placed tagline achieves this? How about the brand’s purpose and principles? Is there a place to communicate, visually or verbally, these foundational brand elements? A great package design will find balance between a differentiating, attention-getting design, and the need to show consumers of a product what the brand behind it stands for.

Leverage all channels.

It is also important to keep in mind that package design shouldn’t be expected to do all of the work of brand building. If a differentiated design is achieved, and the product is purchased (or even picked up and read), the company has another opportunity. The package design should direct consumers to the company website and social media channels, where more detailed, longer form content can be shared, and a stronger brand impression can be made. Great companies use creative ways to build the brand outside of the store, and recognize that packaging is a piece of a bigger marketing whole.

Stay the course.

Product sales and brand building take time. Companies who bring a good product to market, with solid packaging design that conveys the brand, have taken an important first step. Leveraging other channels to help build the brand comes next. And then stay the course. All too often companies want to change tactics or make big adjustments when they don’t see immediate results. Resist this urge. Set up a marketing calendar and stick to the plan. Allow your initiative the time it deserves to grow. Trust in your product and packaging to deliver in time, and be prepared to assess what to do differently, if necessary, next time.

Having a product distributed at retail is a great opportunity. Product packaging needs to help maximize the opportunity by standing out. And the packaging needs to purposefully express the brand behind the product. See the packaging for what it is–an important piece of a larger marketing whole–and be prepared to communicate the benefits of the product and brand across other relevant channels. And finally, stay on course. Know that it takes time to make a meaningful and lasting impact on a product category, and be prepared to invest the time.

For more posts about our branding and design process click here.

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Creative That Works

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We don't cut corners.
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