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  • Jason Hescott

8 principles of effective packaging design.

Supermarkets hold an estimated 40,000 different products on their shelves. To have

any chance of being noticed, you need to stand out from the crowd. No pressure right? This is why packaging needs to be a major part of your current and

future marketing efforts.

The next time you’re at a retail store, take a look around at the products on shelves.

Pick up any item and ask yourself these three questions:

— Who's this product for?

— What does it do?

— Who's the parent brand behind it?

You might be shocked at just how difficult it is to answer these three questions in less than three seconds (the maximum amount of time a shopper will eyeball a product.)

You’ll find products where you can’t read the name, the logo, or there’s so much copy, it’ll give you a splitting headache.

Products which look fabulous, but fail miserably to describe what they do or how you should use them.

Don’t make your shopper have to think.

Since the majority of all purchase decisions are determined at shelf, the first priority your packaging should consider is—

How your packaging accounts for what the shopper sees, thinks, and reacts to while in aisle can determine a positive or negative response. In turn, diminishing your brand

presence and most importantly impacting sales performance.

We have compiled eight invaluable packaging design principles which will help convert more shoppers into loyal consumers.

1. Stand out—the right way.

Standing out at shelf in a sea of 40,000+ products requires an audaciously unique approach which many brands are unwilling to take on. Breaking traditional conventions, boundaries, and breaking new ground requires bravery.

You’ll never understand your true sales potential if your packaging doesn’t effectively

grab the attention of your shopper. Packaging’s first priority is to get noticed. If all brands know this, why as shoppers are we lost in a vast sea of sameness? Fitting in

is not standing out.

Shoppers are fighting store fatigue with speed and routine. To gain their attention

we must interrupt their path to brands they buy week-after-week.

When shoppers scan an aisle from three-to four feet away, we have to stop their eye.

Consider introducing new packaging structure which improves the consumer

experience, or utilize colors, icons, imagery, strokes or fonts that are designed to

effectively attract the eye from a distance.

Do what hasn’t been done. To sit quietly is to leave sales on the shelf.

2. Clear is kind.

Hurried shoppers tend to gravitate towards packaging which best present the most pertinent information in the most organized and prominent manner. The brands which

design with respect for visual hierarchy are best positioned to appeal to shoppers who

are simply wanting to grab-n’-go.

Limiting and prioritizing content and design elements on your packaging is fundamental, yet it’s so tempting to toss in one more claim or icon, or appetizing image, or introduce yet another font. Avoid the urge—it will only overwhelm and bring disorder to the shopper’s eye.

The eye wants to read top to bottom and left to right, mastering the hierarchy

involves knowing that shoppers in the baby aisle hardly need to see the word baby wipe; they are more interested in finding the type of baby wipe they need—natural, sensitive skin, fragrance-free—faster.

3. Be competitive.

Shoppers show up at shelf ready to compare products on features and attributes, but a cluttered shelf filled with contenders fighting for attention makes it even harder than ever for them to distinguish a true champion worthy of their purchase.

The number one and two reasons the shopper should purchase your product instead of your competitors’ should smack them across the face. These reasons should relevant and differentiated. They shouldn’t be subjective claims—like taste or quality.

What makes your richly nourishing, all natural moisturizing eye cream different than the other brand of richly nourishing, all natural moisturizing eye cream? If it’s value, talk

value, if it’s your ingredient source, tell that story—and communicate it on the front of the package, because most packaging isn’t being picked up and turned over.

4. Express yourself.

Today, more than ever, shoppers buy based on what a brand reveals about themselves almost as much as the actual functionality or product performance. This means abandoning stock photography and generic catchphrases.

It’s about flexing your personality. It’s about creating brands that matter and

being genuine, opinionated, witty, happy, or fully transparent on shelf.

Stop with the self-serving corporatesounding claims, CTAs, and righteous promises consumers are tired and cynical of, instead, approach packaging design with a human mindset. Connect with your shopper on a deeper level. Elicit an emotional

response through presenting something unexpected, warm, likeable, or inviting. To win at shelf, you must win the shopper’s heart & mind.

5. Clarify who you are.

Shoppers want to understand the pecking order of a category in terms of value. Who’s

the Gillette, who’s the Harry’s, who’s the Dollar Shave Club, and who’s the Bic?

Knowing how you want the shopper to see you in terms of value can go a long way

towards informing not only the tone, but also the subtlest of details in your packaging.

If you’re a value brand, let your price communicate value, and adjust your packaging to suggest quality comparable to higher-priced competitive brands. However, if your razor is priced near or above private-label or value brands, you need to continually elevate what premium looks like.

Remember, just because you think your product is premium and say that it is, does

not mean your shopper sees it that way. The shopper is determining the value of your

brand based on how your product compares visually with all the other packages on the shelf next to it.

6. Understand what drives purchase.

Knowing the top four or five purchase drivers consumers use to shop your category is

critical. Shoppers inherently utilize this list to identify which products fit their primary

needs. These drivers should influence what you communicate on package and the

hierarchy you employ, but also how you’ll market your product.

Ask yourself; does your packaging address these drivers? Is your shopper choosing a

product based on perceived quality? How does your shopper measure quality? Are

they looking for specific callouts? Are they influenced by accreditations and awards?

Are they driven by flavor, or by variety?

7. Assume nothing.

Too many brands assume their shopper is capable of and willing to understand what

your product is about. If your product category or segment isn’t represented in at least 50% of the population’s pantries, fridges or on their bathroom counter-top, best be going out of your way to provide them context.

If you sell plant-based skincare products in the beauty section, get to the point on

the principal display and illustrate to the consumer what to do with your product.

There is nothing more you could place on a package that would provide more value

to shoppers to drive trial.

8. Design with the store in mind.

Effective sales-driven packaging accounts for the realities of the physical store environment. Hang tags impede legibility at shelf, lights cause reflections and shadows, stocking preferences of retailers vary. It’s critical that you understand these factors, and how that will influence packaging materials and messaging placement.

If your primary differentiator call-out of “more product for your money” is obscured by shelf tags or the front edge of a PDP tray, your shopper won’t have the context and will perceive that your product is the more expensive option in the category. How many of your shoppers are turning away because of a simple oversight. — Jason

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