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What is Packaging Design ?

Packaging is brand design at the sharp end, the art of promising and being believed, a tangible realisation of a brand that projects the key brand messages.

It represents the virtues and appeal of a product, according to the well-researched tastes and aspirations of the consumer, and so is crucial to supporting the establishment of a product and it’s brand proposition. Creating a visually arresting pack design, that imparts a memorable product story, has to be achieved in a single and highly effective statement which catches the brief attention of the time deprived consumer. 



Packaging Design Essentials

If first impressions are mission critical then the challenge for great packaging design is to engage with the consumer through communicating the product’s emotional and functional benefits together with it’s core proposition and create impulse, all in the blink of an eye. At it’s most fundamental, your package design has to provide information, protect contents, help people use the product it contains, overcome objections and close the sale in seconds. 

Our aim through powerful brand pack design is to:

• Demand attention by cutting through the visual barrage of the retail environment with clarity

• Create impulse

• Communication the brand’s proposition succinctly 

• Project and amplify key brand messages

• Engage emotionally with the consumer through a compelling brand story or message with distinction

• Support or establish loyal relationships with the consumer

• Be different and memorable with something worth talking about

• Provide product information

• Support and exceed legal mandatories

• Protect contents

• Help consumers consume or use the product appropriately

• Achieve profitable sales with repeat purchase (assuming the product authentically delivers on expectations raised). 

• Support environmental and social responsibility

Done correctly, your brand packaging design acts as vital, round-the-clock sales force, continually imparting both tangible and intangible benefits that help maintain profitable sales.

Most products are meaningless (or at least undifferentiated) without their packaging – just take a look at any shelf selection of tea and think about how you’d chose one from another without the packaging. Effective brand design assists choice so, once functional considerations are completed, the most important pack design consideration is how best to connect with your consumer, create and tell a story that stands out from the crowd. 


Packaging That Stands Out From The Crowd 

Brand packaging is a volatile business in today’s highly competitive retail environment. The once gentle evolution of a product’s image has accelerated at a frenetic pace. There are more products available now then ever before, so consumers have more choice and yet, simultaneously, are more discerning. The majority of products on the supermarket shelf are locked between the loyalty of the consumer and the demands of the retailer. They are fighting for visibility, shelf space and market share. Effective brand packaging has to work harder than ever if the product is to be noticed and survive. 

The average supermarket has around 40,000 different packs to choose from across food and non-food items. With over 70% of purchase decisions made at point of purchase the challenge is to stand out from the crowd. There are thousands of products competing for shoppers’ attention in store and, according to various research findings, a pack on a supermarket shelf has less than three seconds to grab that attention. This doesn’t mean that packaging necessarily needs to be loud or simple – but it must be clear with a compelling message grabbing the attention of the audience for which it is intended.

A product’s viability is no longer assessed over a period of years. It now has only a matter of months, sometimes weeks, in which to prove itself. Therefore, as a communication medium, effective brand packaging is the stage upon which the product must perform. A bad performance will not invite an encore.


Connecting With Your Target Market Through Packaging Design

Branding’s power is its ability to influence behaviour and this is often done through messages and stories at an emotional level. People buy remarkable stories that solve their problems but they must deliver and be authentic. A brand’s packaging has to communicate the brand promise on multiply sensory levels including look, touch, smell, sound and sometimes taste. It also has to reassure the consumer the right choice has been made. When you consider the sometimes minimal amount of space in some packaging such as the Maguire & Paterson Match box range which we over hauled, this can be a challenging task.

Consciously or unconsciously, today’s consumer expects products to have an emotional dimension. Therefore thought also needs to be given to aspects such as, for example, the product’s genuine integrity, humour or social responsibility and how these characteristics can be used to enhance and communicate the brands attributes in a meaningful way. 

There are numerous ways that packaging design can be used to enhance brand expression be it on shelf, at the check out, in use or in the home. Packaging designed with creativity and informed precision can help a brand to connect emotionally with it’s target market and establish deep, loyal and often irrational relationships.

In order for a pack design to engage with a consumer and stand out in its category it needs this additional level of story depth for the target consumer to buy into consistently. For example with McConnells Gourmet Smoked Foods we made that connection through creating standout which amplified the wonderful food emporium story of their brand. This story was supported with period images and references to the natural smoking process of their foods and the legacy of that expertise garnered over the decades since 1928. It was also combined with strong oak wood imagery to support the brand’s artisan smoking expertise and create a bold on shelf differentiator with stronger visual distinction. 

Positive experiences associated with a defined brand are key to winning loyal support. Consistent brands make an emotional connection and offer a sense of purpose and belonging to everyone associated with them, from employees and affiliates to investors, consumers and clients alike. Brand packaging is that tangible evidence, a piece of the purchasable brand.


Visual Brand Pack Design Equities 

Another key factor in aiding standout is having recognisable icons, things that stand out even without seeing the pack detail or brand identity clearly. Often these additional elements can become a part of the protected brand asset and an integral part of the brands communications armoury e.g.

Shape: Coca-Cola Contour Bottle

Colour: Tiffany blue/green, Guinness black & cream

Illustration/Symbol: Nike Swoosh, McDonalds M, part eaten apple of Apple Computers

Product Name/Descriptor: Finger Lick’n Good – KFC

Effective packaging combines tactile and visual cues to transmit brand values along with the brand story. Shape, material and mechanics become one with graphics to compete for attention, communicate its message, identify the product and sell it’s qualities. Visual characteristics such as colours and typography, the tone the product or service uses to write or speak about itself and the media through which it appears combine to form a brand’s personality. All points of contact offer an opportunity to communicate brand image.  


Packaging Functionality and Aesthetics 

Good packaging is an equal balance of functionality and aesthetics all of which are assessed based on the appropriate needs of the actual product and target market as well as the manufacturers production requirements.  

Sensory cues from characteristics like packaging material, quality and colour palettes together with the classic tools of typography, layout, illustration and photography combine to form a consumer’s impression of a brand and product. However stunning a box design is, it fails miserably on functionality if it can’t protect and carry the weight of its contents. 

Behind many products attractive and persuasive exteriors lie other direct user benefits that can enhance brand perceptions and functionality. It may be that a product has become easier to use, or that it is easier to store or is tamper evident or more environmentally friendly or simply more aesthetically attuned to contemporary home interiors or that it is better protected against contamination and deterioration. 

Supermarket product retailing is one of the most aggressive retailing sectors where competition is at it’s fiercest and consequently often where imaginative pack design and innovation is at it’s most valuable. The real point here is that the packaging can often end up becoming the thing greatest value above and beyond the actual product itself. In short the packaging becomes the most tangible evidence of the brand


Health and Safety Packaging 

Packaging design has a huge role to play in healthcare helping to communicate a whole host of vitally important messages to both doctors, nurses and patients. These can range from critical facts about dosage or imagery designed to offer comfort and confidence. Intelligent and innovative packaging can also aid in the accurate dispensing of medicines and ease of use for disabled or elderly patients.

It is also important to remember that packaging is an integral part of our lifestyles and our homes. Whether we want to or not it’s something we see repetitiously, often over long periods of time, making it a formidable medium to promote information about a whole host of issues such as general wellbeing messages about healthy eating or indeed health hazards. 


Environmentally Friendly Packaging 

The environmental impact or carbon footprint of packaging design is also an increasingly significant concern for both manufacturers and consumers alike. Green packaging now is a much about recycling as it is about distance a product has to travel from source to point of purchase. 

Companies like Tesco, Wal-Mart and IKEA can make savings of millions of euros on fast moving consumer goods by maximising the number of products they can ship per pallet thus saving greenhouse emissions along with reductions in excessive packaging to reduce weight and consequently reduce costs too. Good packaging design needs to as much drive top line sales as it does in driving down waste and bottom line costs.


Packaging Temptations and Pitfalls

There are also numerous pitfalls that businesses need to be aware of such as the desire to over-design packaging and over-promise which can lead to a consumer backlash. It does not matter how pretty the pack design looks if what you are selling on the outside is misrepresented and does not live up to the promise on the inside. Consumers might be fooled once, but your customers will not buy from you again and probably readily communicate their disappointment to other potential consumers with negative “talk” be it verbally or through the multiple channels of social media. 

Avoid plagiarism or following the style of the brand leader otherwise it could lead to trade mark infringement and costly legal action. It will most certainly lead to consumers overlooking your product as the second rate me too, if they notice it at all.

Be aware of culture sensitivities and linguistic differences. What works in one market won’t necessarily work in another e.g. in the Middle East you can’t show people’s eyes or the soles of someone’s feet as this is deemed culturally unacceptable.


Packaging Design Competitiveness

We as consumers live in a world of infinitely changing choice. A strongly packaged brand should offer protection and carve out a point of difference for the brand that can protect against competitor activity through trade marking. More significantly, a strong brand pack design can provide the key to higher margins as you amplify an emotional point of difference and apply clever positioning, in addition to a rational or functional design.


Packaging Design – The Embodiment of The Brand

As the pack becomes the embodiment of the brand, proprietors and management need to remember they are the brand custodians. Brands need constant, consistent care and attention. This means treating your brand and its every touch point as a representation of your business to the consumer. Apple is a great example of a company whose brand is handled with precision at every touch point. The packaging design has been considered just as much as the product it contains.

Never forget, you can’t fool the consumer. Their value and perception of brands is based on how they find them, experience them and engage with them. Brands don’t kill brands, people do through carelessness, mismanagement and neglect. Respect and nurture your brand and it will deliver ongoing profitable results.


Return on Investment – Brand Packaging Design 

The bottom line for business is that packaging design will almost always have an effect on a company’s profit and loss. Treated as a cost and nothing more than a cosmetic makeover, the effect on the bottom line is likely to be largely ineffective. Treated as an investment and handled with care as a strategic weapon, the result can be very profitable on an ongoing basis.


If you’d like to know more, drop us a line to [email protected] or give us a call at T: +353 1 8322724. We’d be delighted to talk with you.

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    “I recently organized a large Business Forum for business owners and stakeholders entitled ‘After the Storm – New Business Opportunities’ to highlight the challenges and changing face of doing business in 2013. I was delighted to engage Lorraine Carter to speak at the Forum as I have seen first hand her expertise in Branding and Design.

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    “The Maguire & Paterson brand was established in 1882 and therefore the rebranding and new packaging had to be managed in a very sensitive and caring manner.

    Persona Branding & Design worked very effectively with the M&P management team ensuring that the findings of consumer research were correctly interpreted and factored into the brand revitalization and new range designs. We found their ability to steer us of significant benefit.

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    Andy MulloyManaging Director | Connemara Seafoods Ltd

    Caterhire-500px“I have worked with Persona Branding & Design for more than 8 years. They have become an invaluable extension of our team, working with us in a flexible, intelligent and pragmatic way.

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    Country-Crest-500px“I can’t say enough about the excellent work that Persona Branding & Design has done for us. They didn’t just look at our design requirements but challenged us to really look at the fundamentals of our brand and our target market.

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    Lorraine patiently guided the team through the process and was excellent in identifying the nuances, do’s and don’ts of our target market. We started out thinking a brand was just a logo but now know better!

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