Designing a great package for your products or your contract packaging clients may seem like feeling around in the dark, but a few foundational principles can be used to guide your decisions. Surprisingly, most of these principles for how packaging affects sales have more to do with psychology than art.
The basic goal of a package is to communicate information. That information is relayed through more factors than just text. The way the information is arranged, the images it’s accompanied by, even the font used to display text can all tell consumers thousands of things at once with just a glance. Without being aware of how design elements communicate to people, product packagers, or manufacturers could accidentally relay messages they didn’t intend to say. Or, worse, their package might not end up saying much of anything at all, encouraging consumers to pass it by for competing brands.
To help ensure that your packaging says what you want it to say, here are a few package design principles you might want to pay close attention to.
Creating Packaging That Stands Out
The proof of how packaging affects sales is in the results when you make changes to your packaging in order to make yours stand out. Having your packaging stand out on the store shelf depends completely on two separate factors:
- Naturally eye-catching elements, like very expressive typefaces or bright colors.
- How your package looks relative to your competitors’.
Number 2 is absolutely critical and requires significant mobilization in the form of vigorous competitor research. While it may seem foolhardy to let competitors dictate your approach to attracting buyers, what you are really doing is gathering background information so that you can benchmark the current trends in your industry.
Say, for instance, that you are a natural fruit juice brand that wants to grab shoppers’ eyes with bright neon color palettes, like those that were popular in the 90s. But perhaps all your competitors also use similar bold colors? In that case, using a more restrained but still colorful palette can provide the “pop” of color you need without blending in seamlessly to the rainbow of other colors on the shelf.
Being unconventional may even require removing something you may take as a given. If your spaghetti sauce brand wants to recall traditional Italian neighborhoods, having an all black or white jar instead of a green, red, or earth-toned one can separate yours from others, even though those colors may feel uninspired. Similarly, choosing a handwritten product font over a serif or signboard-style one can be enough to communicate “I’m different,” even if it doesn’t instantly bring ideas of Little Italy.
Being Selective With How You Present Your Information
Now more than ever, consumers aren’t just looking at packages to decide on the cutest mascot or the most expressive typeface. Instead, they want information.
This increased scrutiny on the information a package offers concerns itself even more with what isn’t in the product as what is. Take, for example, the recent obsession with whittling down ingredients lists to their bare components and avoiding the use of scary-sounding chemicals like “potassium sorbate.” Some companies have even gone so far as to declare the product has “Just X Ingredients” or boldly proclaim something like, “100% Paraben Free!”
These declarations can potentially foster trust with consumers, but they have to be able to process it all first. So, the question becomes, what information is most important and how obviously will it be presented?
For instance, some product names now include qualifiers like “Gluten Free” by default, rather than as a secondary packaging claim. The “live Gfree” Aldi brand even embraces the information as a core component of its branding. On the other hand, a product like bacon that would only rarely encounter gluten might want to declare “gluten free” more subtly on the packaging.
There’s also the issue of competing for the most prominent product claim. Is “100% Preservative Free” more important than “All Natural”? Is “Made in Small Batches” a more important claim than “A Family Owned Brand”? The priority can dramatically affect how the consumer processes the information and the subconscious brand associations they have as a result.
No Easy Answers When It Comes to How Packaging Affects Sales for Your Products
At the end of the day, the “right” decision with product packaging comes down to the unique way your brand or product line appeals to your set of core consumers. Considering how people process information and not taking for granted the subtleties involved is key to successfully communicating your most important brand differentiators.
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