Six Principles of Effective Packaging Design

September 26, 2012

…by Amina AlTai

Whenever we put together a creative brief for our clients, we also outline how we will evaluate key deliverables and define the measures for success.  However, when those deliverables are creative, there is a certain degree of subjectivity.  And you often break the “rules of success” when creating something revolutionary.  That said, there are certain elements that will always drive a package to success.

1.     Visibility: Clutter is a very real problem on store shelves.  So the biggest challenge with any package design is to break through that clutter while still being contextually relevant.  Eye tracking studies suggest that consumers actually miss two-thirds of the products on the shelf, even when they are engaged in a shopping experience.  A solid understanding of how the product will be merchandized is key.  Understanding that brands have little control in the retail environment and that they might need to design for the worst-case scenario, helps brands design for visibility.  When trying to cultivate visibility, the use of color or white space can work in your favor.  Garnier Fructis, for example, utilizes a bright neon green and when all its products reside together on the shelf, it creates a big impact.  In a world of over-stimulation, it seems that simplicity creates the most contrast and allows you to stand out on shelves.

2.     Shopability: Ever wonder why so many new product launches fail?  The marketplace is inundated with choices and oftentimes when faced with too many difficult choices, consumers will revert back to what they know.  When designing for shopability, it’s more than just helping consumers find the right products, it’s about demonstrating the relationship between products and how they all work together or separately.  Defining the differentiators of each products and clearly outlining the products unique benefits is ultimately what gets shoppers to trade up.

3.     Differentiation: Unfortunately, purchase decisions are often emotional rather than fact-based and their intuition is largely based on packaging design.  Your packaging needs to own an element of intuition in order to stand out from competitors.  In other words, your package, at first glance, needs to appear to be the healthiest, most refreshing, most functional etc.  Then the claims and supporting material convince the consumer on a rational level, but the key is differentiation.

4.     Messaging: Always design for a single, clear message.  Eye tracking studies suggest consumers spend only 5 seconds analyzing a package, so in this case, having one clear claim that stands out is the most effective.  Studies suggest that adding an additional claim does not lead to additional time spent viewing the packaging.  So in attempting to convey everything to a consumer, you could be conveying nothing.  Shoppers only take into consideration 3-4 concepts when viewing your packaging (the branding, the main visual, the product description and one claim), so keep it simple if you are looking to drive impact.

5.     Consumption: After you’ve gotten consumers to make a purchase, your work is nowhere near done.  Once the product has been taken home, we have to be concerned with ease-of-use and functionality in order for consumers to make a repeat purchase.  Where a package is stored has a big impact on its repurchase frequency.  Products that are stored in the Fridge or on the counter are a constant reminder of the brand.  Packages that extend into new usage situations also drive greater consumption from great visibility.  Take, for example, the on-the-go category.  Consumers are now using products in new situations and there is the potential for sharing which then perpetuates greater brand awareness amongst the target.

6.     Sustainability: Retailers and consumers are becoming more and more aware of the environmental impact of packaging.  Some retailers, such as Walmart, keep scorecards on how the packaging measures up.  Designing for sustainability can actually help drive shelf impact and drive a sale.  Oftentimes removing secondary packaging allows consumers to see a product or interact with it more directly, increasing the likelihood to purchase.

As socio-cultural trends evolve, it is of the utmost importance to involve the consumer in the packaging design process to identify what resonates with them and what doesn’t.  Identifying which are the most important claims to bring forth, and co-creating contextual relevance on the shelf are the keys to creating successful packaging and gaining alignment.

One Response to “Six Principles of Effective Packaging Design”

  1. Aman Agarwal says:

    Awesome article kuddos

Leave a Reply