How Does Packaging Contribute to Product Identification
Admit it - we all judge a book from its cover! The shape of the fonts, the thickness of the stamp, the gloss on the author’s name… we can’t help but pick it up and browse through it.
The same is true for product packaging. The colors, images, fonts; they just reel us in! Brands that do this successfully have managed to explode their sales numbers in a short period of time, establishing themselves as market leaders. Just look at RX Bar, the infamous protein bar that went from $2m per year to $160m per year simply by changing the wrapping of their product.
But RXbar is not the only success story when it comes to great packaging. There are hundreds of brands that have made their products more desirable simply by creating a package that their audience is able to identify with.
So how does packaging contribute to customer identification? That’s exactly what we will discuss in this article. After reading through the contents of this post you should get a better understanding of how to go about the design of your packaging and hopefully imitate RXbar’s success!
What is retail packaging?
While retail as an industry is very broad, the concept of packaging is usually straightforward. The term refers to the (sealed) box or package in which a product comes in. It may serve as a protective layer to sustain or transport a product (e.g. food), and/or enhance its brand’s visibility.
In this article, we will focus on the second aspect - packaging in the context of marketing. The main questions we aim to answer therefore are (1) how does packaging contribute to product identification and (2) how to choose or create a package to make your ideal customer discover and choose your product from all the options available.
Importance of product packaging
A few decades ago people didn’t have access to the number of options they have today. Think about it. Your grandparents probably bought their groceries from the same local market, their clothes from the same store, and got milk from the milkman for years on end. It was all about the product and its utility, and there was usually only a handful of options to choose from.
In time, however, this concept changed. With globalization (open trade) and improved connectedness (internet), mom-and-pop stores disappeared. Instead, we now have large shopping malls packed with franchise stores and hundreds of options for each type of product.
With increased product availability, competition increases as well. As a result, product authenticity (USP) decreases. You can now buy the same face cream from hundreds of different brands, and they all moisturize the exact same way.
So what makes certain brands better than others? In short, customers now buy products based on how these make them feel. The focus more on the experience and less on its utility.
And this is where product packaging comes in and why it’s so important. Especially for physical retail stores, the packaging of a product can invoke certain emotions, with which customers can identify. They create an emotional experience and a strong desire to obtain the product - they bank on a certain type of feeling more than the utility.
Gucci bags were not once bought for their utility, but rather for the feeling of self-importance they generate.
But that’s somewhat of an extreme example. Let’s look at wine instead. A very versatile product that can be seen as anything from a student party essential to a retirement gift, depending on its price and occasion. Looking at the package below you can probably understand the feeling of luxury and achievement it aims to invoke:
You would probably not bring such a bottle to a student party. However, it would make a great gift for an employee that is retiring after spending 40 years working at your company. You can also probably tell that this bottle is more expensive than typical $10 bottles.
The role of packaging in marketing can be summarized as an attempt to invoke some sort of identification with your customers, or the ideal state they aim to reach through the purchase of a product. The importance of packaging in marketing therefore aims at the following:
- Supports your branding efforts
- Emphasizes the best features of your product
- Improves the customer experience
- Indicates authenticity
- Invokes certain feelings
How Does Packaging Contribute to Product Identification
Packaging helps customers identify with a product in many different ways. While we briefly touched upon this point in the previous chapters, let us here go in more depth by listing all the different ways in which this is done.
Through form and function
The form is an important part of the packing, especially when we refer to the convenience it offers for certain products. Fresh food is best sold in transparent packaging to determine its freshness; Shipping boxes should be hard and durable to protect the product inside.
Its function is also important, as it helps customers recognise it on a shelf, use the packaging to apply the product (e.g. moisturizing spray, or AirPod case), and identify with customer values (e.g. sustainability, recycling, etc.). Overall, your package should illustrate a visual form of storytelling - one that your audience can identify with and appreciate.
The way you present your product is also very important. The fonts, features, words, and colors (more on this below) all affect how the customer is able to identify with it. A very common example is that of toothpaste - Toothpaste is an essential item that is most often presented in exactly the same way, no matter which brand promotes it. A simple, white colored tube with a logo.
However, in the past few years, presentation and eye-catching designs have made their way to this type of product as well.
- We now have black-colored toothpaste that Instagram influencers love and younger generations find trendy.
- We have packaging that promotes 20-30% or more “free” toothpaste for the same price as a smaller tube, which works great for families and older generations.
- Finally, we also see lavishly expensive, organic toothpaste made from coconut oil without added fluoride, which again is aimed to serve a certain niche of people.
Through the power of color psychology
The color of your package will have a psychological effect on the customer you are trying to attract. The following video helps you understand how this can work for your product and its identification with the ideal target audience:
Through cultural fit
When considering the importance of packaging in international marketing, we should also consider the cultural implications and traditions. A great example to illustrate this is by looking at how Japanese culture views melons, versus the way we, Westerners see do.
In Japanese culture, melons are often given as birthday gifts. Farmers are very meticulous when it comes to their growth, and some fruits can cost up to $5000. Naturally, the packaging of such melons needs to match its price. The wooden packaging and the fonts used in labeling the product remind us, Westerners of an expensive pack of Cuban cigars. For us, melons are simply stapled in the grocery store.
Overall, the importance of packaging design and presentation is something you shouldn’t overlook. With that said, let’s have a look at the things you can do to ensure you pick the right packaging for your product.
How to choose the right packaging for your product
To understand what type of package you should create for your product(s), you will need to understand your audience and spend a lot of time brainstorming. As described above, you’d want to create a design that matches the values of your brand and prompts an emotional response.
To start the brainstorming process, it is best to create a list of questions related to your objectives, brand, and potential customers. Here are a few to consider:
- Who am I selling to?
- What problem does my product solve and how can this be translated in a visual manner?
- How do I want my ideal customers to feel when they first see the product? What type of message do I want to convey?
- What type of status or idea-of-self does my ideal buyer have?
- Is the product delivered to customers or do they pick it up from a physical store?
- How can I make customers remember the product?
- How can I make the unboxing experience amazing (to the point that it leads to user-generated content?)
The answers to those questions should help you get closer to a design that speaks to the customer and helps your brand grow.
Brand packaging development process
After you understand how does packaging contribute to product identification, you can now explore the development process in more depth. The following video explains how an expert designer goes about the development process of a brand packaging. This concept can be applied to both regular packaging and virtual packaging.
How does packaging contribute to product identification? In this article, we looked at several different angles and concluded that:
- The packaging of your product is the first thing a customer notices about your brand and the last thing they remember you by.
- The design of your package should match the needs and values of your target audience, which in turn link to an emotional response. The main question here is “what message do you want to convey through your packaging?”.
- There are several factors to consider when it comes to the link between packaging and brand identification. All these need to be considered before you decide on a package concept.