So you’ve conceived, designed, prototyped, and manufactured the next Big Thing—the product that will change the world. Congratulations! But guess what? You’re not done yet.
Now you’ve got to come up with some truly killer packaging to seal the deal and make sure Joe or Jane Q. Public picks your widget up off the shelf.
Packaging is itself a product—one that introduces what’s inside, protects it, displays it, and does so much more. Here are five reasons why you should care about—and invest in—your packaging.
1. Packaging Is Practical. At heart, packaging’s primary job is to physically protect your product. And, depending on what the item is, it’s also a security aid for your retailers to protect against theft.
As you’re developing your packaging, think about the retail channels where it’s going to live. Product designer and entrepreneur Cindy Glass asks, “Does your packaging require a special kind of rack or pegboard to improve the display possibilities and keep things neat? If you can, visit a handful of retailers first and ask for advice on the nuts and bolts of how they would display your product to make things as easy as possible for them.”
Remember, packaging is a separate physical object that must be manufactured. Keep these packaging considerations in mind. Does it require multiple parts? Custom molds? Can you scale it up or down? And don’t forget the packaging you’ll need to get your products from factory to market—the packaging around your packaging.
2. Packaging Is Visual. You can’t underestimate the importance of “shelf impact.” Your packaging design is what will first attract buyers to your product on the shelf, and it’s what they’ll remember when they walk away.
Attractive, high-quality packaging communicates high-quality product. “Our original packaging was nothing special,” says Glass. “Our final packaging had pizzazz that looked like it belonged in the Apple store. Same exact product—the $0.30 packaging added a $3 perception to the retail possibilities.
“A friend said, ‘I love Apple’s packaging; it’s so minimalist.’ Not by a long shot! Based on my experience, packaging like that has a dedicated design team and most likely a lot of people hand-gluing boxes in a distant land…We wanted to look like we belonged at Apple so we went in that direction. It delayed us almost a year and just about killed my spirit. But it was the right thing to do.”
3. Packaging Is Informative. Packaging is an information-delivery system: it tells your prospective buyer, “This is what I am, and this is what I do.” This might seem obvious, but it bears repeating. Don’t leave people guessing as to what your product does and how it works—folks shouldn’t have to work hard to get at your message.
The copy on your packaging should be both informative and brief. On most packaging you won’t have a lot of real estate to work with, and even if you do, in our 140-character culture, people want information delivered quickly and simply. Brevity is your friend.
4. Packaging Is Narrative. We don’t just value products; we value the stories that go with them, partly because of what those products and stories say about us as individuals. The iPhone’s packaging conveys simple, spare, sleek, and modern—if you buy one, that tells the world that you too are modern, hip, and design-oriented.
Your packaging gives meaning to your product beyond just what it does, and it also offers the opportunity to be an extension of your values. For example, if what you’re selling is eco-friendly, bring that into your packaging by using recycled or post-consumer-waste material—and by calling attention to that fact in your copy.
5. Packaging Is Emotional. Shopping—even if it’s done online—is an emotional process that’s ultimately about decision-making. Packaging can provide the emotional connection that jolts shoppers to choose your product over one that’s more familiar.
The elements in your packaging design—colors, visual metaphors, textures, materials, and word choice—all help to create a mood. They evoke feelings. Be strategic and use that to your advantage.
Take color, for example. People’s associations with color are very personal, but there are some generalities psychologists have observed with regard to color and emotion. Red gets our blood pumping with excitement. Blue is peaceful (or sad). Orange communicates trust and value, and yellow can be agitating. Learn the basics of color psychology and apply them to the choices you make around packaging.