Britt Klontz is a Digital Content Strategist at Distilled, an online marketing company.
5 min. read
Updated October 27, 2023
Advertising budget: check. Marketing budget: check. Product development budget: check.
Product packaging? Uh, check back later.
If you’re like most small businesses, product packaging is often a last minute detail for you, or at least not at the top of your priority list. But there’s a reason the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” exists: most consumers do judge a book precisely this way—and they do the same with product packaging.
It’s a big deal if your lackluster packaging turns customers away from the shelves. Still, the need for great packaging is more nuanced than just grabbing attention.
Here’s what great packaging does for your product and your brand:
First and foremost, good product package design will set you apart from your competitors on the shelf. The colors, fonts, text, voice, logos, and any photos you use have the potential to catch the eye of the consumer—even when they’re just browsing casually. Good design will communicate your unique story, as well as the value and personality of your brand. It also helps you emphasize key differentiators, like price, ingredients, production process, and mission. All of that, in just a glance.
Whether you have two products in your catalogue or hundreds, consumers should be able to take one look at your packaging and immediately recognize your brand based on previous interactions or advertising. While each new product should of course have its own unique packaging style, good design will keep the brand’s overarching feeling in mind in terms of color schemes, font choices, and overall look.
Great packaging design will, in short, create a distinct identity or personality that customers will greet eagerly whenever they stumble across your products in the store.
Have you ever picked up a product looking to compare its ingredients with a similar product, only to find yourself searching and searching? It’s a common mistake in package design—especially when a company doesn’t actually want its consumers to look that hard at what goes into their products.
Today’s consumers are savvy and will persist in actively searching for the information they need in order to make a purchasing decision. If your product design doesn’t include that, then they’ll simply turn elsewhere.
Likewise, today’s consumers are highly concerned about sustainability. By choosing recycled and non-toxic materials, using the bare minimum amount of packaging, and letting your consumer know all of these things, you’re building your green credibility and trumpeting it loudly to your customer base.
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Even in this highly digital world, there’s nothing quite like holding a product in your hand before making a purchasing decision. When you put time and effort into developing effective product packaging, you’ll give your customers the physical shopping experience they may not even know they need.
Great packaging can even be a way of gamifying your product, syncing easily with your wider marketing campaigns. Your customer might, for example, be more likely to pay attention to an eye-catching sweepstakes or to a deal integrated into your design than they would another email in their inbox.
Of course, product packaging also directly affects the psychological states of your customers as well, which again is important for influencing the decision making process. Red, for instance, can excite your customers, which is probably why a company like Red Bull, which appeals directly to a young, extreme sports audience, features the color prominently. Green, on the other hand, is better associated with relaxation and wealth, which is why you may see it featured prominently in spas and in Whole Foods.
If you choose a relatively unique color (at least for your space), customers may even come to associate it directly with you, which is great subtle psychological marketing in the event the customer encounters that color naturally as they move about their world.
Of course, product packaging has a highly functional purpose: it must protect your product’s physical integrity. After all, no one likes spending money on a purchase only to find it broken or nibbled on when they get inside! The best packaging will also protect other key sensory features of the product, including its scent and look, both of which can be damaged during shipping and in the event of any improper exposure.
On board yet? Great! To get started without breaking the bank, you can check out this product packaging guide, which takes you through the steps of the process. Here are a few key things to keep in mind for keeping the budget down:
Corrugated cardboard is incredibly strong and also incredibly lightweight, so it will go much further than other packaging materials. It’s also recyclable, which is great for keeping your business environmentally friendly.
Again, great for your budget, great for sustainability. Don’t be the business that leaves a huge bubble of air at the top of the package or who overcomplicates the design.
Digital printing makes prototyping affordable for every budget—not just those with corporate coffers from which to draw.
The only thing you don’t want to skimp on? The actual design. With so many potential sales at stake, you want to go with the best designer you can find!
At the very least, getting acquainted with the psychology of packaging design will prevent you from inadvertently creating a design that turns your customers off, and it will ensure the integrity of your products.
At best, it will help you win customers you didn’t even realize were available to you. Isn’t that worth a few more dollars from your marketing budget?