Packaging is increasingly an area of focus by Brands not just as a means to deliver its product in the most convenient and efficient way, but as a vehicle to engage the senses, display your personality, and to start a conversation. As a result, we have seen a growing number of examples where unexpected talents from the creative industry have partnered with designers to create absolute gems that attract the eyes and hearts of those that are exposed to the final product. There are many ways to produce great packaging, but the importance is to have a clear focus around which story can be created. I will explore a few in this article.
The most obvious focus of packaging is to deliver a functional message. At the end of the day you want to make sure your consumer knows what he will get at that crucial moment of truth. However, most efforts against this objective produce expected outputs. Those that apply strong creative and storytelling rigor can produce work that will make the most out of that moment of truth because the level of engagement is so simple yet so thorough that a person is convinced both intellectually and emotionally. Here are a few examples:
Fit Buns High Protein – The product benefit is clearly shown by showcasing the product in the most unexpected but incredibly entertaining and engaging way. (see more info here)
Festina Waterproof Watches sold in bags of water – The proof of effectiveness is showcased via the packaging and the boldness of the idea translates to a brave, strong, and irreverent personality which is definitely a badge that some watch wearers want to display (see their site here)
Clearasil Squeeze – This pack design shows what the product will do and lets you physically feel the benefit (squeezing out the pill “or pimple”), as such there is a strong emotional attachment to the product and subconscious belief of its effectiveness (see portfolio of designer here)
Ford Ranger Extreme Matchbox – There is a lot of fun one can have with matchboxes so it may not belong in a packaging article but I really liked how the cargo load is perfectly communicated. Moreover, using a match box is brilliant because of the likely proximity placement to your desired customer (ie diners, gas stations, etc.) – here are some more unique matchbox ideas
La Vieja Fabrica Marmalade collection gives freshness a new twist. Not only is the packaging visually mirroring the source of the product, it has added a textual layer to give you a sense that the product is truly fresh.
Another focus of packaging is to leverage a partnership, cause, special event, or promotion. Most do this via graphic add-ons and the like. Some push the boundaries to create collector items. Coca-Cola is exceptional at this (see an example here). Then there are those that capture the message or benefit of their partnership or cause while creating a real piece of visual entertainment and something that tells a story. Not only are you clear about the partnership and why it makes sense, but you recognize the dedication the Brand has with the partnership given its strong creative effort to merchandize the cause. Here are some very creative examples:
A Danish Breadmaker who is a partner of the Cancer Society created a special pack for their annual Breast Cancer push. This packaging raised awareness of what is at stake. Brilliant.
City Harvest Donation Bags created to humanize the value of donating food. You see and feel what your food will do for another human being. Very powerful. The bags are supplied to supermarkets and grocery stores. (Here is the designers site who won several awards for this work)
The next focus of packaging to is make your product an object of desire. For some categories this is easier and thus expected, such as wine and spirits, making the quality of packaging very high in order to stand out. In these cases the need to frame up desire differently than expected is the key to success. For other categories, such as many within FMCG, by making your product an item of desire as would be the case with fragrances and the like, you are indirectly layering on a degree of “premiumness” that helps distance you from possible commoditization. Here are a few examples.
Coca-Cola Serving Cups – The iconic contour bottle is heroed allowing the liquid combined with ice to be gloriously displayed and creates palette appeal. The positioning of the straw makes you feel more connected to the liquid because you can see the same drink effect as with the glass bottle
Cole & Webber United – By wrapping a bottle of wine within a wooden log, not only indirectly gives an organic feel but also makes the product feel exclusive and hard to attain. Within the wine business this creates a heightened sense of desire. (see their site here)
Another focus of packaging is to make your consumer want to touch the product, to give it textual magnetism. Sometimes engaging with a certain product or category is just very routine. Many within these categories attempt to create love for their products by imbuing the product with greater meaning. This is great, but at the end of the day you want your consumer to actually have a physical or sensual memory with your product (the equivalent of the fizz when you open a bottle or can of Coke). That way a routine has a Brand associated with it and that becomes very hard to break away from. Here are a few nice examples:
DFP.COM – I really wish this was developed for an actual ketchup Brand which is why I am using it as an example. Heinz has cornered this market with pouring rituals and the like. As such, creating a very different visual perception of the pleasure of getting the ketchup out of the bottle would be genius.
Kase Stifte – The grating ritual of cheese is a commodity. By creating a different way to do grating that is built-into the product and pack, you start to develop a new ritual. If this is fun and adds entertainment to the cooking or meal-time moment then you can start to pull away from competing products.
Mount Fiji Tissue Holder – Tissues are among the greatest commodities. Giving the “pull out” ritual a level of entertainment adds a smile to your face and can make the mood you have when you have a cold a bit more uplifting.
Origami Beer has given new purpose to “label playing”. It is a common habit to play with a beer label but by giving this behavior new meaning it makes you pay more attention to the product and appreciation for the Brand.
The next focus of packaging is to bring to life the mastery and thus quality and craftsmanship of the product. The most obvious way of doing this is by writing it all down – alcohol brands do this extensively. In some cases that makes sense and creates credibility and trust. In other cases it intellectualizes a skill that is much more that something that is simply learned. As such, showing the skill through the packaging can be a great way to bring both sides of the brain together to fully appreciate the mastery being served up.
A great example is Green Berry Tea where the tea bags are designed using origami so that while the tea is brewing you appreciate the wait and indirectly expect a higher quality brew.
The last area that I will speak about is when packaging focuses on bringing to life the Brand world that you want your consumers to escape into. You will frequently hear that Brands want to create realities that frame up their idealistic view of the world. Fanta is a perfect example of this. However, packaging most often is just a facet of this world. Meanwhile, it is arguably the most important piece because it is the touchpoint where you are closest to the product. Ideally, you don’t want solely to use packaging to remind people of your world, you want packaging to be a doorway to the world. That way you start your emotional journey at the point of purchase and moment of consumption. I have a few great examples of this:
Vonnegut Dollhouse CD pack – This indie Canadian band used their packaging to recreate a 3D sense of their “ideal” performance environment
Hanger Tea Packs – The relaxed home environment where this tea can be thoroughly enjoyed is signaled through this brilliant closet idea. Moreover, the product mastery (much like the example above) is demonstrated.
Baguette Wrapping – Somehow this packaging triggers a unique consumption environment imagery compared to that with traditional bakery wrapping
Special thanks to the guys at DeMilked for sharing the great ideas that inspired this article.