March 4, 2019

4 Millennial Packaging Design Tips for Customer Engagement

Millennials (born roughly between 1980 and 2000) represent one of the biggest markets for CPG manufacturers. With nearly $200 billion in total spending power, it makes sense that CPG companies want to tailor their marketing strategies and packaging designs to cater to these audiences.

However, marketing to Millennials isn’t that different than marketing to Baby Boomers or even Gen Z’ers; although Millennials do feature some unique characteristics, each of these demographics is separated by only a few decades. Here’s the secret nobody’s telling you: Human nature doesn’t change that quickly, and many of the marketing tactics that worked 50 years ago still work today.

What is worth noting (at least, in terms of Millennial packaging design) is how the digital landscape has changed purchasing behaviors. Tapping into these digital tendencies is the key to reaching Millennial buyers—both in your packaging design and in your marketing proper.

1. Design With Purpose

Yes, this could be considered a “best practices” tip for any market, but it holds particularly true for Millennial buyers who live in the world of instant gratification. Millennial packaging design needs to be direct, easy to understand, and efficient, with clear value propositions and differentiators placed front and center.

Millennial buyers might be used to searching for information, but that doesn’t mean they want to do it while they’re shopping. Millennials like immediacy. They want to be able to compare your product to the next one on the shelf and immediately know which will suit them best. Complex packaging designs that feature multiple layers or overly-wordy text are out.

When in doubt, stick to a more minimalist approach that keeps your product’s key features at the forefront.

2. Create Shelf Appeal—From Digital to Physical

It’s well-known that social media drives purchasing for Millennial buyers. In a survey of 2,000 Instagram users (89 percent of whom were Millennials), 72 percent admit that they’ve made fashion, beauty, or style-related purchases because of a post they saw on social media. So, what does this have to do with the retail store shelf?

To answer that, we need to consider how your digital and physical shopping experiences are connected and the way Millennials shop. There’s this enduring myth that Millennials shop only online, but according to research, the opposite is actually true: Millennials still prefer the brick-and-mortar shopping experience.

So, when they see a stunning Instagram post that motivates them to start shopping, they’re just as likely to do it in your physical store location as your online eCommerce store. And when they visit your store to find the product they want, how do you think they’ll feel if the product looks nothing like their friend’s Instagram post?

If the packaging is sloppy or otherwise fails to show off the great aspects of the product, you’ll have lost a customer who was primed and ready to buy. As such, your Millennial packaging design needs to meet their expectations.

3. Tap Into Shared Values and Beliefs

What does your brand stand for? Is it environmental sustainability? Cruelty-free production? Profit-sharing with charities and humanitarian organizations? Whatever it might be, make sure to include this messaging in your packaging design.

Research shows that nearly 7 out of 10 Millennial buyers actively consider a company’s values before making a purchase. And in our hyper-focused world of information, it’s easier than ever for Millennials to research companies ahead of time.

If you have any specific company values or beliefs, don’t be shy about sharing these messages across all of your marketing collateral—website, email blasts, and of course, the packaging itself. Even a few details adorned on your package’s sides can be enough to let them know what you’re all about, and if they like what they see, they’ll be more likely to support your brand.

4. Solicit Feedback on Social Media

Before a full-fledged product launch, brands can learn more about how customers perceive their packaging design by testing various options on social media. Nearly three out of four Millennial shoppers trust social media recommendations over traditional TV ads. This makes sense when considering the digital age in which Millennials grew up.

As the first demographic to grow up in the age of social media, these buyers are far more attuned to social marketing than the traditional forms of outbound advertising. This makes social the perfect channel for soliciting feedback on your packaging design.

Get your package layouts on social and see which resonate best with buyers. If your packaging design picks up steam and gets shared, all the better—this is a simple and low-cost way to take the temperature of your audience and get some real-world feedback from your eventual buyers.

Millennial Packaging Design Has Flexibility

Above all, don’t be afraid to think outside the box with these design strategies. If you know your market well, you’ll know which design features and marketing strategies are essential to success—and which can be adapted to suit your brand’s unique voice.

That’s the great thing about Millennial buyers. They’re flexible and willing to accept a bit more creativity in packaging design than their older peers. Put this strategy to work and try to come up with some original ways to promote your products.


by Kevin Smith
SmashBrand helps brands create, optimize, and launch successful products, services, and customer experiences. Our data-driven process is the key to accelerating sales and minimizing risks.

We use a strategic combination of market research, design, and consumer testing to solve complex brand problems more effectively, create differentiation, and forge more meaningful connections with customers.

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