August 14, 2014

4 Ways to Put the Fun Back in Packaging

4 Ways to Put the Fun Back in Packaging

Remember the opening of that 1990s movie Joe Versus the Volcano, when the Tom Hanks character (Joe) and his co-workers death-march themselves into their horribly depressing and dingy office building for yet another soul-numbing, suicide-inducing work day? That doesn’t seem too terribly far off for those of us used to working under fluorescent lighting. Even though adulthood might seem like a grim slog towards the inevitable — to be endured rather than enjoyed — product packaging doesn’t have to be so incredibly dismal.

Why take childlike wonder away from packaging designs? We might not be children anymore, and we might have weighty responsibilities and obligations, but that doesn’t mean our products have to relentlessly grown-up. While we might be exactly wowed by hidden toys in cereal boxes or bouncy-houses, we are pleased and seduced by the whimsical and unexpected. Today we will act as your packaging design company ambassador for fun packaging ideas, so strap on your party hats and let’s commence with the childlike wonderment! Okay, take off that hat. You look ridiculous.

Make it colorful!

One of the biggest mistakes you can make in terms of design is deliberately making something drab and boring. When we say “deliberately,” we mean failing to do something visually interesting or eye-catching specifically because you are afraid of alienating the consumer. Man up, will you?

It’s true, grownups tend to enjoy muted colors more than little children do (you won’t find earth tones, burnished metallic and neutral shades in any item on the shelf at a Toys “R” Us), but that doesn’t mean adults don’t occasionally respond to bold, electric, primary colors, too. Look at Las Vegas, for heaven’s sake: Designed by grownups, for grownups, and not a scrap of subtlety in sight.

Make it useful!

Children love “Transformers” and other toys that can be manipulated and turned into other things, but so do adults. No, not “Transformers” — please. James Bond gear, baby! Who doesn’t love glasses that double as cameras (except people who live in San Francisco) bagpipes that double as flamethrowers; cigarettes that double as bombs; pens that double as bombs; toothpaste tubes that double as bombs! [For the record, we do not endorse packaging that can also be used as an explosive device, no matter how well-designed.]

So, in keeping with the James Bond-ian theme for food packaging: A canister that turns into a bowl! A box that becomes a display case! A bag that turns into… another bag! It’s the perfectly grownup love of gadgetry that makes utilitarian packaging a boon for product marketing endeavors.

Make it shiny!

Babies love shiny things, and so do grownups — DeBeers, the diamond mining and retailing juggernaut, has made itself a billion dollar enterprise based upon the adult love of shiny things. Infants love playing with stainless steel bowls; socialites love playing with sparkly things.

So, package-wise, why not add a bit of luster, glitter and/or metallic shine to your packaging concept? If properly done, it will not only make your product eye-catching on the store shelf, but also seem quite luxurious and prestige-enhancing, and for everything up to and including high performance antifreeze, prestige is all that matters.

Make it a unique and pleasing shape!

Adults and children are both influenced by shape in equal measure. Of course, adults have practical considerations: Will it fit on my shelf? Can I put it in my cup holder? Can I fool people into thinking it’s a real Gucci Soft Stirrup Crocodile Shoulder Bag or is it a little too square?
Real-life considerations aside, there is no reason why your packaging shape can’t have a bit of whimsy; making your package resemble another item is a great way to add visual appeal and fun. The Japanese are masters at this concept.

So, what have we learned today? We learned that the opening six minutes of Joe Versus the Volcano could have been documentary footage from much of our own lives. We learned not to be afraid of fun colors. We learned that if you attach a sparkly thing from a stick and dangle it anywhere in Los Angeles, all Kardashians and at least one Hilton will come running. Most importantly, we learned that fun packaging ideas don’t have to be relegated to the next generation of Transformers Age of Extinction Autobots — grownups can have their fun, too.


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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