September 4, 2018

7 Tips for Competitive Package Design

It’s hard to stand out on the shelf, but brands have considerable options for making an impact with their customers.

With how competitive the current retail market is, it’s not surprising that so many companies are looking to give their brands a boost with a revitalized packaging campaign. And while you shouldn’t let the “rules” of design limit your creativity in coming up with new ideas, there are several best practices you should remember if you want to stay competitive on the shelf.

Prioritize Usability

No matter how creative you get, your packaging should support how the product is used. Have you ever watched someone make a chopstick stand out of the wrapper? That’s usability in action. Other examples include pouches with resealable zippers, shaped nozzles for pouring, or even the relatively new trend of upside-down condiment bottles.

Create Need

Creating need through your designs is a time-tested marketing tactic, usually taking the form of limited time promotions that make use of artificial scarcity. Consider creating new packaging designs for specific promotions or holidays. We know it sounds old-fashioned, but research on the topic is clear. Artificial scarcity has a positive effect on attitude towards the product, impulse buying, and purchase intention. Take advantage of it.

Show Your Product’s Best Features

Consumers want to know what they’re getting before they buy. They want to see the object. Feel it. Experience it. But without your help, they can’t. Consider using transparent packaging that shows off your product or cut-out windows to give them a tactile experience. Engage their senses and let them interact with the product.

Simple Messaging

It’s well documented that consumers don’t take long to make assessments about products. Keep this in mind when creating your designs. What’s your primary value proposition? Identify that and push it hard. In most cases, reducing unnecessary clutter will give your packaging a more refined, focused appearance.

Keep It Sustainable

Sustainable packaging is coming down in cost, and more companies are jumping on board. Switching to sustainable packaging is a great way to reduce your company’s carbon footprint, but it also plays great for consumers. If you’re pushing the eco-aspect, make it clear in your designs that you support sustainability and let users know how to reuse (and recycle) your packages.

Consider Store and Shelf

Are you selling your products online? In your brick-and-mortar store? Consider the location before getting too wild with your packaging. If your products need to share shelf space, you’ll have more limitations on size and design. Online gives you more flexibility, but users don’t get the benefit of seeing the items in person. These considerations are basic but crucial to the success of your marketing.

Have Fun With It

And lastly, don’t forget to have fun with it! Your packaging is the perfect place to show off your brand’s unique vibe. Look at Chipotle for a great example. Over the years, the company has featured a selection of humorous, thought-provoking designs that engage customers while displaying genuine enthusiasm. This excitement transfers to your customers, even when they don’t realize it.

Differentiate Through Design

We’re well past the days of basic designs that make a basic pitch and move on. Innovative packaging designs are one of the best ways to differentiate yourself from your competition—make sure you do it right.


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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