June 1, 2017

Critical Pieces Your Packaging Needs to Win the Shelf

Critical Pieces Your Packaging Needs to Win the Shelf

Like tightrope walkers, successful marketers continuously strive to find a balance between visibility and a visceral consumer connection.

Brands that can’t stand out on the shelf often drown in a sea of multi-colored product packaging. Today’s store displays are glitter-sprinkled with more outrageous packaging design aesthetics than ever before–each box and bag vying for customer attention like birds of paradise in a consumer jungle–and smart marketers find ways to overcome overwhelming choice.

Here are three critical concepts to keep in mind for your product packaging to help you win on the shelf:

1. Visibility

For both recognizable, established brands and new up-and-comers in any industry, product visibility is crucial. Whether as the brand favorite or an acceptable alternative, your packaging needs to be seen to be considered. This is no secret, but there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to increasing visibility.

That said, marketers continue to experiment with3 Critical Pieces Your Packaging Needs to Win on the Shelf

elements that have proven successful in the past. Unmistakable color combinations, easily recognizable graphics, and uniquely shaped packaging are ways in which brands have set themselves apart from the competition.

*The five-year-old test: Forbes offers sound marketing advice when suggesting product packaging must pass the five-year-old test. Can you send a five-year-old to the store with only packaging details and have them successfully retrieve a product? Why or why not?

2. Presence

Brand recognition and merchandise presence are two different aspects contributing to successful product advertising. It’s one thing to draw in consumers with unavoidable colors, but how does a customer make their choice when confronting a kaleidoscope of similar packaging?

As informed marketers, it’s your job to ensure shop-ability when everything on the shelf is trying so hard to be unique. Stand-out product packaging:

   – Looks for unclaimed visual territory

   – Provides product versioning and variation

   – Cultivates a consistent brand aesthetic

   – Creates iconic assets (graphic design elements, typography)

*Bonus Tip: Be honest. Modern consumers are marketing savvy, and branding your packaging with little white lies or big, blatant untruths is a quick road to bad publicity.

3. Resonance

To establish an emotional connection, however brief or long-lasting, should be at the top of every marketer’s priority list. You’ve pulled customers to the shelf with your eye-catching design, they’ve got your product in-hand because it’s not like the others, and the reason they’ll make the purchase is because your brand packaging speaks to them on a personal level. Call it audience targeting or packaging with purpose, but the ways in which you connect on a visceral personal level with a consumer can form life-long bonds between customer and company.

And therein lies the rub. Every consumer is different, with unique tastes and shopping tendencies, which is why no golden rule can be applied to reel in each and every last one. That’s why many brands often venture into product versioning. Fat-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, and all the in-betweens are marketing attempts to connect with a very specific type of consumer.

Great Product Packaging is Balanced

Unfortunately, neon colors, a “gluten-free” sticker, and an emotional story etched right on the package won’t guarantee product sales. Like tightrope walkers, successful marketers strive to find balance between visibility and a visceral emotional connection. It’s up to you to determine where and how to focus your marketing efforts without taking a dive.


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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