June 9, 2016

Designing Packaging that Teens Won’t Ignore

Designing Packaging that Teens Won’t Ignore

OMG. Like, I can’t believe they even packaged stuff like that. Like, didn’t they read SmashBrand’s article on how to package for teen customers?

The affection teenagers have for your product could mean the difference between existing in obscurity and being a major retail sensation. This is not only because the teenage market is, in itself, enormous, but because many adults take their cues from what the youngsters embrace. Oh, adults might not go so far as to wear “fashion braces” and listen to Ariana Grande, but the “Twilight” series didn’t become a global juggernaut without a lot of grown-up help.

Package for Stores, Not Apps

You might think that, because teenagers spend nearly every waking second staring at a digital communications device of some kind, they would largely abjure brick-and-mortar retail stores in favor of online shopping apps. Of course, you’d be wrong. If you want to market your product to a teen or ‘tween demographic, one of the first things you should know is that teenagers tend to make their purchases in physical retail outlets far more than they do online. Although it is true that the young are completely in the thrall of their Samsung Galaxies and their iPhone 6’s, they are staring at their phones in groups, as they wander in and out of shopping complexes and other teen hubs. This is because the teen is a pack animal, and pack animals do not hunt via Google Shopping.

According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 80 percent of surveyed teenagers stated that they preferred to do their shopping in stores. What does this mean, then, for packaging? It means that your youth-focused package design has to be tailored for the display case, rather than the thumbnail. Packaging that begs to be picked up, held, and inspected is a must if you’re going to seduce your teenaged consumer.

Visual Appeal Is Everything

Teenagers shop impulsively, and they’re drawn in by trendy color combinations, textures, sparkle, and shine. A young buyer tends to believe that his/her identity can be summed up by their personal sense of style. Adults don’t generally purchase food/beverage items because the packaging matches their favorite shoes, but a teenager will. When you are designing your packaging concept, make sure it mimics the personal aesthetic of your target teenagers’ fashion trends; it if looks like what they’re wearing, they’ll be attracted to it.

If you have an entire product line, structure the youth-focused package design in such a way that one package compliments the other when displayed in a group. If the packages look great bundled together on display, then they will also look great bundled together on a dresser or in a bathroom shelf. A young buyer is, therefore, more likely to buy the set, and not just a single product.

Keep the Teenager Entertained

Just because teenagers don’t make their purchases online doesn’t mean that they don’t want the physical buying experience to be similar to the colorful visual excitement of the online world. Use your packaging strategy to engage the kids. How do you engage them? By showing them how your product will allow them to live the lives of their dreams. Seriously.

Remember, not only are you selling a product and a brand, you’re selling an entire lifestyle, and although this is necessary no matter who your market is, it is doubly necessary when you’re marketing to kids. Kids love to imagine themselves as fully developed people, who are capable of making choices independently of their hormonal fluctuations and the opinions of their peer group. Use your youth-focused package design to sell them independence and fun. Tell them you take them seriously as individuals, even as you hint that your lip gloss will turn them into Taylor Swift.

Also, one of the best tools in your marketing and design arsenal is humor; if your design uses quirky, ironic, and even snarky concepts, your average teenager will be sold.

The teen and ‘tween markets are rich with revenue possibilities. Although teenagers are terribly fickle when it comes to brand loyalty, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put a targeted effort into winning them over, even if it is just for the short-term. Kids are impulsive, visually-oriented, and sensitive to group-think. Why allow these developmental hurdles to go unexploited?


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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