February 19, 2014

Don’t Make My Computer Look Like a $5 Brown Bag Special

Don’t Make My Computer Look Like a $5 Brown Bag Special

Why is the packaging for big luxury items so unbelievably dull? Honestly, it’s almost as though the manufacturers want their boxes to be used as the foundations for dog beds and homeless encampments.

We’re kidding, obviously. No matter how sublimely extravagant a large appliance or computer is, no one keeps the boxes for any reason other than the possible return of the product or unchecked hoarding behavior. A person may leave the occasional Gucci shopping bag or Remy Martin 1738 Accord Royal box lying around, but no one will be impressed by a house full of Apple display or Dell computer boxes.

However, does this mean that large item packaging should be neglected completely? Of course not! Giving high-end products high-end packaging design only serves to give the product luxury appeal. It makes the contents seem stylish and important, rather than just utilitarian. Apart from making sure that the product doesn’t shatter or melt during transport, customer appeal is the goal of any respectable packaging designer, no matter how big the product or how unlikely it is that the customer will even see the package prior to purchase.

Large Appliance Packaging – the Ugly Stepchild of the Packaging Design World

Computer packaging – or any big electronics packaging, for that matter – is unique to high-end packaging design in that it isn’t heavily relied upon to actually sell the product. We don’t buy televisions or stereo systems based upon the packaging we see on store shelves simply because we mainly don’t see the packaging on the store shelves — we see the display products themselves. The packages are only seen by the customers after the electronics have been purchased and are being loaded into our vehicles. (Except, of course, on Black Friday, but then the customers aren’t exactly casually perusing all of the details of the $99 touchscreen laptop, are they?)

Naturally, just because the consumer isn’t relying upon packaging design to make his or her final purchasing decision doesn’t mean that the packaging shouldn’t be tidy. Once the customer has had the chance to really scrutinize the packaging concept, you want the customer to be nonetheless dazzled — or at least impressed — by the design. That High-Def LCD TV cost $1,200! C’mon — at least try to make your consumer feel as though his money was well spent.

Of course, slightly smaller electronics could easily benefit from quality packaging design. If your gaming console is sitting right next to an Xbox system, you don’t want your packaging to seem wholly inferior, do you? No! You want that parent — unversed in the importance of electronics branding and the entire pre-adolescent social structure built upon owning the newest Xbox incarnation — to see your gaming console package and think, “This seems every bit as good as the more-expensive Xbox system! Little Timmy will love it!” He won’t, of course, but if your excellent packaging has convinced the parent otherwise, then the package has done its job.

Having a crisp and well-considered package will also do wonders to alleviate big-ticket item buyer’s remorse, by the way.

Eco-Friendly Computer Packaging

Of course, the holy grail of high-end packaging design for computers is the iMac, and it’s still pretty sparse. It follows the same template for all Apple product packaging — white box, spare graphics, a huge and crystal clear photo of the product and a bold-as-brass logo. Oh, so clean; oh, so impressive.

But Dell has entered the packaging design game by employing “Green” computer packaging processes. Their packaging materials have been reduced by 12 percent since 2008, and use only recycled or eco-friendly cushioning materials and inserts. Dell has also embraced “mushroom technology” as a replacement for petroleum-based packaging for heavy items such as whole desktops and servers.

Since the world isn’t yet clamoring for wildly new computer packaging structures (dome-shaped boxes! Transparent Plexiglass computer enclosures!), it is important that the layout of the graphics of the packaging as well as the quality of the packaging materials themselves be stellar. This goes for just about any kind of packaging that would otherwise be in a bland box, devoid of any thought. Instead, have your packaging design company come up with a unique look that stands out and makes the person feel like he got his hands on something special. Using environmentally responsible packaging and superfly graphics will give the product a stateliness that wouldn’t otherwise be achieved. Prestige products are selling an image, and you want that brand image to be multidimensional.

In summation, high-end packaging design for large electronic items shouldn’t be an afterthought even if the packages themselves aren’t widely seen. Having a sleek, sophisticated and eco-friendly package will set the brand and the product apart from all the other acres of appliances in the Best Buy fulfillment center.


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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