The message you sends through your product packaging is complex—so you’d better not screw it up.
Think of packaging as communication between your brand and the consumer, because that’s exactly what it is.
You want them to buy. They want to know why they should buy. Your packaging is the bridge between these two ideas, tasked with representing your brand and the core principles behind it. This is no small feat, but fortunately, packaging (an industry worth $424 billion as of 2013) has plenty of tricks up its sleeve to bring these goals to life.
How Does Packaging Speak?
Every aspect of a package relays information to a consumer, from its appearance to the way it feels to the way it sits on the shelf. All sensory aspects of a product coordinate to deliver subconscious information to a consumer about what the brand is and what values it stands for. Not bad for a bit of paper and plastic, right?
But it’s not enough to just send a message. Effective packaging goes beyond to speak to the direct needs and desires of a target market, all while being unique to the brand using it. And according to research on the global packaging market, brand differentiation for marketing advantage is one of the key drivers of packaging use, making it essential that brands approach this message with care.
Effective brand messaging relies on understanding and speaking to your target market’s experiences. Achieving this is a process known as consumer-driven design: An approach that takes the consumer’s interest into account during each step of the design phase.
This begins with identifying the target market’s needs and extends to what message each aspect of a product’s packaging sends when viewed by the consumer. What sound does the package make when it’s opened? How are the contents arranged? Do you use paper or plastic? Each of these factors is noted by consumers and used to form conscious and subconscious opinions about your brand.
Companies who prioritize sustainability, for example, would do well to steer clear of plastic-heavy packaging that’ll spend decades sitting in landfills. But this can be even more nuanced, such as packaging produce in clear plastic (to show its freshness) or selling diapers in soft, plastic bags rather than hard, scratchy boxes.
Packaging that Speaks to the Human Experience
Packaging should be designed on an experiential basis, taking in all aspects of the consumer’s desires in its communication. This is the cornerstone of effective brand messaging: Connecting consumer emotions through product benefits delivered via sensory input. These inputs can include the design of the packaging, but also involve the way it sounds, smells, and feels. These features are interpreted as benefits and travel up the cognitive chain until each is ready to add on to the conceptual snowball of brand perception. This process speaks to a brand’s ability to see through their customers and understand what experiences are driving their behaviors.
Communication through Brand Messaging
Brand messaging is the first and last way a brand speaks to its prospective consumers. As retail competition increases, it’s more important than ever for brands to understand how their customers and packaging design are related. When a customer’s unilateral experiences are summated and addressed in a straightforward package, they’ll hear the message loud and clear.