November 9, 2014

Packaging Design For The Crowded Energy Product Category

Packaging Design For The Crowded Energy Product Category

It seems that nearly every week there’s a new product on the shelves promising to deliver the solution to our increasingly overwhelming schedules: energy. Everybody’s looking for their mojo these days in energy drinks and power bars, and the market is surging to meet the demand.

So a high demand means the product should be easy to sell, right? Wrong! A soaring market actually means the exact opposite — cutthroat competition. You want your product to stand out from the crowd, and unfortunately having a high-quality product doesn’t guarantee its success on the market. Packaging design can make or break whatever you’re selling, no matter how much it might rock your socks off.

Let’s take some pointers from a few successful brands in the energy market:

Red Bull


This Austrian energy drink is the highest selling energy drink in the world, so they must be doing something right.

Red Bull sports the classic tall, thin aluminum can that has become the signature package for energy drinks. The can is ideal because it’s portable, easy to hold and durable. Differentiating yourself from the crowd is one thing, but since the can has become such a symbol of energy drinks, taking a completely different packaging approach could run the risk that consumers won’t immediately recognize your product’s use. Bonus: the can is also recyclable and cost-efficient to produce.

The colors are bright and the lines are clean. Red Bull is primarily marketed towards young athletes who are into extreme sports, and the symmetrical image of fighting bulls suggests power and endurance. You can almost picture a couple of BMXers or Formula 1 drivers seeing their image in these powerful beasts of burden.

Clif Bar


Another highly successful energy product, this time in bar form.

Here is an example where differing from the pack works. Clif Bar stands out from most energy bars, which are normally long and thin. Clif Bar gives you more of a handful and can appeal to people who don’t like standard energy bars by avoiding the association.

Clif Bar’s target audience is the outdoorsy, endurance sport type. The creator of Clif Bar is a former mountain guide and was inspired to create the product during a 175-mile bike ride, so you get the idea. The design on the wrapper speaks to this demographic with earthy tones, easy-to-read print that’s soft on the eyes, and the image of the daring mountain climber that’s tastefully off-center.

So we’ve got ourselves some good examples popular with the American consumer. Let’s take a look at some products that haven’t struck gold in the states just yet.

28 Black Energy Drink

Black Energy Drink

This is still the number one energy drink in Poland, where it’s produced. It has all the usual components of an energy drink packaging design, and the company even brought a famed sports star to help market it: Mike Tyson.

Apparently, including a convicted rapist on a can which carries the slogan “Sex Energy” seemed like a good idea to Black’s marketing team. Oddly enough, while Poland and much of Europe can’t get enough, gathering momentum on the American market has been tough. Imagine that.

When introducing a product to a new market, make sure to look into local pop culture and references — especially if you plan on using some to promote your energy drink. Cultural difference could make the difference between X-Gamers swearing “it gives you wings” and the public collectively rolling their eyes at you.


VAAG Energy Drink

This energy drink was launched at the start of 2013 and is popular in Asia and Africa. “Vaag” apparently means “tiger” in certain dialects of India and other parts of Asia, but this brand may have withstood more chance for popularity with an English speaking market if they had chosen a name that couldn’t be so easily mistaken for the female version of Viagra.

The can features an interesting image of what appears to be a tiger emerging from swirling vapors and gives the sense of an opium-induced hallucination rather than a lucid energy charge. To top it off, the nutrition label takes up nearly a quarter of the surface area and doesn’t blend with the design. Nice try, but this drink will likely remain out of the American consumer’s selective grip.

When it comes to marketing your product, the packaging design is what delivers the message of what you’re selling. Without the advantage of stellar packaging and an effective design, it won’t matter if your energy product transforms people into the Incredible Hulk or just a lazier and more withdrawn version of Bruce Banner. Delivering a crisp, clear image of what your product can do without the obstructions of controversy and confusion can make all the difference on the open market.


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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