By Khondker Faraz Shafiq
Store shelves are often the first points of contact that customers have with a product or brand. The first impression that they get from the product is via product packaging. A well-designed packaging gives the idea that the product within is of great value. Most people remember their first-time experience of opening the iconic white packaging when taking out their Apple product. A distinct packaging helps customers remember their favorite products and quickly identify them on shelves.
Whilst unique and familiar packaging helps customers discern their desired brand in a sea of competing products, the need to innovate is also key to help retain customers and win new ones. As competitors enter the market with more appealing product packaging and marketing campaigns, the distinctiveness of packaging for an established brand may diminish over time. Challenged by Axe in the early 2000s, Old Spice needed to reinvigorate the brand and win back the market. They did this by celebrating the art of manliness for all men and also redesigned the packaging, in-store displays, and advertisements as part of the strategy, breathing fresh life into the aging brand and packaging.
In order to ensure that the packaging of the product is both eye-catching and relatable, brands need to understand what works in the market in this day and age. Trends, successful innovations, as well as creative concepts offer great insight into what is available and what is possible.
LESS IS MORE
Current packaging trends are inspired by the modern trends in design where simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. Design themes such as minimalism, gradients, black & white, and flat illustrations are trending as a result. These themes offer clarity, focus, and distinctiveness.
Minimalistic designs aim to soothe by doing away with clutter and distracting illustrations in order to focus on simple yet appealing lines and shapes as well as take note of labels. Colors, simple shapes, typography rule the design language of minimalism. Packaging found on Apple, OnePlus, Microsoft or Google products all follow the themes of minimalism. It is also a particular favorite amongst boutiques and niche brands as its target audience appreciate the transparency and upfront attitude found in minimalist designs.
Bright gradients are another design trend focused around simplicity that still manages to fascinate customers. The blending of colors is quite common in nature, and designers can incorporate blends in many creative ways to make the packaging more distinct than monotones or dual-tones. To accentuate the gradient design of some of their top-end smartphones, Xiaomi’s chief designer has redesigned their plain white minimalist packaging for the Redmi Note 7 to have a stunning look.
Flat Illustrations and doodles remove depth and other details concerned with realism, making the illustrations simpler to visually understand, appreciate, and remember. They also allow the packaging to be unique and artsy. BRAC Dairy’s Aarong milk products have incorporated flat illustrations in their product packaging for years. Flat illustrations are particularly favorite amongst coffee shops and brewers that appeal to new generation customers. Canadian Coffee brewer, Hatch uses flat illustrations to set each of their flavors apart.
THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX
In their quest for distinction, many brands go beyond reimagining the illustrations and patterns of the packaging. They reimagine the entire packaging instead. What lays at the heart of the redesigning process is customer experience. A promise of positive experience or curiosity excites and entices a first-time consumer to buy the product; it also leads to habitual buying behavior in order to relive the experience.
To stand out from the rest, some brands change the shape of the packaging or perforate the packaging with cheeky or playful patterns. With the help of brand experience company Collins, Eos reimagined the lip balm containers to create the wildly popular colorful round shapes. The success of the design played a significant role in propelling the product to become the market leader. Artist Hani Douaji designed an award-winning chewing gum package for Trident, with a transparent opening in the middle in the shape of a mouth with the sparkly white chewing gum representing teeth.
Another award-winning design for Volksbier is the Pet bottle designs for the company’s Lager and Pilsner. The fully transparent packaging showcased the freshness of the beer, and the feel and look of the container evoked a sense of joy, freshness, and traditionalism amongst test candidates.
Other brands change the design of the packaging to open in a rather unconventional way. Smirnoff introduced a new packaging with the introduction of new flavors to their famous Capiroska line. The new packaging consisted of the bottle covered with a peelable layer with the texture of the fruits the flavors represented that had to be opened first.
Packaging that has a double function is also a great way to create more value for the product. Ogilvy & Mather Hong Kong designed the projector box for Pizza Hut that allows consumers to turn what would be a discarded pizza box into a projector using just the consumer’s smartphones.
ONE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
Product packaging is often criticized for being harmful to the environment as they are usually discarded after the product is purchased and taken out for use. As a result, companies are seeking out ways to make the packaging environment-friendly. This is especially true of large and global companies as bad packaging gives them a bad reputation for being environmentally irresponsible. Many customers around the world are becoming increasingly conscious about the environment, and so would gladly opt for a brand that utilizes less wasteful packaging than the others.
Unilever’s strategy “Less Plastic, Better Plastic, No Plastic” outlines the brand’s focus on eliminating plastic use wherever possible and has introduced reusable steel and glass containers as a trial in 2019. In 2017, L’Oreal collaborated with Ecologic Brands to launch the brand Seeds Phytonutrients which utilizes reusable, recyclable and compostable paper-based bottles and other similar packaging in their skincare products.
The wood fiber in Apple’s cardboard packaging is completely sourced from recycled products or responsibly managed forests.
Styrofoam cups and straws litter the oceans and harm ocean life. As a result, Starbucks plans on removing the straw from their drinks, and they have also announced this year that trials are underway for recyclable and compostable cups which will soon hit all their branches if proven successful.
SEE WHAT WORKS
When designing the packaging, a brand should consider its target market, its core values and principles, and its product strategies. It should take note of what has worked in the market for competitors and other brands. Environment protection should also be a concern as future generations will demand more eco-friendliness from brands.
There is no single winning formula for a brand when it comes to packaging. Rather brands should utilize strong design languages that are currently trending and fuse them with an original and creative design to develop packaging that sits well with their brand identity and culture. Good packaging accentuates the brand proposition.