Packaging Design

Packaging design and print effects are understandably huge areas for brands and play an important part in the process of making an impression. What people see is very important, so the visual impact of the pack is often the first step to building a lasting relationship.

Are brands using their designs to attract attention and stimulate a purchase?

They do, as I’m sure you can imagine, focus and spend a great deal on product package design. Coming up with a graphic identity that reflects the brand and attracts purchase is vital. Good designs stand out a mile.

Two designs worth mentioning are:

Gü Puds

I’ve already mentioned this brand’s excellent construction, and it’s no surprise that its attention to detail on graphics is also impressive. The black packaging is extraordinary and makes a huge impact on the success of the brand. Consumers are quick to respond to any pack messages Gü ran, a success generated from the clear and fabulous image the pack design created. No wonder that Gü went from zero to being worth £30 million after just five years.

Kettle Chips

The designer used a superb range of packaging designs. By cleverly printing on metallic film, the brand has dulled out the metallic effect across most of the pack, meaning that where it is used, it has a strong impact. The contrast of the matt and metallic gold is surprisingly powerful. However, to print matt black on gold metallic film, the printer has to print several hits of white and then black to dull out the metallic film, making this an expensive option.

Packaging Texture

Shape and print are one thing, but there is also the whole world of touch. It’s arguably an area that has not been used as much as possible. Touch a wooden cheese Camembert box and you know it’s not cheddar. The cold, shiny brushed metal bottle of a carbonated soft drink is quite unique.

New digital technology in cutting and creasing board packaging has enabled more ornate cutting, meaning packaging can have a tiered rather than flat feel. The more developments there are in this area, the more packaging can exploit its ability to connect using touch.

Packaging suppliers are developing into more and more radical innovations. Examples include a pack that can show video or has inbuilt music. All such ideas share the same basic aims: to add extra impact on the shelf and encourage consumers to pick up the product.

To date, though, most packaging uses print, shape and touch. These media have their limitations:
– They cannot change their message depending on who is reading it
– Usually print, with no video or sound
– Cannot handle two-way communication

Packaging innovation: 4 common challenges

The packaging supply industry has a bank of exciting ways to add value, innovate, excite and develop, so it is surprising how few of these ways are actually adopted. Here are four common challenges that packaging developers usually face when trying to improve/add value to their packaging.

1. Cost

The bane of any packaging developer’s life is how easily brands focus packaging around cost and cost alone. Because brands see packaging as a cost centre, they don’t recognise its true value. The true value of the packaging is difficult to assess or measure, and usually a company has many stakeholders who concentrate on whatever they can see value in. Packaging suppliers are constantly trying to release themselves from this trap.

Why can’t we assess packaging as a cost versus value equation with clear measurable logic? Packaging needs to be assessed on the value it contributes towards the brand and the cost assessed against this clear value.

Brands have few methods to measure the value of what they buy according to what they value internally. The adage goes that a marketing team knows 50% of its spending is not working, but doesn’t know which 50%. Marketing needs better ways to align its spending with a return on investment. There is a host of traditional and new media choices to fit each specific challenge. Choices from TV, radio or publication advertising; posters, door dropping leaflets and in-store media; digital media, signage, outdoor media, experiential media… One gets approached to spend advertising budgets on a host of different media. Even advertising on a sign in a toilet has developed into a bona fide medium. Choices are multiplying but clarity on where the return comes from is getting to be more and more of a challenge.

Brands need help to choose the right media and extract the most value from it. Often, they don’t have enough budget to buy the media they would ideally want and hence are constantly losing ground. Media agencies offer services to advise on media budget usage and buy the media on behalf of a brand at a competitive rate. In truth, brands don’t get a true picture of their potential return from advertising choices. The only real way they can develop some science behind their choices is in learning through trial and post campaign measurement.

Packaging can extract additional value from media campaigns, acting as a valuable medium itself. There are limited specialists who can help to show brands how to use packaging as media in its own right. Several advisors suggest that there is media value but few can show a clear road map for a brand to use their packaging as a medium.

The first step for the brand is to actually define what value it apportions to media. This may sound obvious, but brands have not got a simple formula when buying and valuing media. A brand finds it easy to value a product ingredient, specify it and benchmark it.

Brands need to put a handle on the value of their media output, then challenge packaging to deliver an equivalent or better value than they get from other media options.

2. Unqualified professional judgement

People developing a new pack often neglect to ask the professionals to assess a requirement, making their own ‘unqualified’ assessments of the implications of a packaging design.

Some common misconceptions are:

‘By increasing the number of colours, you increase the cost’. Very often this is not the case. It depends on the number of colours being used and how available they are to use in the printing process.

‘Increasing the amount of board on a pack is really expensive’. Again, this is often false. A lot more board can actually have a very small influence on the price depending on the sheet size going through the press. If one wants to add more board on a pack and the printing sheet is working on a set number of packs per sheet size, quite frequently the sheet size used in not the maximum sheet size the printing press can accommodate. Hence, although there is an increase in board size, the printing costs and converting costs remain the same and the incremental cost for more board is not high. Very often factors of printing and converting are the bulk of the cost.

For these reasons, brand leaders need to give the technical packaging experts and suppliers the challenges and not make unqualified assessments and conclusions.

3. Operational complexity

This old chestnut comes up regularly: ‘We manufacture large volumes and need to keep our operation simple’ or ‘Any change will be difficult’. I call this the ‘imaginary dragon in the room’.

Typically, people who have no experience or qualifications still have opinions. Without understanding manufacturing and the supply chain any change is interpreted as complex. Therefore, anything that warrants change is immediately dismissed.

Ironically, manufacturing and supply chain professionals are extremely capable of making changes in their operations efficiently. Many embrace change so long as it is implemented in a professional manner. From my experience, when brands have a focussed, qualified commitment to innovate and improve packaging, it is usually much less complex and time-consuming than they may have originally believed.

4. Thinking outside the box

Many brands think of packaging within narrow constraints. This is a self-limiting psychology. They need to look at packaging as a powerful tool that can help address key challenges such as ‘We are finding it increasingly difficult to win our consumers’ attention. Any ideas how packaging can help?’ or ‘Our retailers are eroding our margin and keep reducing the price we can sustainably sell our products for. Any ideas how packaging can help?’