Whenever someone writes a piece about the 3 things you should do to ensure success at anything, I’m usually skeptical. Because I know there’s a lot more to it than just getting a few things right. And, yes, that’s certainly true in this scenario as well. There’s a broad spectrum of design strategies that need to be employed correctly for a brand’s packaging to be successful among the visual chaos and over-saturation of the toy categories at retail. But, if I had to narrow it down to three things that are absolutely critical to get right, it would be these that I’m about to impart to you right now.
Incorporate Distinctive Package Design Architecture
We define package design architecture as a uniquely dominant design element that works in conjunction with the brand’s logo to draw the attention of consumers. It’s what they look for, whether consciously or subconsciously, when they’re trying to find their favorite brands at retail. It may take the form of a highly-identifiable graphic shape that consumers would immediately associate with the brand. Or it may take other forms, such as illustrated or photographic imagery, a consistently-configured piece of character artwork, or an iconic pattern or texture. As is the case with the brand’s identity, it must always be consistently placed within the package design system for it to be effective.
Think: the lush vegetation with Kumandra flowers that dominates the package design for Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon packaging; or the action-packed cityscape silhouette that appears in tones of blue on Hot Wheels packaging.
Own a Color Palette
For toy packaging, color plays a critical role in establishing an immediate visual connection between brands and consumers. Think of the global brand leaders in the toy industry – those that own their respective categories – and a color will instantly come to mind. Although it’s tempting for some brands – especially new brands with no visual equity – to simply take a look at the competitive offering in their category and select a color for their brand that’s not being used, this isn’t an effective approach to owning a color. The visual impression of any given category tends to change quite frequently as both dominant and emerging brands update their packaging. Therefore, there’s no guarantee that the color they’ve selected won’t be used by another brand by the time their products are shipped.
With this in mind, it’s best to look inward at the brand itself when taking ownership of a color or color palette, and establish one that’s meaningful and innately associated with the brand’s unique attributes and distinctive personality.
Be Consistent with the Treatment of Marketing Communication
We’ve found that the downfall of most toy packaging is the result of marketers’ and brand managers’ tendency to place marketing communication wherever space is available on-pack. This can be detrimental to a product line’s shoppability because consumers will struggle to find the information they need to make their purchase decision when navigating a brand’s packaging.
When done correctly, benefits and features, and any other pertinent information, will be consistently placed and treated in the same visual manner within the package design across the entire product line – ideally in one dedicated space that will serve as an easy-to-locate “information center.” Taking this approach creates a more intuitive shopping experience for consumers, making it much more likely that they’ll make a purchase.
It’s also important to be clear and concise with on-pack marketing communication, while focusing only on what’s most compelling and differentiating about the brand and the product. Verbal communication that’s lengthy or too complex is often ignored by consumers. Be brief and effectively deliver the information.
Pulling it all together
Whether you have an existing toy brand or you’re introducing a new one to the marketplace, these three design strategies will put you on the right path to ensuring that your packaging has the best opportunity for success at retail.
Start by evaluating your brand and mining for inherent assets, attributes and visual cues that distinguish it from all others in the marketplace. Then infuse them into ownable package design architecture, leverage them to establish a unique color palette, and convey them to consumers through concisely-written and consistently-treated on-pack marketing communication.