Owners of licensed brands, as well as their licensees, are sometimes disappointed by the sales of licensed consumer products. Even for strong properties, sales can fail to meet projections. Quite often, the problem lies in the fact that the property’s packaging program is poorly designed and its standardization is confusing or lacks the flexibility necessary to accommodate a diversity of packaging formats. Every licensed property’s packaging program standardization guidelines should lay the ground rules to avoid scenarios that lead to failure. The trick is to consider the property’s key consumer product categories when developing the licensed product packaging program, and institute simple, easy-to-follow standardization for its implementation within its standardization guidelines.
We’ve identified the 6 most critical scenarios to avoid when developing packaging programs for licensed brands.
1. Every licensee for himself
Without a standardized packaging program in place, every licensee will ad lib their package design. Since they don’t have a clear, standardized approach to implementation from the licensor, they are left to their own devices to design their packaging in a way that they feel works best for their products, with no consideration given to how their packaging might align with that of other licensees. This is never good. It’s painful to see an otherwise powerful property fizzle at retail due to a lack of visual cohesiveness that communicates to consumers in a single brand voice.
2. The lost brand identity
Without guidelines that speak to the specific size, placement and treatment of the property’s brand identity, the licensee is free to place wherever they please on their packaging. Without consistent placement, it’s difficult for consumers to identify the brand effectively at retail. Consistent size, placement and treatment of the brand identity allows consumers to identify it quickly and easily while navigating products within the chaos of the retail environment. Knowing where to look helps. Brand identities that “roam” from one package to the next should be avoided at all costs.
3. Missing modularity
The development of a well-designed and standardized licensed product packaging program is critical to the retail success of all licensed brands. However, there’s nothing more important than developing licensed product packaging with a modular approach to its package design assets. This is particularly critical because licensed product packaging programs need to accommodate any potential package size and structural configuration across a wide variety of consumer product categories. When the package design system isn’t developed with modularity in mind, it may become difficult for some licensees to reconfigure the package design assets in a way that works for their specific packaging formats. It is the onus of the licensor to ensure that their property’s packaging program can accommodate a window box or hang tag as effectively and cohesively as it accommodates a blister card. By featuring a diversity of configurations in a comprehensive packaging guide, the packaging program’s modularity becomes clear, making it easy for licensees to implement as they develop their packaging. A modular approach to package design also ensures that the look of every licensee’s packaging will be consistent and identifiable regardless of how many categories bear the license.
4. Undefined package design architecture
Uncovering the equitable assets of a licensed property helps to create a visual vocabulary that encompasses the essence of the property at a glance. Understanding the visual cues that resonate with consumers on an emotional level leads to compelling package design. In licensed product packaging, it’s important to leverage the brand’s most equitable visual assets as package design architecture – a distinctively dominant aspect of the package design that embodies something emotive and unique to the brand and connects most immediately with consumers. Aside from the property’s brand identity, it is the single most recognizable and most consistently utilized package design asset.
Without strong package design architecture to ground the overall packaging program, it becomes challenging for consumers to immediately identify the property at retail, among a sea of competitive brands, in every key category.
5. Lack of standardization
It’s not enough to provide licensees with a handful of package design assets and one or two package templates as examples, and expect them to know how to utilize them as they develop their consumer product packaging. Standardization guidelines need to be established, showing how brand identity, package design architecture, call-out violators, fonts, insets, color palette, character art and background imagery work together, ensuring the packaging program’s successful implementation.
6. Standardization that’s too rigid
There are two schools of thought when it comes to standardization of licensed product packaging: a strict set of protocols, citing examples of dos and don’ts and leaving no room for interpretation; or, an inspiring and flexible one showing various examples of different packaging configurations and unique scenarios. Too rigid a packaging guide doesn’t allow enough flexibility for licensees to properly market their products. Not every product’s benefits and features are clearly understood by consumers with a simple call-out.
The overall visual approach should be able to stretch to accommodate all key consumer product categories. If there are unique packaging configurations inherent to a prevalent category, showing examples of how these might be implemented would be beneficial for licensees. At the very least, setting parameters for blister card, closed box, window box and hang tag configurations keeps the licensed brand visually cohesive. The standardized use of modular package design assets among these 4 primary packaging formats will help to define and inform what should be done to accommodate unique package configurations.
The goal of standardization should be to support licensees in implementation. It should let them know that they are partners and an integral part of a bigger picture. It should also assure them that their packaging will align with that of every other licensee’s products regardless of category, leading to greater brand recognition and sell-through.
The benefits of well-conceived, standardized licensed product packaging
Well-conceived, standardized licensed product packaging creates an impact at retail. Brand owners can rely on the fact that their properties are represented in a consistent manner across all categories. The use of distinctive, ownable visual assets guarantees that the packaging can’t be mistaken for that of any other brand. And, retailers will find it much easier to merchandise licensed products for more impact and stronger sales.
Most importantly, consumers will immediately recognize the licensed property regardless of product category. That all-important emotional connection with the property will be made as they shop – all due to the extra care that was taken to avoid the six common pitfalls that usually derail the success of licensed product packaging.
To see a few examples of licensed product packaging done right, check out the following:
• Peanuts Packaging Program
• PJ MASKS Packaging Program
• Thunderbirds Are Go Packaging Program
• John Deere Packaging Program