All marketers should be able to sum up their brands in a few, concise words. This is an important exercise. And, if it hasn’t been undertaken before, it should be. When clarity precedes any marketing strategy, it’s far easier to execute and produce better results with a stronger ROI.
After clarifying the brand, one of the next steps should be to evaluate the brand’s packaging. Why? Packaging is the brand’s most highly interactive touch point and it makes the brand most tangible to consumers. Taking a good look at the brand’s current package design will be revealing. Is it visually aligned with the brand? Does it speak to the brand’s positioning? Does it deliver the brand message and its promise? Does it create a positive brand experience for the customer? If packaging isn’t doing these things, it isn’t achieving its full potential. And if it isn’t doing that, it isn’t selling the product or the brand.
Packaging must be unique and visually distinctive to win with consumers
Too often, a brand’s packaging fails to be distinctive. It fails to communicate the brand’s core attributes and key selling proposition, and it misses a unique opportunity to create that all-important brand experience for the consumer. This is why there’s a huge number of failures in the marketplace, particularly in the toy and entertainment categories. Have you ever noticed how similar packaging becomes in categories where there’s a clear leader? Have you noticed how competitive brands, both national and private label, begin to mimic the look of the category leader’s packaging. The color palette, graphic approach, and visual trends that appeal to the same target audience start to look a bit too similar among competitive brands. When brands mimic each other’s packaging, how can consumers differentiate once brand from another? How can the brand’s products even attract consumers’ attention and have a fighting chance to be picked up and purchased?
The stakes are higher now. Consumers are quite willing to buy, but more wisely and with more deliberation. They’re staying loyal to brands they feel strongly about. Yet, they’re also a bit more open to considering brands they’ve never purchased before if they clearly demonstrate more value. With this in mind, can a brand’s packaging afford to fail? Maybe it’s time for a rethink and a refresh.
Take ownership of a signature color or color palette
Leverage the brand’s signature color. If it’s too similar to others within the category, punch it up by adding another color to form a unique, eye-catching palette. For example, we all know that Barbie owns pink in the fashion dolls category, yet pink is a relevant color for toy brands appealing to young girls. Ask the question: what color or color combination truly communicates my fashion doll brand’s unique attributes to its target audience? Maybe that color, when combined with pink, forms the perfect palette for your brand. The key is to be more brand-centric when determining your brand’s color palette. Look inward at your brand to inform your decision. This will ensure that the colors you’re using refer back to the brand and are not arbitrary just to be different.
Distinctive color can also be incorporated into a brand’s logo and work in conjunction with the color of its packaging to form a unique palette. As we all know, a well-conceived and executed logo can, over the course of time, become iconic. Think: the Hot Wheels logo’s red and yellow flame holding shape. Yes, the Hot Wheels packaging takes ownership of the color blue. But it’s the blue combined with the red and yellow flame icon that immediately communicates Hot Wheels. The point: consumers who see these color combinations instantly recognize the brands they stand for; they concisely conjure up the brand message and promise quickly and clearly in their minds.
Establish package design assets that visually refer back to the brand
Besides color, a unique, stylistic treatment and approach to a brand’s package design assets – its package design architecture, trade dress, product imagery and typography – can be used to make a brand stand out among its competitors. As is the case with color, the treatment and approach to a brand’s package design assets must refer back to the brand to work synergistically. The more unique they are to the brand, the more distinctive the brand’s packaging will be within its category.
Spin Master’s Pixo Bitz Studio packaging is a perfect example of a visually distinctive approach to package design assets that match the brand. The Pixo Bitz logo itself begins to tell the story of the modular construction system. The word “PIXO” is made up of the individual, square, pixel-like water-fuse beads in multiple colors. The package design architecture we established for the brand – a vertical, black grid of the same mini beads dominates the left portion of the front panel, acting as a holding shape for the logo and step-by-step insets. The background behind the product image is a bright teal with a sparse pattern of soft-focused, overlapping squares, further reinforcing the unique shape of the beads. Even the typography has been extruded to resemble the square shape of the beads. And, since the builds you make can be customized with mini water-transfer decals, a brightly-colored pattern of the endless variety of decal designs and stylized illustrations of the 3D beads appears to the left of the package design architecture and fills the entire left side of the package.
Leverage a unique structural strategy to further differentiate the brand
Package structure can have a huge impact. When almost every package in a particular category is uniform in size, shape and appearance, a unique structure design will further differentiate a brand. But that unique package structure must be applied to more than just a single product within the line. It needs to function as a structural strategy that finds its way into every product’s package in one way or another.
MGA Entertainment’s Bratz fashion dolls, known for their unique almond-shaped eyes and lush, big glossy lips, are also known for their iconic, trapezoidal-shaped packaging. The shape is simple, but it has always been used to represent the Bratz brand, since it’s inception in 2001. The trapezoid has been used right side up and upside down and its width has been extended to accommodate certain products over the years. But, the side panels are always at the same angle, which is what makes the structural shape so iconic. One of the most recent iterations of this iconic package structure is found on the collaboration between Bratz and London-based fashion label, Mowalola. The collection of haute fashion dolls reimagines two signature Bratz fan favorites – Jade and Felicia – in full makeovers and unique, custom-designed outfits. There’s also something slightly different about the trapezoidal structure. Although the sides remain at the same iconic angle, the top shoots off on an upward angle that truly makes this collection visually unique, without diluting the overarching structural strategy.
Create positive experiences with package design to make an emotional connection
Each aspect of a well-designed and executed package design functions seamlessly and in tandem to deliver the brand to the consumer, creating memorable experiences that perfectly align with the brand. By elevating packaging to its full potential, the consumer experiences the brand in a positive manner. Positive experiences trigger more-than-rational purchase responses by appealing to consumers’ emotions. Emotional connections lead to brand loyalty with consumers counting such brands among their must-haves. Given this potential, does your packaging match your brand?