How Packaging Becomes the Brand.

Package design, when well-conceived and executed, plays a pivotal role in the realm of brand experience. Especially in the case of toy packaging and licensed consumer product packaging. Good package design brings consumers into storylines. Great packaging delivers something so compelling that consumers actually experience the full essence of the brand.

Who doesn’’t like a surprise?

What if packaging was leveraged to deliver something so fresh and so magical that the brand became one of the hottest in the toy business? And what if it was solely driven via social media?

One of the biggest toy industry surprises in recent memory has managed to pull this off. The L.O.L Surprise! Doll came into being because the brand owner, toy wiz Isaac Larian of MGA Entertainment, watched YouTube unboxing videos one night in 2016. These videos, some of which had millions of hits, depicted children opening up toy packaging. In an ““aha”” moment, he realized something crucial: no manufacturer had created toy packaging where kids couldn’’t see what was inside. He immediately grasped how compelling it would be for kids to unbox toys which were unseen.

Without a single ad, the YouTube unboxing videos of the L.O.L. Surprise! Dolls have driven the sale of twenty-five million units through 2017. And as of the beginning of 2018, this is the best-selling toy in the U.S. Amazing success with an unconventional new collectible toy marketed solely through social media. Unboxing videos depicting young girls peeling back layers of the L.O.L. Surprise Dolls packaging have enjoyed millions of hits. The ingenious package design in the shape of a ball features seven layers that are removed one at a time to reveal a secret message sticker, first, followed by a collectible sticker sheet, a water bottle charm, shoes, an outfit, an accessory and last but not least, a collectible L.O.L. Surprise! Doll. Filling the water bottle to feed the doll, leads to an additional surprise. She might cry, spit, tinkle or change colors. Young girls are enthralled by the process of unboxing to discover the treasures that lie within this unique packaging.

The package design features a thin outer wrapper with a large eye-popping brand identity. Chunky L.O.L. letters appear in white outlined in black and filled with black polka dots; and the word “”Surprise”” in white beneath them over different colored backgrounds: yellow, aqua, green and magenta among them. Artwork depicting one of the small, wide-eyed dolls appears to the left of the brand identity. In a speech bubble the doll tells us that there are “”45+ to collect!”” Beneath the brand identity on the bottom of the package there are two emotive messages to young girls: ““Let’’s Be Friends!”” and ““#CollectLOL.””

This proves that even in a collectibles category populated with powerful brands like Hatchimals and Shopkins, there’’s always room for new properties with package design know-how to make their own mark by creating a unique brand-centric experience.

Getting down in the dirt.

As moms and dads know everywhere, kids don’’t mind making a mess of their rooms when they play, but cleaning up is another matter. Jakks Pacific strikes a familiar chord with kids and their parents with its brilliantly conceived Real Workin’’ Buddies brand. Mr. Dusty the Dump Truck is a terrific toy for tots but the packaging really delivers the brand. Visual and verbal brand communication come together in this packaging in a seamless manner. While a traditional die-cut window shows most of the toy, the artwork depicting the truck in motion vacuuming up toys littered on the rug, super-imposed over the actual product, rivets any child’’s attention. The phrase: ““Really cleans up!”” tells kids that this toy really works, and a ““Try Me”” button encourages them to see for themselves.

Mr. Dusty’’s facial features: eyes, nose and mouth give him a very human persona, one that attracts children and makes them perceive him as a friend. This perception is further bolstered by verbal brand communication that Mr. Dusty makes 50 phrases and sounds. Vertical artwork on the right-hand side of the front panel skillfully depict Mr. Dusty’”s three main attributes, underscored by one word in each frame: eat, sweep, dump!

The Real Workin’’ Buddies brand identity is spot-on with its blocky typography and a couple of well-placed rivets that highlight the word “”Buddies””, again promoting Mr. Dusty as a pal. In the middle of the letter “”O”” in the word Workin’’, a nut appears. While the brand identity is meant to depict the tough, gritty nature of toys like a dump truck it is also somewhat softened because after all, these are toys for toddlers and preschoolers. Obviously, there are plans for brand extensions here. Mr. Hosey the Fire Truck is next, debuting early in 2018, and I expect that he will be presented in equally compelling packaging.

Fashionista statements.

Remember when Barbie doll choices were limited to a handful of different hair colors and styles? When she was impossibly slender and statuesque? Those days are gone. Mattel’’s fan-favorite fashion doll the world over has undergone a complete transformation. During the fall of 2017 and spring of 2018, Mattel launched Barbie Fashionista dolls in multiple skin tones, as well as curvy, tall, petite and original sizes –– a true representation of the various body types of the girls who want to play with Barbie dolls. These iterations of Barbie have their own striking, unique look from hair colors (including trendy pink or blue) and hairstyles to fashion-forward apparel and accessories that reflect current trends.

Barbie Fashionistas are touted by Mattel as “”the new crew””: New Friends –New Fashions –– New Stories. Barbie fans have always created and shared storylines. The new Fashionista-branded Barbies are bound to inspire stories that are in alignment with girls around the world; stories that reflect their own cultures and aspirations. Mattel’’s package design delivers the brand in such a compelling manner that girls’’ imaginations will be ignited as soon as they see it.

The blister card design allows the dolls to be fully visible. Bold, graphic backdrops in black and white make the colorfully dressed dolls a stand out. The Fashionistas sub-brand name appears in vertical lettering on the left-hand side of the card and then in super-imposed, thermoformed letters on the blister itself. On the bottom of the package a trio of cool Fashionistas strike model-like poses, cleverly showing additional doll choices.The Barbie logo in its signature pink juxtaposed with the black and white Fashionistas name form the brand identity and it is seamlessly woven into the artwork. Both are ““outlined”” just as the thermoformed letters are. The only verbal brand communication appears on the upper right of the packaging, telling girls whether the doll inside is curvy, tall, petite or original in size. Nothing else is required.

Mattel continuously proves that blister cards are just as important as any other kind of packaging. It can be more challenging because of the limited real estate in which visual and verbal brand communication must be maximized. But done well, blister packaging for toys can be just as compelling as those that are boxed.

Taking it up a notch.

The ultimate objective of package design is to deliver one brand above every competitor’’s within a product category. When it is compelling, packaging becomes the brand in the minds of consumers. It leverages powerful visual and verbal design elements that create a unique language – one that can’’t be co-opted by wannabees and imitators. It’’s already owned.

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