The development of a packaging program for a licensed brand, when done correctly, is approached from a modular point of view, with its design assets seamlessly accommodating any potential structural configuration across a broad range of consumer product categories throughout the retail environment. Getting this right is critical to the success of every licensed brand in the marketplace. The brand’s packaging program must be a functional design system that’s properly and consistently implemented by licensee partners in the design of every licensed product’s package on a global scale.
However, regardless of how well a packaging program has been designed, it isn’t considered complete until guidelines have been established for its standardization. Getting the guidelines right – ensuring that they’re easy to follow and fool-proof for even the least design-savvy licensee partner – is equally as critical to the licensed brand’s success at retail as developing a well-conceived package design system. Properly-instituted standardization guidelines make it possible for each licensee to build their packaging on their own, while ensuring that its design will align visually with that of every other licensee’s packaging. It’s what establishes a consistent brand statement at retail, which leads to greater brand recognition and translates to stronger sales.
Licensed product packaging standardization methodologies
There are two overarching methodologies that can be employed for the standardization of a licensed brand’s packaging program. The methodology you choose to leverage for your licensed brand should be based on the manner in which it will be delivered to licensees.
1). Packaging standardization as part of a consumer product licensing style guide
When a brand is new to licensing, or when a licensing program won’t be in the marketplace for a long period of time (think: movie-related, anniversary or promotional programs), investment in the development of a stand-alone licensed product packaging program guide may not be warranted. In this case, the packaging program may be presented to licensee partners as a modest section within the brand’s consumer product licensing style guide. Templates for each packaging format are represented on individual pages, typically surrounded by notations that provide implementation instructions and highlight the specific package design assets being used. A line or two of text along the bottom of each page indicates where the template and package design assets are located among the licensing assets.
This template-driven approach is effective, yet it leaves quite a bit of room for interpretation by licensees, who may require additional guidance from the brand owner’s internal creative team for them to get things right.
2). The stand-alone licensed product packaging program guide
For evergreen licensed brands and those that are experiencing longevity in the marketplace, packaging program standardization should be presented to licensee partners as a stand-alone document. There are a variety of ways that a licensed product packaging program guide could be developed. Some are quite visual and rely more on exploded and ¾ views of each packaging format, rather than the use of heavy instructional text, to show licensees the proper relationships between package design assets. Others are much more rigid and rely on a combination of visuals and extensive step-by-step instruction that leave very little to the interpretation of licensees. These typically feature specific measurements, proportion ratios and examples of dos and don’ts to ensure that every package design in the marketplace representing the licensed brand looks exactly the same.
The evolution and perfection of our approach to standardization
Since we began developing licensed product packaging programs for our clients’ brands, we’ve been evolving our standardization process. As our process evolved through the years, its success has dramatically improved as well. We measure the success of a packaging program’s standardization by the accuracy of package design submissions among multiple licensees and how easily and efficiently licensees are able to arrive at the desired visual result without much intervention by the brand owner.
After having designed and standardized the packaging programs of countless licensed brands, we’ve refined our philosophies around the method in which standardization should be presented to licensee partners. And we’ve perfected our approach to standardization through this refined mindset.
The basis of our licensed product packaging standardization process
We truly believe that the best way to standardize the implementation of a packaging program for a licensed brand in the form of a stand-alone document is to first introduce licensees to the program’s package design assets individually, while explaining their role in the overall package design system. The introduction of package design assets should be linear, with each being presented in the order in which they would be used to build each panel of a product’s package, beginning with the primary display panel. This will allow licensees to become familiar with every package design asset while also gaining an understanding of how they all come together in a modular fashion.
Once the package design assets are introduced, the templates of each packaging format should be presented, along with call-outs that highlight each package design asset’s file name, as well as notations that explain the assembly process. The primary packaging formats should be presented first, followed by secondary formats. Any special circumstances, such as how to address extreme vertical or horizontal structures, structures with unique window configurations or package panels that are oddly-shaped, should be highlighted towards the end of this section of the guide.
Approaching standardization in this manner has proven to be fool-proof for licensees and has saved considerable time and effort for brand owners. The ultimate benefit is that it ensures visual cohesiveness when licensed products are merchandized within the same retail environment. This, in turn, establishes a positive brand experience for consumers and influences their decision to buy.
To view examples of our approach to licensed product packaging standardization, visit the PJ Masks, Peanuts and U.S. Soccer packaging projects, then scroll to the bottom and toggle through the highlighted pages from their respective standardization guides.
If you’d like to learn more about our approach to licensed product packaging standardization, let’s have a conversation. If you’d like to share your experiences with packaging program standardization guidelines for licensed brands, whether good or bad, please tell us about them below.