The Witcher packaging program blister card and window box

Package Design: The Most Powerful Storyteller for Licensed Brands

I often say that packaging is a brand’s most enduring and accessible consumer touch point. It’s certainly its most compelling, because it’s through packaging that consumers first come in contact with their favorite brands in a tangible manner. The experience a brand’s packaging creates for consumers must be a positive, enjoyable one. Therefore, great package design is paramount to a brand’s success at retail. It must be well-conceived and well-executed, and it must deliver on the brand promise to effectively motivate consumer purchase decisions.

But, what truly has the power to cement the brand-consumer relationship is storytelling, because it immerses the consumer into the brand’s world. Regardless of their cultural backgrounds, or where they’re from, consumers respond to storytelling because it is deeply ingrained in human consciousness. Rather than appealing to the rational side of the decision-making process, it appeals to the emotional side, which is far more powerful. It can create a sense of nostalgia, and even transport the consumer to a different time and place. It can also communicate the brand’s values, personality, and make products more meaningful to consumers. The brand’s story, delivered in a simple, truthful and transparent manner, is connecting and memorable. If it is truly authentic, it begins to build trust. As we know, every strong relationship is based on trust.

Packaging for licensed brands relies heavily on storytelling to establish a positive, enjoyable retail experience for consumers. By incorporating the right combination of equitable, highly-recognizable visual assets associated with the licensed brand – the property logo, design architecture, color palette, imagery, iconography, textures, fonts, and an overarching visual aesthetic – the brand story comes together in a unique and ownable visual language that will resonate with all of its fans.

A package design refresh that embodies an entire franchise

The Witcher is a Netflix original series based on the popular fantasy book series of the same name by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. The story follows the adventures of Geralt of Rivia, a skilled monster hunter known as a “witcher,” as he navigates a dangerous world filled with magic, mythical creatures, and political turmoil. Geralt’s path becomes intertwined with that of powerful sorceress Yennefer of Vengerberg and young princess Ciri, and the trio must fight to survive and protect each other against the many threats they encounter. The series features complex characters, epic battles, and stunning visual effects, and explores themes of destiny, power, and the consequences of choices made.

When Netflix approached Design Force, Inc., to refresh the licensed product packaging program for The Witcher, their strategy was to appeal to The Witcher’s current fan base, as well as to the broader fantasy and gamer audience, with a broad range of targeted fan/collector merchandise. The goal for the refresh was to create a look that was all-encompassing of the franchise, rather than one that focuses on a particular story arc, or on the series’ upcoming third season. They wanted to adopt a simpler, more sophisticated aesthetic, without incorporating imagery of the characters from the series.

Visual tone, iconography and meaningful color tell the brand story

Our solution for the packaging refresh begins telling the story of The Witcher with a stark, white background, which is violated by a black, gritty watercolor texture. The texture is symbolic of the wilderness depicted throughout the series, with hints of the mountains and trees found within its landscape. Overlaying the textured background are subtle, gold cartographic details and runes pulled from the iconic map of the medieval-inspired landmass known as the Continent, where the series takes place. The White Wolf symbol, representative of the series’ lead character, Geralt of Rivia, dominates the remainder of the design refresh. It is used both as a soft, golden, atmospheric element that falls behind product, and as a branding device, rendered in steel blue metal on the top panel.

The storytelling continues with the packaging refresh’s gold accent color. The gold color of some of the package design assets – the cartographic details, runes, call-out burst, and metal bar that separates the product name from the descriptor text – is inspired by Geralt’s eyes, which turned a gold color as a result of the mutations he had to undergo to become a full-fledged witcher.

Getting the story straight for all licensees

The refreshed packaging program for The Witcher hit retail shelves just in time for the summer 2023 release of Season 3. Once the new look was approved, the use of all of its modular package design assets was standardized for the implementation of key packaging formats, including a blister card, header card, window box, closed box and hang tag.  Standardization ensures that the brand story will be told consistently, by every licensee partner, throughout the retail environment, regardless of consumer product category.

Remember: package design is arguably the most powerful tool for licensed brands to use to tell their story and capture the attention of their target audience. By leveraging visual assets closely associated with the licensed brand, package design can create an emotional connection between the consumer and the brand, leading to increased engagement and loyalty. Therefore, it is crucial for licensed brands to invest in compelling and memorable package design that not only communicates the brand’s story but also stands out in a crowded marketplace.

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