As powerful as visual communication is in modern culture; as engaging as visual brand representations can be, consumers are hungry for something deeper. Marketers who are taking their brands to a whole new level are tapping into that ”something deeper.” Compelling design: imagery, fonts, icons, color and structure are being elevated by forward-thinking consumer product brands via advertising, social media platforms and the greatest marketing communication vehicle of all – packaging.
There are plenty of examples of beautiful and imaginative package design. But much of it is devoid of brand personality, message or purpose. It’s art for art’s sake. It catches the eye but it doesn’t inspire or satisfy the consumers’ deeper desires. So it fails in a marketplace burgeoning with (too) many choices. Then there are examples of packaging that resonate because they deliver brands that have soul. They have purpose; thus, consumers’ respond to these brands in an emotional manner. Purpose imparts meaning and relevance giving brands value in consumers’ eyes. Everything else, while visually beautiful, is superficial and unable to make human connections.
What’s your brand’s purpose?
A brand has to be authentic, genuine and meaningful. Then it’s important to tell the story to the consumer in every aspect of the brand design. Now let’s remember: today’s consumer is presented with all kinds of stories. They’re not interested in more of the same. Consumers are looking for stories that make a profound point.
Let’s look at where our cultural evolution has taken us. Consumers are less materialistic now. They want to purchase less, but that less has to be better. They are actively seeking brands that are not only interactive, but immersive. Consumers are latching onto brands that encourage freedom of expression; that enable them to celebrate their individuality. Take note: that’s more elevated than brands’ invitations to join the cults that they’re trying to create. Consumers are responding to branded products that are simple and minimalistic; that save and reuse precious resources. And in this age of me-too sameness stamped from machines, craftsmanship is a stand-out. A shared sense of humanity is deeply affecting; we are all in this together. Lastly, consumers enjoy entertainment brands that create new universes of experience for them. Here’s the thing: brands that are inspired and inspire consumers in turn, live in a rarified atmosphere. They sit atop Mount Everest in the marketplace.
So what’s your brand’s purpose? Whatever it is, how can you create compelling visual design to tell your story in such a unique, decisive manner that it makes consumers stop in their tracks in seconds? To not only purchase your products, but to immerse themselves in your brand? How can you use visual and verbal design to engage consumers in an ongoing manner by delivering your purpose via rich, memorable experiences? That is relevance, my friends.
Packaging makes the brand tangible
Brands are at a fork in the road. If they take the well-traveled side, they’ll slowly disappear over the horizon. If they take the forest side, they’ll methodically carve out a trail and creatively move forward leaving marks and signposts along the way. That will entice consumers to follow them into an intriguing new landscape. Translation: me-too products that are marketed in a traditional manner via advertising and the expected category packaging will only meet with marginal success, at best. But the odds are against their survival.
There are new rules of engagement dictated by consumers and their deeper need states. Consumers are intrigued by brands that are inspired. Their curiosity piqued, they will check these brands out: online, offline and between the lines. But the brand message and the manner in which it is delivered had better be impactful. The visual design compelling. And the story riveting and culturally relevant. If each interaction with the brand inspires the consumer, magic happens. But guess what? Web sites, social media and rich content, while important, aren’t the end-all, be-all. Packaging is. For consumer products, packaging makes the brand tangible. Great visual design makes it come alive. Conveying the story in mere seconds is challenging, but when it is expertly done, package design creates a memorable experience. And it goes a long way to cementing brand-to-consumer relationships.
Package design inspired to inspire
When I think of the mere seconds in which consumers scan the retail shelf, and I always do, it is impetus to create more inspired package design. If we as designers get inspired, we will create that effect in consumers. Inspiration comes from many sources. Of course the brand itself, and everything that it encompasses, has to be our primary guide. But there are many avenues to take to give it compelling visual expression that hits the mark within today’s consumer culture.
My favorite examples are usually found among consumer products that would ordinarily be viewed as commodities. Consider shampoo. Think about how many brands, sub-brands and varieties of shampoo fill store shelves. There are a staggering number of choices. Yet, Head & Shoulders found a way to speak to consumers in a profound manner with a new entry in the marketplace. So what’s unique about a 2 in 1 dandruff shampoo with conditioner? Everything. A sleek, new package structure in stark black with ocean blue cap and white font tells the story with selective verbal brand communication. The words: ”2 in 1 Classic Clean” appear in blue. Below that, the dominant visual design element of an ampersand filled with plastic bottles delivers great impact with the words beneath it: ”Made with Recovered Beach Plastic” in white lettering. Not only that: this is the “world’s first shampoo bottle made with ocean plastic”. Conscious minimalism? Check. Sustainability? Check. Will this packaging make the brand a hero in our modern culture? Check.
Now let’s consider coconut water. There are many examples of this ubiquitous drink packaged in PET plastic bottles or aseptic packs. So how can one more brand break through and score with consumers? Simple. Package 100% certified organic, raw, non-processed coconut water in what else? An actual coconut. Then place the coconut in an open carton with a straw and wrap it in film. That’s exactly what the Genuine Coconut brand did. How’s that for conscious minimalism, sustainability and authenticity all rolled into one simple story and then delivered via killer packaging?
Now let’s talk about vision. How inspirational are these branded products thanks to their packaging? When brands emerge like this, they’re category breakers.
Toying around with package design
It’s no secret that we specialize in the toy and entertainment industries. There are many inspired examples of ground-breaking package design for toys and licensed entertainment properties for kidsumers to get excited about. Some of the hottest toys are delivered in inspired packaging.
Spin Master’s Hatchimals brand took the toy industry by storm a few years ago, winning the Innovative Toy of the Year (TOTY) Award for 2017. Hatchimals spawned CollEGGtibles, in turn. Not only are these toys unique and inspired; so is the package design. Now a 12-pack egg carton has been designed; filled with 10 CollEGGtibles within purple-speckled eggs, one out-of-egg specimen and one of two Flamingeese, a new exclusive. What an ingenious idea for reusable packaging; one that is relevant to the brand and its fans! After all, kids will use this as a carrying case for their favorite CollEGGtibles. This is vision. It keeps the brand front and center for kids who are bombarded by a world of toy brands.
How many robotic toys are populating retail shelves and e commerce sites these days? Sphero’s newly released droid has been dubbed: “a new disturbance in the Force. BB-9E™; a menacing astromech droid of the First Order.” You guessed it: this is the BB-8’s evil twin in the Star Wars universe and it’s going to be a massive hit. This app-enabled droid is controlled by a smart device or it can roam on its own. Its black and gray body recalls the iconic Darth Vader so we can expect plenty of mischief from this latest licensed robotic Star Wars toy. Sphero’s warning to consumers on its web site says it all: “This is NOT the droid you’re looking for… it’s the droid that’s looking for you.”
While the BB-9E toy design is bound to become iconic, so is the packaging. A pure black background with superimposed visual of the BB-9e in black and gray with “light” bouncing off the surface of the droid is a stand-out. The white Star Wars logo appears on the upper left-hand side of the package and the Sphero logo on the upper right. A red bar on the lower left-hand side of the box stands out in stark contrast containing the product name and description in four simple words: ”BB-9E App-Enabled Droid.” The side panel shares more information with the consumer about the droid’s features. When licensed consumer product packaging is this deftly designed, it’s inspirational to legions of Star Wars fans around the world – promising a rich new experience for enthusiasts of one of the most beloved entertainment properties of all time.
There is a plethora of competition in each of these consumer product and toy categories, yet these brands are blockbusters: the best of the best. That’s because their brand owners understand where our culture is and where it’s headed. They’re savvy about the new rules of engagement. Their products are strong but what makes them irresistible is package design that is so inspired they defy the laws of gravity.