How to Standardize Packaging Without Killing Creativity

How To Standardize Packaging Without Killing Creativity

A well-designed packaging program and guidelines to support its standardization are a necessity for every licensed property. It’s truly the only way to ensure that a cohesive package design system is in place across a variety of consumer product categories. One of the biggest challenges for licensed brand owners is finding that balance between standardization and flexibility to allow licensee partners to creatively market their products. •••

Think about how many consumer products appear in any given category; how can one brand stand out among many? Then think of the wide range of consumer product categories in which a single licensed property might be leveraged. Without a standardized packaging program, all kinds of package solutions would appear; all unrelated to the brand or to each other. How would it look if merchandised within a shelf set or within the appropriate departments in retail stores by category? Like a jumble of unrelated products. No brand recognition, no purchases. That simply isn’t effective in fully developing any brand, licensed property or not.

Being flexible is the key to success

Fortunately, most licensed brand owners know this. They have standardization guidelines in place for their packaging programs. But even that might not go far enough. No, this isn’t an argument for making the guidelines more rigid; rather the opposite. Too rigid a style guide doesn’t allow for enough flexibility for brand expansion into new categories that might require very different package structures. Or allow licensees to properly market their products. Not every product’s benefits and features are clearly delivered with a simple call-out. Some may need a series of visuals to convey how a product works or how it’s used, a strategically-placed “”try me”,” or more space for brand communication.

It’s not enough to provide package design assets to licensed brand owners and licensees with one package example, and expect them to know how to utilize them as they develop their consumer product packaging. The overall visual approach should stretch to encompass a range of packaging formats. For some licensed brands, packaging guidelines make allowance for retailer exclusives or co-branded products. Showing examples of how these might be implemented is beneficial.

When it comes to licensees, it’s crucial to support them in packaging implementation rather than to reinforce restrictions. Standardization guidelines should demonstrate that they are valued partners and assure them that their packaging will align with that of every other licensee’s products, regardless of category, leading to greater brand recognition and sell-through. Showing examples of a blister card, closed box and window box configurations as well as hang tags establishes guidelines that keep the licensed brand cohesive. Translation: easily identifiable at retail and far more likely to spur purchases.

The value of effective standardization guidelines

Standardization guidelines demonstrate how brand identity, package design architecture, call-out violators, fonts, insets, color palette, character art and background imagery work together, ensuring the package design system’s successful implementation. Consistency and standardization don’t have to be boring. And standardization doesn’t have to be all about what you’re not allowed to do. It should encourage creativity and have built-in flexibility in very specific areas within the package design system.

Remember that people are primarily visual, and as shoppers, they are making purchase decisions in a scant 4-6 seconds. Few packages on the retail shelf can be scanned in that period of time – experts say that consumers take in five or fewer. Licensed product packaging that leverages distinctive package design architecture and an ownable color palette enables consumers to easily and readily identify a specific brand.

Being creative with package design assets in a meaningful way

Here are a couple of good examples of how package design architecture and the brand color palette work in conjunction with one another to make a powerful brand statement, while incorporating flexibility into their standardization:

Peanuts Global Packaging Program
The zig-zag from Charlie Brown’s sweater serves as the package design architecture while the brand’s signature yellow color fills the entire space below it. These two highly-identifiable brand assets begin to tell the brand story on everyday packaging. Flexibility is built into the Peanuts global packaging program to accommodate seasonal, holiday-themed variations.

Tapout Packaging Program
This package design system works with the brand’s signature blue color and a black and white “muscle” background image to represent the hard-body fitness lifestyle of the core Tapout consumer. The standardization guidelines feature a fitness equipment example that leverages a white background in lieu of the background image, and a beverage example that replaces the signature blue color with variety color. Yet, the overarching look of the Tapout packaging program remains visually cohesive.

Standardization guidelines take present and future needs into account, including potential line extensions. They give all of the support necessary – including package design assets and packaging templates – to present cohesive brand statement while being flexible and promoting creativity. Laying this groundwork leads to package design systems that elevate licensed brands to category leaders.

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