The secret to successful licensed product packaging - part 2

The Secret to Successful Licensed Product Packaging: Part 2

Last month’s issue of BOLT! was the first in a 3-part series in which I’m sharing insights from my Packaging That Sells conference session, ‘The Secret to Successful Licensed Product Packaging.’ So far, I’’ve made the distinction between traditional consumer product packaging and licensed product packaging, and discussed the most common mistakes made by brand owners when developing packaging for their licensed properties.

In this month’s issue, I’’ll explain how to overcome these commonly made mistakes, and I’’ll reveal the three keys to developing a successful licensed product packaging program.

So, let’’s continue……

When brand owners fail to see the value of having a clearly defined and standardized licensed packaging program in place, or believe that a packaging program consists of a property logo and a series of graphic elements, or develop packaging for their licensees on a case-by-case basis, their licensed brands fail to resonate with consumers and their products fail in the marketplace.

How do we avoid these mistakes? We need to keep in mind the goals of a licensed product packaging program:

Visual Distinctiveness

Every licensed property’’s packaging should look unique among the hundreds of licensed brands competing for consumers’ attention. This distinctiveness is what will resonate with consumers as they move from category to category within the retail environment.


Every licensed property’’s packaging program needs to be flexible enough to accommodate any packaging format.  But, it must also be flexible enough to allow each licensee to properly highlight their product’’s benefits and features.

Visual Consistency

Every licensed property’’s packaging should strive for visual consistency. The standardized use of package design assets on all packaging across every consumer product category is what will allow it to resonate with consumers.

A clear understanding of these three goals is important to every marketer, brand manager or designer working with a licensed consumer product or entertainment brand. Why? Because the three keys to successful licensed product packaging derive from each of these goals.

Key #1: Package Design Architecture

When you take a look at a licensed brand’’s packaging, what’’s the first thing you notice? Arguably it’’s the brand identity. Or, sometimes you may hone in on a particular color. But, if developed properly, I would venture to say that distinctive package design architecture is what consumers recognize first – –especially in an over-crowded, competitive retail environment.

Traditional consumer product brands can still be successful without distinctive package design architecture because the entire product line is merchandized within the same shelf set, in a single category. But, most licensed products aren’’t merchandised by brand. They’’re typically merchandised by category, throughout the retail environment. So, for licensed brands, distinctive package design architecture is an absolute necessity. Whether consciously or subconsciously, it’’s what consumers look for when they’’re trying to find their favorite licensed brands at retail.

Package design architecture should never be arbitrary. It should always be an iconic design element that derives from the most significant and equitable visual assets associated with the brand – visual assets that have the potential to resonate with consumers on an emotional level. Think: the ornate tiara made of silver scrolls and diamonds on a pink background at the bottom of every Disney Princess package; the green wave that anchors the top and bottom of the packaging for every licensed Crayola product; and the chevron shape that pinches inward on both sides of every Disney/Pixar’’s Cars package.

Key #2: Modularity

Infusing modularity into a licensed product packaging program is critical to its success. It’’s what provides licensees with the flexibility to implement the package design system across a diversity of structural configurations. This means that every package design asset, including the property logo, the color palette and font families, the package design architecture, key art, backgrounds, insets, bursts and violators, must all work in a modular manner so that they can be reconfigured to accommodate any packaging format.

It’’s the responsibility of the brand owner to ensure that the licensed product packaging program will work on the primary packaging formats found within its key consumer product categories. Whether they’’re blister cards, window boxes, closed boxes, hang tags, header cards, or anything in between.

Infusing modularity into the licensed product packaging program will ensure that its design will be consistent and immediately identifiable throughout the retail environment.

Key #3: Standardization

Once the licensed product packaging has been designed, a packaging style guide needs to be developed to establish guidelines for implementation. Standardizing this process ensures that the components of the licensed product packaging program are used properly and that the visual aesthetic is maintained by all licensees.

Standardization guidelines need to be clear and easy for licensees to follow. But, there are two schools of thought with regard to standardization methodologies. Which method you choose is determined by how you answer the question: “”How Strict is Too Strict?””

In other words, do you want to hold the hands of your licensees every step of the way? Or, do you give them some room to interpret the system in a way that allows them to market their products more creatively. There are other factors to consider as well, such as how many consumer product categories will be pursued for the brand and how many licensees will be acquired. Typically, the more categories and licensees, the more rigid the guidelines should be, since it will be exponentially more difficult to manage and approve licensee submissions.

In next month’s BOLT!, I’’ll cover these two standardization methodologies, then discuss the benefits of having a well-conceived, standardized licensed product packaging program in place, whether you’’re the brand owner or the licensee.

Until then, please share your thoughts on what I covered in this month’s issue. We’’d love to hear from you.

Did you enjoy this month’s issue? Get on the mailing list!