Before we embark on the refresh of a toy or entertainment brand’s packaging, we always conduct The Package Design System Evaluation as part of our pre-design research process. This evaluation takes a close look at the 7 key aspects of the brand’s existing package design system to uncover any issues with how it has been maintained and standardized. More often than not, the biggest issue is the fact that too many “exceptions” to the standardization guidelines have been made by brand managers and marketers in an effort to make new products within the line “stand out” to capture the attention of consumers. Over time, this leads to a visually disjointed brand statement at retail due to too many “one-off” package designs within the product line, which, instead of evoking curiosity, cause confusion among consumers. When consumers are confused, they lose trust in the brand and move on to the competitive offering.
In the competitive landscape of consumer products, gaining and maintaining the trust of a brand’s target audience is paramount to success. Establishing a consistent, standardized look for a brand’s package design system is a powerful tool for building strong visual equity and fostering consumer loyalty. Since it’s so tempting for brand managers and marketers to veer off-course, this article takes a deep dive into the importance of and benefits to maintaining visual consistency in package design.
1). Building brand recognition
Visual consistency in every aspect of a toy or entertainment brand’s package design plays a crucial role in establishing and reinforcing consumers’ recognition of the brand. They begin to associate the use of particular package design assets with the brand. When consumers encounter visually consistent packaging across different products within the line, they develop a sense of familiarity and trust. This consistency creates a mental connection between the packaging and the brand, making it easier for consumers to identify and choose products within the line. The mass retail toy and entertainment categories are typically visually chaotic. In this type of retail environment, a memorable brand image makes it easier for consumers to recognize and connect with a brand’s products on store shelves or online platforms, instills confidence in the brand and encourages repeat purchases.
2). Conveying brand values and story
Package design should be viewed as an opportunity to convey a brand’s values, personality, and story. By maintaining a consistent look, a toy or entertainment brand can communicate a coherent and compelling narrative to consumers. Visual consistency in package design allows for the strategic use of package design architecture, color palette, typography, and other visual elements that align with the brand’s identity. This consistent storytelling creates a cohesive brand experience that resonates with consumers on an emotional level and helps differentiate the brand from competitors.
3). Enhancing Shelf Presence and Impact
Visual consistency in package design enables toy and entertainment brands to create a strong visual impact within these crowded and visually-overstimulating retail categories. A unified, standardized package design system increases the brand’s visibility, making it easier for consumers to locate and identify their favorite brand among the competitive offering. When a brand not only shares common package design assets across the packaging for its entire product line, but also standardizes their placement and treatment, they create a visually cohesive brand block that stands out amidst a sea of competing brands. This improves brand recall and conveys a sense of stability and trustworthiness to consumers, making them feel confident in their decision to purchase the brand’s products.
4). Simplifying Consumer Decision-Making
Designing one-off package designs for multiple products within a line can have a detrimental effect on shoppability, leading to confusion and decision paralysis among consumers. When consumers become accustomed to a particular package design for a toy or entertainment brand, they develop expectations regarding the product’s quality, consistency, and performance. Introducing multiple package designs for different products within the line can disrupt these associations. Consumers may even begin to question the authenticity of a brand that deviates from its standardized package design system. Sticking with the standardized look for the packaging of all products within the line simplifies the decision-making process by providing clear visual cues, allowing consumers to quickly identify and distinguish between products. This streamlines the shopping experience, reinforces positive associations with the brand, and increases the likelihood of repeat purchases.
5). Maintaining Flexibility and Differentiation
While we can’t overemphasize the importance of visual consistency, it is also important to build the ability to differentiate between products into a brand’s package design system. The key to doing this successfully is to determine which aspects of the package design system must remain visually consistent and which can vary from one product’s package to another to highlight product-specific benefits and features. If the placement and treatment of design assets such as the brand identity, package design architecture and color palette remain consistent, then product imagery, call-outs and any other marketing communication can be modified to best convey the uniqueness of each product within the line. Keep in mind that, as consumers, we subconsciously look for commonality first as a way to identify and understand a brand’s package design system. Once we recognize the aspects of the package design system that remain consistent in placement and treatment across the entire product line, we can look beyond them to identify the product-specific differences as we shop the line.
Pulling it all together through standardization
Creating a visually consistent look for a toy or entertainment brand’s package design system is a powerful strategy for maintaining trust among its target consumers. But, its success hinges completely on the establishment of well-conceived, well-written and easy-to-follow standardization guidelines. Rules must be written and enforced so that brand managers, marketers, internal and external design resources and all brand stakeholders will have a clear understanding of what must remain consistent and what can change in an effort to differentiate between products in the line.
Check out the following articles to learn more about our unique approach to packaging standardization guidelines: