Packaging for toy and entertainment brands, whether licensed or non-licensed, can’t be successfully developed without first considering its context at retail. After all, it won’t exist in a vacuum in the retail environment, so it shouldn’t be designed in one either.
Gain insight by conducting a retail audit
The pre-design research phase of any package design initiative should always begin with a retail audit. Toy manufacturers and entertainment entities may think they know their brands innately. However, they can’t truly know their brands until they consider how their brands are perceived among the competitive offering, on shelf and within their respective categories – especially within the visually chaotic toy and entertainment product aisles.
The retail audit should consider: What signature brand colors are being leveraged by competitive brands within the category? What kind of structural design strategy do they employ? Which package configurations are being used? Where, exactly, will the brand be merchandised among its competition? For licensed brands, another layer of complexity is added to the audit because every category in which the brand will live will need to be considered.
A retail audit will tell the real story – one that package designers can react to in a manner that will ensure that the brand’s packaging will draw the attention of consumers.
Merchandising and shoppability go hand in hand
Where a product is displayed within the retail environment and how easy it will be for consumers to navigate the product line are in direct correlation with each other. When products are placed on lower shelves (typically reserved for larger items), they are somewhat less visible to consumers and not nearly as well lit as those on upper shelves. Therefore, visual and verbal communication on pack needs to be as clear and easy to read as possible.
Getting the best product placement for the brand is important. But, what if the retailer only purchases a few items from a particular product line to merchandise? How effective will the shelf set be at not only capturing consumer attention, but also at communicating the breadth of the entire product line? Will it have a strong enough presence if, say, 3 items are merchandised in a category where competitive brands have many more? Will the segmentation system make sense to consumers without the entire product line being present?
These are critical issues that we pay attention to as package design experts. It’s important to get toy and entertainment package design right, even if the retailer only merchandises a few skus, since we want to assure our clients that their brand will be identified, picked up and purchased by consumers, no matter how many brands surround it in the retail environment.
Standing out among the chaos at retail
So, what is it that would make toy and entertainment packaging stand out when the shelves in these aisles are filled with brands screaming for attention? It all depends on the retail context.
- Design simplicity may be key. Consider how simpler, cleaner package design might catch your eye if the shelves in the brand’s category are filled with a myriad of brands with over-designed packaging, dense with communication.
- Powerful imagery may also do the trick. Packaging with dramatic illustration and photography to convey the play pattern, or a cleverly-designed brand identity, will tell the brand story and elicit an emotional connection.
- Unique structure design will also break through when competitive brands are packaged in more standard formats. Package design that employs a consistent structural design strategy, where a common structural element finds its way through each package configuration in the line always resonates with consumers.