As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. This is especially true when it comes to package design for toy brands, which can play a crucial role in whether or not parents will even pick up and consider a particular product, let alone decide to make the purchase. In today’s crowded and visually-oversaturated toy marketplace, it’s increasingly important for toy brands to create thoughtful and engaging packaging that not only stands out from the competitive offering, but also resonates with both kids and parents on an emotional level, and creates a lasting impression with the brand’s target audience.
Lately, I’ve been asked by a handful of startup toy manufacturers and entrepreneurs looking to make an impact in the toy industry about the fundamentals of toy package design. As I addressed their questions, I realized that even some of the toy industry’s global brand leaders would benefit from taking a broader look at how toy package design should be approached to appeal to today’s savvy consumers. So, let’s explore some best practices for creating toy packaging that’s guaranteed to connect with kids and parents.
Appeal to the senses
Kids of every age are highly sensory creatures, and toy packaging that appeals to their senses can be incredibly effective at inspiring engagement. It’s no surprise that the use of a bright color palette, bold graphics, fun textures and relatable themes can all make a toy brand’s package design more appealing to kids. However, it’s important to strike a balance between sensory overload and simplicity. Too many colors or patterns can be overwhelming and actually interfere with brand communication, while too few can be boring. Therefore, finding the right balance is extremely important, and will require consideration of the brand’s category as well as the age group and common interests among the brand’s target audience.
Parents, on the other hand, are often drawn to more subtle design elements, such as clean lines and elegant typography. While parents may not be as swayed by bright colors and bold graphics as their kids, they still appreciate well-designed packaging. Incorporating a range of sensory elements into toy packaging will ensure that its design generates desire among kids while also appealing to their parents. The key: first think like a kid to establish a look inspires engagement. Then think like a parent to add an overlay of appropriate visual cues that appeal to their senses.
Tell a compelling story
Toy package design that tells a compelling story can be highly engaging. For non-licensed toy brands, tell the story that highlights the brand’s unique attributes and glorifies the play pattern for each product. For licensed entertainment brands, tell the story of its characters and leverage the narrative from the associated film or animated series as the basis for package design architecture to create a sense of excitement and desire for the brand’s licensed toy products.
For parents, a well-crafted story can help convey the brand’s value and benefits in a compelling way. A package design that tells the story of how a toy brand’s products can help with a child’s development, for example, can be more effective than one that simply lists the product’s features. By framing product benefits within a story, parents can better understand how the product can benefit their child.
Highlight product benefits
While kids may be drawn to toy packaging that looks fun and exciting, parents, as I just mentioned, are often more interested in the benefits that the product provides. This might include educational or developmental benefits, such as promoting fine motor skills or teaching problem-solving skills. It might also include safety features or other attributes that make the product a good choice for young children.
To connect with parents, it’s important to highlight these benefits on the packaging itself. This might involve calling-out key benefits on the front panel, then leading parents to a more comprehensive list of features and benefits on the side or back panel. Or it might involve featuring endorsements from parenting organizations or experts in child development as a seal or highly-visible call-out on the front panel to build trust among parents.
In addition to highlighting the benefits of the product itself, it’s also important to be transparent about the materials used in the packaging. Many parents are concerned about the environmental impact of plastic packaging components, and may be more likely to choose toy brands that are packaged with more sustainable materials.
Make it interactive
Toy package design that includes interactive elements can be highly engaging for kids while adding further value to the product. Whether it’s a structural component that allows kids to reveal a hidden surprise, or part of the structure that can be detached to become a part of the product, extending the play value of the toy and creating a more immersive experience for the kids. Maybe the packaging promotes an interactive game on the toy brand’s website. Or maybe there’s an AR feature on-pack that brings the play pattern to life in an animated video on a smartphone. These types of interactive elements can help create a sense of playfulness and fun that kids will truly enjoy both at retail and after the purchase is made.
For parents, interactive elements can also help demonstrate the value and benefits of the toy in a more tangible way. For example, a QR code might take parents to a website with more information about the products benefits and features, or explain how the packaging can be repurposed for other uses, such as storage or transportability.
Finally, it’s imperative that toy package design be inclusive and reflect the diversity of the brand’s target audience. This might involve featuring imagery of kids of different races, genders, and abilities participating in the play pattern and identifying with the brand.
By creating packaging that is inclusive, toy brand owners not only demonstrate their commitment to diversity and inclusion, but also help to create a sense of connection and belonging among their consumers. This will lead to increased brand loyalty and positive word-of-mouth, as parents share their positive experiences with others in their communities both on and offline.
Appealing to both kids and parents sets the brand up for success
Connecting with kids and parents through toy package design is a critical aspect of toy brand marketing that cannot be overlooked. By understanding the target audience and their needs, toy brand owners can design packaging that not only generates excitement and desire among children, but also appeals to parents. When well-designed and executed, toy packaging can become a powerful tool for building brand loyalty, increasing sales, and creating a positive experience with consumers.