User Experience Design. It’s a goal for which many brands are aiming. But UX design is about more than usability and accessibility. It’s about providing pleasure and enjoyment in interactions with the brand. And before consumers interact with products, they usually engage with packaging in many categories first. So, in the continuum of brand expressions, special attention should be given to package design and its unique power to elevate the customer experience. And it really has to if we want today’s sophisticated consumers to embrace brands.
PepsiCo’s Mauro Porcini summed it up in an insightful manner: ”People don’t buy products or services any longer – it’s experiences and stories consumed at the speed of light that matter.” I would add to that. Millennials and younger generations are more discriminating as consumers than their parents. They don’t want to buy a lot of stuff; they want to engage with brands that deliver rich, memorable experiences. Packaging should deliver experiences and stories that are essentially consumable in seconds.
How crucial does that make package design now? We all know that consumers are shopping online more and more, so when they do come into retail stores, it’s vitally important to deliver a compelling, tangible experience through products and packaging. When fully leveraged, packaging brings branded consumer products alive. It forms emotional connections between brand and consumer. Without that, brands will not survive.
Package design needs to surprise and delight consumers
Brand owners have to understand that meeting consumers’ basic expectations only establishes a threshold. The stakes have been raised because consumers expect more than the bare minimum now. That’s why they become rabid fans of brands and licensed properties that go above and beyond. So we really need to think in terms of surprising and delighting the consumer with the unexpected to create a more memorable and elevated experience. Too expensive to create that via packaging? Hardly.
Consider what can happen for a brand when consumers are so delighted by what they see on the retail shelf that they snap photos with their phones and send them to their friends. And post them on social media. We know that sites like Pinterest, for example, are a favorite among brand influencers (15 billion pins and counting) who are scouring social media for cool things to share. Think of the exponential effect of these influencers who spread their pleasure about branded products – solely because of packaging – around the world. And remember: great packaging invites consumers to enthusiastically share unboxing experiences on YouTube, too.
Given this, licensed property owners and brand marketers need to stop thinking about package design as an expense and start seeing it as a potential marketing behemoth. Because that’s what it is. It’s time to fully tap into its power because influencers are a major asset in the marketing of brands with far greater reach and persuasiveness than advertising.
Cracking the code on user experience design
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: brand owners might want to take a page from the toy and entertainment industries for package design inspiration. They find ways in which to surprise and delight young consumers, as well as parents and grandparents, who are purchasing toys, games and licensed products. Unique package design structure, architecture, color, typography and imagery created in tandem with equitable verbal assets make brands standouts.
Spin Master owns Hatchimals, one of the hottest brands in the toy business. A new line extension dubbed Hatchimals CollEGGtibles continues to play on the eggs and hatching theme in its package design. A large, speckled egg is bursting through the top of the packaging. It’s just beginning to hatch with widening cracks. Eyes peer out from within and it’s obvious that there’s a surprise Hatchimal just waiting to emerge. No child knows what their Hatchimal will look like but there are visual clues as to which creature could be hiding in the egg.
There’s no other package structure like this in the toy aisles. It delivers the playful, emotional quality of the brand and kids are excitedly trying to collect them all, as a result. And we all know the power of collectibles among kids! Spin Master has cracked the code on how to elevate UX design to a whole new level by delivering surprise and delight via its products and its packaging in a seamless manner.
When licensed consumer products + packaging = success
Who doesn’t love Girl Scout cookies? Wicked Cool Toys licensing agreement with the Girl Scouts led to the development of the Girl Scouts Cookie Oven. But this isn’t just a toy branded with The Girl Scout logo and iconography, or an oven featured in the bright green and purple reminiscent of its packaging for its cookie varieties. That’s because actual Girl Scout cookie mixes are available to bake in the oven. The packaging features imagery of Girl Scout cookie favorites and includes the mix to whip up a batch of Thin Mints. Wicked Cool Toys Cookie Oven logo features cookies in place of the Os in the word Cookie. And they aren’t representative of just any cookies; they’re clearly Girl Scout favorites. Smart.
Even smarter: verbal brand communication on cookie refill mixes states: For Use with the Girl Scouts Cookie Oven. This is clearly intended to ensure that the cookies aren’t baked in any other toy ovens; only the Girl Scout Cookie Oven. The Girl Scout brand icon and the Girl Scouts Cookie Oven brand identity are seamlessly woven together on refill packaging. Mouth-watering imagery of the cookie variety appears in the center of the front panel and the image of the actual oven in the lower left-hand corner. I can just imagine how many kids (and adults) are snapping these products up since there’s no need to wait until Girl Scout cookies go on sale once a year anymore!
Stretching entertainment brand equities
When licensing consumer products, it’s vitally important to leverage the most equitable visual and verbal assets associated with the brand. Sesame Street is one of the most beloved entertainment brands for toddlers. There are terrific Sesame Street licensed toys in the marketplace. And there are licensed products in a myriad of other categories, of course; but some are more emotive than others depending upon the manner in which the licensee has deployed Sesame Street’s considerable brand assets. Thats why I love what Post has done with its Sesame Street cereals.
Its no secret that kids gravitate to breakfast cereals and foods in which their favorite characters appear on pack. They taste better, right? But besides featuring larger-than-life imagery of Big Bird, Elmo and the Cookie Monster smiling and waving at their young fans, Post effectively leveraged key visual and verbal brand communication strongly associated with the Sesame Street brand.
On the front panel of every variety, we see bright blue skies behind each character because we all know the theme song: “Sunny day sweepin’ the clouds away. On my way to where the air is sweet. Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?” The Sesame Street signpost breaks the blue sky. But here’s where the product delivers a higher level of surprise and delight. Below the famous Sesame Street brand identity, the product name proclaims that “C is for Cereal” with information about each variety below that. Simple language touts that the product is made from natural grains and flavors. Happy Sesame Street characters take center stage and beside each, more detailed nutritional information appears in a puffy white cloud. The last line reads: Ideal food for little ones. Simple and highly effective. Behind Elmo and the Cookie Monster, we see the rising sun, or in the case of Big Bird, a puffy white cloud. Cereal bits, in the form of Xs and Os (hugs and kisses) litter the sky. In the lower left hand corner, the cereal variety is repeated in inimitable Sesame Street style: “A is for Apple,” “S is for Strawberry” and ”B is for Banana.”
This is enthralling packaging for young children who feel the love of their favorite characters on pack, and reciprocate it back to them. There is reassurance for parents that these cereals are wholesome for their kids, reinforcing every positive aspect of the Sesame Street brand. An arc appears at the top of the package and serves as the package design architecture. The Post logo appears in the upper left-hand corner within its signature red cartouche on a green ground. The phrase: “Provides 2/3 of Toddlers Daily Whole Grains” is positioned right next to the Post logo. Every aspect of this packaging is well-conceived because it has elevated customer experience with both brands: Sesame Street and Post.
Post could have simply placed imagery of Sesame Street characters on cereal boxes, but they didnt do that. Instead, the company chose to elevate customer experience with carefully-planned and placed visual and verbal assets that deliver a much deeper level of engagement and enjoyment.
The last word about elevating packaging
Think about your packaging. Would it benefit from unique structure? Could it do a better job of leveraging key visual and verbal brand assets? How could those assets be incorporated into package design to be highly emotive? Remember that’s our ultimate goal: to elevate customer experience with the core brand via packaging. So how can we achieve that?