How to create packaging that sells

With less than seven seconds to have a consumer notice your product on the shelf, nailing your packing is key to standing out in the crowd and product launch success.
Smaller brand? Packaging is even more critical for smaller brands without larger advertising budgets as almost half of consumers (48 per cent) learn about new products by seeing them on retailer shelves.*
We talk with Mark Haygarth and Gwen Blake, owners of Sydney based strategic packaging design consultancy, Boxer & Co., who share their top 10 packaging tips for success.

101. Know your market and keep it simple

You need to pick one thing and say it well, using a combination of graphics, fonts, photography, illustration and colours. This involves understanding what’s going to resonate best with your specific target market and briefing your packaging designer to work out how say it in a creative way. If you try to be all things to all people, the pack will end up looking a mess and not actually appealing to anyone. Keep the design simple and straight-forward, allowing the true quality of your product to shine.

202. Be more than a passing fad

It’s beneficial to look into other areas of the design world for inspiration and to help you understand what’s a global trend with more longevity and what’s a passing fad. For example, if we were designing packaging for a new ’tastes of the world’ soup range, we will certainly look at the local and international market within soup, but then open it up to other influences – like travel magazines, to see how they are enticing people to explore the globe, or a new identity for a holiday destination.

303. Choose the right materials – and be sustainable!

Sustainability and environmentally friendly packaging should be top of mind. The War of Waste is driving consumer awareness and demand for products with packaging that looks to the future and endeavours to help solve our waste issues. Furthermore, when trying to make a packaged product look as natural and un-touched as possible, the finishes are really important. A glossy plastic bag or high-gloss varnish detracts from this – a matte varnish or substrate is always preferable.

404. Know the risks of printing in China

There is a trend towards Australian businesses getting packaging produced in Asia, and in particular China. It’s very easy to understand why this tempts so many companies. However, it’s a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly – there are many pros and some big cons to taking this route.

The cost will seem to be about one quarter of the price of producing in Australia. Things like foiling, embossing, de-bossing and die-cutting are far cheaper overseas. However, unless you speak fluent Mandarin, you are going to find it incredibly hard to communicate with the factories.

You will need to factor in the time taken to ship samples from China to Australia. Also, if you print your items in Australia, you or your design agency can attend the print house when your job is on-press and approve the quality/colour of the finished article – a trip to China costs a whole heap more than a trip to another suburb or city in Australia.

The risk associated with printing overseas is far bigger than that of printing in Australia. Imagine if your print job runs late, or the ship is delayed, or stock sits on a wharf waiting for customs and you miss your deadline for delivery into Coles or Woolworths.

Generally, unless you are printing large volumes, you will find the costs of producing in China and shipping to Australia are higher than the costs of producing in Australia.

505. Know your retail environment

Before you brief a designer, you should definitely understand where your product is likely to be ranged, that this could be different in different stores, and how this impacts on your packaging. A good packaging design agency will ask all the right questions of the client and will also have a lot of this sort of information to hand.

606. Get the pros in

Packaging is a very different discipline to other graphic design. Talk to a couple of different design agencies who specialise in packaging and pick the agency who understands you and your product the best. The ride will be faster, more enjoyable and end in a more effective result if you tap into the same expert knowledge that your competitors do.

707. Not too many front of pack claims

A lot of health food products go overboard with a long list of claims, listing everything that is or isn’t in a product on the front of pack. Use this optimum real estate wisely – focus on two or three claims that you know are most important to your target market and put the others on the back or side of the pack. If the rest of the design is doing a good enough job, people will pick it up and explore the product in more detail.

808. Choose colours wisely

Whilst words can portray more rational qualities like ‘no artificial colours’ or ‘high in fibre’, they are less powerful than, say, an olive green coloured pack which says ‘I’m natural, well-balanced and trustworthy’. You do want your product to stand out on shelf, but the washing powder acid test doesn’t apply here. Fluoro colours and anything un-natural will make people subliminally question the natural integrity of your product. Think vegetable and nature inspired colours and you’ll be on the right track.

909. Use handcrafted elements

Keep an element of hand-crafted to your pack – whether it’s through fonts, illustrations or materials, a pack that has a human touch will scream ‘authentic’ and ‘real’ more than the words .

1010. Be functional

Packaging serves to protect your product in transit and prolong the life of your product. It needs to be durable and suitable to how a consumer would use it. Consider things like convenience packs, resalable pouches, vacuum seals, and outer packaging. //

*Nielsen Global New Product Innovation Survey

Mark Haygarth and Gwen Blake are owners of Sydney based strategic packaging design consultancy, Boxer & Co. Gwen Blake is also the author of Packaging A Punch.