This article has been contributed by Phil Forbes.
Think back to when you were a little kid at Christmas, waiting to unwrap your gifts.
What were the feelings that you associate with that time?
Excitement, enjoyment, anticipation, joy, happiness would be quite common, right?
Now fast forward to whatever age you are now. Would I be lying if I said that you feel similar feelings when you see the humble Amazon box waiting for you at your front door?
While our definition of happiness changes as we age, that same excitement and anticipation is still there when we first get our hands on a product that we brought online – even when we know what it is.
And when we first get our hands on that product, what are we actually holding?
Well, more often than not, you’ll be holding a box.
So combine this positively emotional moment with the physical object that you’re holding, and you can clearly see how packaging design plays an important role in making a good first impression.
By using custom packaging, you create a gateway to induce that emotion to your customers.
And in this article, you’ll see the role that custom packaging plays in building that emotion, how it fosters customer retention, as well as all the other branding options that a blank packaging canvas opens up for your brand.
Let’s dive in!
Custom Packaging Presents, Not Distracts
Before we get deep into branding and packaging, it’s important to mention that your packaging is important, but the contents of the box are what’s most important.
From a design and branding aspect, your packaging needs to complement your product – to be the stage that presents your product to the world.
Well-designed packaging, above all else, does two things:
- It enhances the excitement your customer already feels once they receive their purchase
- It presents the product in a way that adds value when your customer opens the box.
Take a look at the picture below.
This design by Yope presents the product to the viewer thanks to the cut-out window. You can almost hear it say “Here I am, the thing you bought, look at me in all my glory, I now belong to you”.
This is an ideal example of packaging that creates a symbiosis with the product that it encapsulates.
Snakehive, a British company producing high-end phone cases, has mastered packaging design.
The neutral colours of their product and minimalistic branding is echoed on their product boxes. This design is also echoed on invoices, transactional emails, newsletter templates, letterheads, as well as, of course, their website.
The result is a consistent brand experience, and professional presentation of not just a product, but a business.
When referencing your brand book, consider using the natural textures of cardboard to your advantage.
If you use rustic or natural tones, the natural kraft texture of cardboard automatically creates a fantastic blank canvas for you to build upon.
Unique Unboxing Experience
Anyone that’s gone down the ‘unboxing video’ wormhole on YouTube knows how addictive they can be. So it should come as no surprise that unboxing videos, along with makeup tutorials, are some of the most popular videos on YouTube.
In fact, Unboxing Therapy earns approx. $4.4M USD each year just from YouTube revenue.
So imagine if your product ends up front and centre in an unboxing video, made by a trusted personality that your target audience regularly watches.
Do you want your product to be presented like this:
Or like this:
The answer is pretty simple.
Building an unboxing experience is key – not just for an unboxing video, but for each and every customer that buys your product.
A well planned and exciting unboxing experience helps capture that ‘Christmas day’ excitement of experiencing something new for the first time.
So with unboxing videos playing such a critical role in brand awareness and marketing, it’s easy to see why throwing your product in a plain box with a sticker isn’t the best option.
Here are a few ideas to help build your unboxing experience:
- Print inside your box, using cheeky graphics, witty copy or even a simple greeting.
- Wrap your products with packing paper for security, and to prolong the excitement of finally seeing the product.
- Add in a hand-written thank you note, or freebies like stickers.
Add to your unboxing experience by reminding your customer why they’ve purchased something special, like:
- “You’re holding an organic sweater made from ethically farmed wool”
- “Limited edition: Number 27 of 142”
- “Timepieces that tell a story”
Slogans, branding and catchphrases like this, delivered at the moment your customer sees their product for the first time builds trust between you and your customer.
It reaffirms their decision that buying with you was the right idea.
Show That You’re the Best at Something
When did you last receive the best customer service in your life?
Being the absolute best at customer service in your industry is just one way to stand out from your competition – so mention this on your packaging.
What’s more, delighting your customers is almost an investment in marketing, as your happy customer will no doubt spread your name amongst friends.
But what are some other areas where you can be the best in order to differentiate yourself?
Your returns policy.
LupinePet is a small company that makes harnesses, leashes and collars for dogs (and cats!). Every single product is backed up by their lifetime ‘even if chewed’ guarantee.
They stand out from their competition because of this offer. They know that one of the problems their customer has is that dogs like to chew their collars.
That can be an expensive hobby for a dog owner. So LupinePet solves their customers’ problem by offering a lifetime guarantee. No questions asked.
If you’re standing in a retail store with a LupinePet collar packaging in one hand and a competitor’s package in the other, how will the words ‘lifetime guarantee’ sway your buying decision?
Packaging is the medium to use your exceptional selling points to do just that – sell.
Brand Identity and Packaging
Once you’ve found a way for your packaging to support your branding, the next step is to think how your brand presents itself to the world.
What are your morals, values and unique selling points?
These concepts no doubt influenced your product design, but they can also influence your packaging design, too.
Consider for a moment, a brand that sells organic clothing.
People want to buy this product because of the material it’s made from.
No pesticides are used in the cotton production, or the wool is from ethically sourced sheep. No nasty chemicals are used in processing the raw material, or in the dyeing and creation of the final garment.
If such a product is sent to a customer in a single-use, petroleum-based plastic bag, that’s not helping the brand’s ‘organic’ image.
But it’s here, where your brand’s packaging should complement its values.
Sustainable packaging may be something as simple as a recycled cardboard box, or something as cutting edge as a biodegradable mailing bag.
But this is not limited to packaging materials.
Below you can see how children’s wear brand, Monday’s Child, worked a second use into their mailer boxes.
Knowing that their customers are mostly young girls, Monday’s Child designed packaging that, with a pair of scissors, turns into a doll’s house.
The second use not only adds perceived value to the purchase, but also keeps the cardboard out of the waste cycle for longer.
The point is that custom packaging gives your brand the chance to take its environmental policy to the next level.
Sustainable packaging shows that you care not just for your product’s environmental impact, but the environmental impact of your entire business operations.
Good Branding Makes Marketing More Effective
Take a look below at German fashion brand, Monokel.
You can easily see how their logo is both on the product’s tag, and on the packaging. This minimalist-theme ties into the entire branding of their Berlin retail store.
This consistent design builds an attractive image, but also a trustworthy and professional image. And sales only come where there’s trust.
A brand that’s inconsistent and doesn’t feel trustworthy simply isn’t going to get conversions, no matter how good the product or the price.
Effective branding helps secure conversions by making UI and UX work smoother. For example, the most effective CTA buttons are in colours that complement business branding.
When designing not only your packaging, but also your website and other touch points, remember that consistency is key.
Tone of Voice
As part of your brand identity guidelines, you should have a clear and concise description of your brand’s tone of voice.
This helps you appeal to the right person. For example, a bank isn’t going to have the same tone of voice that Mailchimp uses in their emails.
It’s here where tone of voice is more than voice – it’s echoed in the content’s humor.
And for brand consistency, this tone of voice and brand personality has to be echoed on your packaging. A high end, luxury watch brand isn’t going to have the same tone of voice as a sock selling colourful socks. And as a result, the packaging design will differ.
Below, you can see a snapshot of luggage company Away’s product page. The tone of voice and image is clear – they’re trying to appeal to busy business travellers.
The tone of voice on the product page isn’t about the product, it’s about the busy, non-stop lifestyle that users of the product have. This tone of voice is echoed on their website, on all communication and on their packaging.
This sets them miles apart from their competition (no pun intended), bringing the brand’s online and retail experiences together for a consistent buying experience.
Furthermore, the recent COVID-19 epidemic has changed our buying habits through sheer necessity. Fewer people are going into a retail store to buy and browse.
Not only does this change the role that your eCommerce store plays, but it also changes the role that your packaging plays. A well-designed box now has to play the part of an elegant retail store fit-out.
While your retail packaging can still be used, secondary packaging in the form of mailer boxes is essential.
A thin cardboard box is ok to be thrown in a retail bag and carried around a mall by your customer.
However, the same box is not adequate for being thrown in the back of a delivery van and hauled across the continent.
If your branding is going to go to every corner of your business, then shipping boxes need to be branded, too.
Polish gourmet dog food brand, Psi Bufet, uses heavy, thermally insulated and branded shipping boxes to send their dog food all over the country.
That’s because they know that their shipping box is the first physical touch point between their brand and their customer.
The branded dog food sachets take care of the branding experience in store, while the shipping box plays the same role in for the eCommerce business model.
Psi Bufet ensures that, in that moment, the customer sees their branding and associates those positive feelings of anticipation with their brand.
Be Seasonal With Your Packaging
You read earlier about the role that packaging plays in making a customer feel that they’ve got a lot more than they bargained for. It’s the feeling of holding something unique and special that adds perceived value to your product, and your brand.
At Christmas time, double down on this feeling by creating limited Christmas editions of your product, and deliver it in packaging that is just as unique.
Below, you can see how John Masters Organics has used Christmas-themed packaging for a limited edition moisturiser.
The use of seasonal packaging is going to make it easier for your customer to give your product as a gift while you maintain your branding.
Product packaging is important, and using Christmas-themed packaging adds cheer to your customer’s purchase. It makes it easier for them to simply forward it on as a gift, without the need to gift wrap it.
It also shows that your brand is engaged, active and has a little something special happening for Christmas.
As you can see, there’s more to custom packaging than just a box. It’s a versatile blank canvas that ties in with many other elements of your brand and its image.
Packaging is also a fantastic marketing opportunity. When you nail your packaging design, it adds perceived value to your brand, and makes your customer think, “Wow, I really got a lot more than I bargained for”.
About the author: Phil is a bearded Australian living in Warsaw, Poland. When he’s not helping pitch Packhelp’s boxes to the world, he can be found hanging out with his dog or trying not to kill his plants.