What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘packaging’? What does it entail?
Packaging is basically appearance; how a product looks, how it is presented and the impression it seeks to create on the minds of prospective buyers.
- Packaging is as a bride who is made ready for her groom on the day of the wedding.
- Packaging is as wife who sets the table ready for her husband to eat.
- Packaging is as a farmer who puts on his wellington boots and takes his machete ready for the farm
Packaging is deliberate and must be clearly defined for every growing business model.
The evolution of Apple technologies started the I-phone by deciding to package the complexities of several buttons on a phone to just a button. And it worked for them!!!
Each of the analogies above can tell us something about packaging.
1. Packaging is about readiness for the market. The bride and groom scenario.
The placement of your business must inform you of how to package your products. That is, if your market is in a community where the usual is food served in leaf wrappers, then you are good to wrap food in that manner. However, if you sell to office staff who would have to take food in the office, you know the take-away packs suit it perfectly.
Packaging in this manner is like how the chiefs in the upper regions of Ghana sit on skins and those to the south sit on stools and thrones.
A mechanic once lost a job in an office I worked in because of how he was dressed when he came in. To him, he was a mechanic or a fitter and so he should look dirty. Unknown to him the one who recommended him was vouching for him to be the company’s mechanic and so repair all cars that were faulty. The directors were not too impressed on the view that they could not tell his competence and so went for someone else from another shop.
“If you don’t know how to differentiate your products for the market you sell in, you will lose out always”.
In a pharmacy shop, two drugs were placed side by side. They were all the same in composition and yet one sold faster because of the packaging.
I once got bored by a comment a prospective buyer made that local goods are not packaged well and so he would go for the foreign ones always. I understand this is true in some cases because we lack the right packaging options and so cannot compete effectively with those out there.
Consider the calpol suspension. Most people will go for it as compared to any local para syrup because of the packaging. The reason is because calpol come with a syringe which the user can administer the medicine easily for the baby without stress. I once bought a local syrup and once you open, you can’t even close it again. The cork cannot fit well and ants got into it. It can really cost your business if your packaging is bad.
Now, once you do something that meets international standards, people say you did it like a white man. Sad. Can’t a black do something nice and beautiful too? We can take our packaging a step higher from now.
2. Packaging should be service based. The wife and the husband scenario.
If all you care about is your money, you can’t get a good packaging. A good packaging like ‘papaye’ will add a moist tissue wipe, a pack of shito, salad in a pack and still meet its target customers.
If you don’t package your products to serve the needs of the client, they would soon go where the need is met.
Do you know that UBER brands itself on service? Who would not prefer being picked up by just making an order? Service is their major card for winning in the transport industry. Most users of UBER now will pay regardless of the charge because of the service rendered to them.
“The power of your packaging is when clients are not reluctant to pay higher even if it were cheaper elsewhere.”
Delivery services today thrive on service. If I can get it at my doorstep, why go to the market for the same good?
3. Packaging should be clear and focused. The farmer ready for the farm scenario.
If I can’t tell what a product package holds, it can be confused for anything. Your package must be clearly done. Is it a drink, a powder or even a gas?
Consider the packaging of toothpaste. Do you understand why it is put in those packs that can allow it to be squeezed out? The intent of the producers is to allow for it to be used little by light and to easily measure the amount needed. Here, the packaging is done with the need of the target audience in mind.
Moreover, some items are better packaged if in plain rubber like the plantain chips. The concept is to attract the eyes and to induce appetite. In this case, the concept of attractiveness draws on the customer to make a purchase.
For some products, packaging is better done in boxes to get it easily presented as a gift. Examples are shirts, watches… Etc.
Some are better packaged in bottles so one can pour and close as and when needed. Examples are oil and other detergents.
If put a detergent such as parazone in a box like that of fruit drinks, you would lose out eventually as most people won’t be looking at a product that be mistaken for another. The packaging must not confuse the one observing it. It should be clear.
In summary, Product packaging, as a graphic design discipline, is an industry itself. Product packaging is a growing category waiting for great designers to enter and build their portfolio. But this demanding design area requires more than a good eye, so let’s see what makes and breaks good packaging design.
- Clarity and simplicity
Next time you go to a supermarket, pick a random shelf and browse through some products. Glance at each and ask yourself two very simple questions:
- What’s this product for?
- What’s the brand behind it?
You will be amazed how hard it is to find answers to some of these essential questions in less than 4 seconds, which is the maximum time average consumer will dedicate to any particular product on the shelf.
You’ll find products listing dozen of benefits with no clear brand name. You’ll find products that look great on the outside yet fail to explain what’s in the box. You might even find cleaning products in packaging more appropriate for kids juices.
This is a BAD example! This cleaning-product looks dangerously tasty, don’t you think? This packaging design might confuse consumers and fail to deliver on clarity.
Although some product categories allow for a bit of mystery (think perfumes and luxuries), failing to identify the product in terms of content, usage or brand identity is a horrible practice which usually results in a packaging design which doesn’t perform well in stores.
So remember rule number one: be clear about the product, be clear about the brand.
A product packaging design concept should allow for an easy introduction of a new line extension (product variation) or a sub-brand.
For example, imagine you’re creating a packaging for new brand of apple juice. You and your client opt for a certain design featuring apples which looks really great. However, a few months later, the client decides to launch a cherry flavor under the same brand name.
Good packaging design allows for easy variations without losing visual appeal.
To your dismay, you understand that the initial design concept you created heavily relies on apples to work and that cherries will not look nearly as good. Plus, cherries have some benefits to be communicated on the front panel, which works against your idea. You have a problem with extensibility.
To avoid this, you should always design product packaging with the future in mind. This means creating a visually systematic design which allows for easy changes of product visual or other information, so you get a fine looking family of products in the end.
Practicality deals with the actual shape, size and functionality of the product container, not just the label or wrap. The more practical the product, the more sales it gets – when Heinz turned the ketchup bottle upside down, sales skyrocketed.
Turning things on their head helped Heinz sell more ketchup when ketchup industry was in growth crisis.
Practicality is the most overlooked aspect of packaging design, simply because clients often pick the “tried and true” route which is a lost opportunity for innovation.
But if you get lucky and do get a chance to design the next bottle, box or a cup, always think practicality first – or in most cases, how you can make the product easier to use, carry or store.
Practicality alone can solve many of the packaging design challenges.
Packaging design is a large and demanding design field always looking for designers who can deliver both product originality and sales performance. Packaging is the last message a consumer sees and a last chance to convince him to buy the product.