Many times, the packaging of the product is as important as the product itself. Of course, if you’re making a product like industrial machinery, this may not be true. But in the case of consumer products, packaging can be an overwhelmingly important element. Perhaps the most extreme case involves products bought by collectors, such as limited-edition Swatch watches. In such cases, the product’s resale value is largely determined by the condition of its packaging. Savvy collectors rarely even open the box.
Another case in which the package was as important as the product—maybe even more important—was the L’Eggs phenomenon. These women’s stockings were designed for sale in supermarkets, and were packaged in a two-piece container that looked like an egg. In other words, the producers of L’Eggs took a commodity product with high purchase frequency and put it in a package that was brilliantly designed for a particular channel of distribution. Publicity and praise showered down on this relatively humble product—and the “buzz” was all about the package.
Most companies that produce packaging materials have in-house design departments and can make you prototypes at no cost. There are also plenty of independent package designers who can help you on a fee basis. Consider using this kind of resource if you’ve concluded that a radical packaging departure is what’s needed to get you out of the pack, and to get you recognized for what you are.
It is imperative, before you settle on outside help in packaging, to provide this proposed vendor with clear guidelines as to what you can afford to pay, the quantities you will need initially, and the reorder cycle you currently anticipate. Some vendors may disqualify themselves as either too big or too small for you, depending on the information you provide.
Experts are great, and I never shy away from hiring a good one whose services I need. But you should be aware that there are many places to go for packaging ideas. I myself like to shop cosmetics counters in department stores. (Cosmetics marketers are very innovative packagers. How else could you charge so much for water and other humble ingredients?) If you don’t relish the idea of hanging around a cosmetics counter, go to a packaging trade show or a related industry trade show. Remember that you don’t necessarily have to see packages for products that are just like your own. An innovative packaging idea that sells socks may also sell clocks.
We shouldn’t overlook functionality in this discussion. Remember that packaging should inform, as well as attract the consumer’s eye in a crowded store environment. I’ve seen lots of examples of razzle-dazzle packaging that neglected to say what was inside the package. This is a mistake. One way or another, your packaging should communicate clearly the product’s potential benefits to the prospective buyer.
In addition to flagging down the consumer and explaining the product’s benefits, the packaging also has to protect that product. Depending on the nature of the product, functional needs may overwhelm aesthetic needs. If your product is glass, your packaging had first better protect something that’s fragile. (Light bulb packaging comes to mind.) Point-of-sale considerations may also affect your packaging dramatically. If your product is generally sold from the box and not taken out (usually a lower-priced product), then a full colored, unique, easy to understand package, showing the product to its best effect, may be the right packaging solution.
Be sure to put your company name and/or logo prominently on the package. This is a no-cost way to build your brand.
Is your product likely to be given as a gift? If so, that’s likely to raise the packaging stakes. Will your product be sold in a display? If so, will that display be created by you or by a customer? If you’re uncertain how to answer these questions, or why they’re important, it’s probably time to call in one of those experts I mentioned earlier. They’ll have a list of questions that they’ll want you to answer before they undertake the design of your package. Getting the right answers to these kinds of questions up front will save you time and money in the long run.
No, a great package can’t save a lousy product, but sizzle sells, and packaging creates sizzle. Good product with sizzle sells better than good product without sizzle.