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Product Packaging Must Attract Customers

Filed under Marketing. Fact checked on May 24, 2012.

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People judge books by their covers every day. When it comes to your product's packaging, be sure you're hitting the right points complemented by the right design targeted at the right customers.

Packaging and pricing represent a very concrete way to communicate with your target market and express the positioning of your business. Package design involves more than just the look of the physical wrapper or outer container that a product comes in. Packaging can be the way in which services are bundled together for an intermediate buyer or end user. For physical products, the package label or wrapper may represent the product's entire business positioning, list of features and benefits, advertising, and promotion, especially for smaller businesses. The other prong of the equation—pricing— must reflect not only your costs to produce the product or service at the expected volume, but also the value your customers place on what you offer. What's more, price is a way to differentiate your business from others, especially in the consumer market.

Effective Packaging Takes a Variety of Forms

Packaging can be simple cardstock tags printed or stamped in black ink (e.g., on machinery, tools, clothing, etc.), or unique, one-of-a-kind containers that are more valuable than their product contents (e.g., imported, hand-blown crystal oil and vinegar cruets). For service businesses, "packaging" represents the way the firm communicates its sources of uniqueness to buyers and end users. Packaging for service companies can be a collection of logo identifications on clothing, uniforms, tools, stationery, forms, hang tags, and other paraphernalia.

Packaging can also be the unique style in which a company provides its services. For example, certain elite hotels are distinguished by their concierge services as much as by their guest rooms and physical amenities. Consulting companies strive to differentiate themselves with their packages of services by bundling areas of expertise together (e.g., tax return preparation and estate planning services).

Transportation companies (e.g., car rental, bus, train, and airline firms) as well as phone and telecommunications companies offer a combination of both products and services. These industries package their products and services together in promotion and advertising. For example, "You get more than a ticket when you fly BIONIC AIR. You're flying the fastest, healthiest, most luxurious cabin in the sky!" Ads may show flight attendants in designer uniforms serving gourmet foods to delighted passengers who are breathing the "freshest air above the planet."

Bundling of products and/or services is also part of overall packaging. For example, telecommunications providers, such as AT&T and Verizon, offer a dizzying array of different feature and benefit packages to help differentiate one company from another.

Packaging Should Communicate Positioning, Identity and Values

Package design essentials apply to both service and physical product companies and must do all of the following:

  • reflect the business positioning;
  • communicate graphic identity; and
  • reflect target buyer values.

The unique collection of brand or business values that differentiates the business from the competition is known as "positioning." Packaging designs should communicate the business positioning or unique set of values. For example, Macy's department stores are positioned as upscale and fashionable, but a good value for high-income shoppers. Clothing boxes are more expensive white, glossy stock on both side, imprinted with the familiar, upscale Macy's logo. This contrasts with specialty clothing stores (e.g., Kohl's in the Midwest), who do not carry a full line of clothing, and who target middle-income shoppers. Clothing boxes, available mostly during the Christmas season, are unbleached brown stock on both sides, with a red printed logo. It could be a disadvantage for these stores to have the same package box as Macy's for their price-conscious middle-income shoppers.

Colors are also important to product positioning. Red is considered to be the most exciting, noticeable color on the shelf. Red is a key color component for Coke, Pepsi, Marlboro, and Folgers Coffee, all products that directly, or indirectly, promise stimulation, excitement, energy, and social acceptance. Blues and greens are considered soothing, calming, and serene. Yellow is for bright moods and celebrations. Orange is the color of fire. Black connotes power. Gold and silver connote high value. White is neutral or the color of purity. Many generic grocery products are packaged in simple white with black block printing to indicate the absence of expensive packaging and to separate them from regular, more expensive national brands.

Graphic Identity Captures Buyer's Attention

Walk through any store and look at packages on the shelves. Decide which ones catch your eye in any given section, and why. Chances are the majority of packages that stand out have what's called "graphic identity." Graphic identity is defined as a unique two- or three-dimensional graphic symbol that may be recognized by target buyers as being associated with a particular brand or business.

Sometimes this graphic identity takes the simple form of a unique brand logo or name with unusual letter shapes. For example, Exxon is an artificial computer-derived name without prior meaning. However, the unusual double XX in the name provides a unique graphic identity that makes this name recognizable even at distances where normal words are unreadable. The United Airlines logo also has similar unique graphic identity, even at several miles away.

Small businesses often cannot afford to advertise or promote at the same levels as larger competitors. Therefore, they need to design graphic identity into their logos and packages to ensure reinforcement of uniqueness and positioning. The package may be the only advertising and business positioning communication a small business has.

Tip

Packaging Digest may give you a few ideas! Visit the website for ideas and to learn how to subscribe. website

Packaging Should Mirror Buyer's Values

A precise definition of your target buyer is key to designing a package that reflects your buyers' values and will attract buyers to it on the shelf, or wherever else your products or services are available. Knowledge of the target buyer's lifestyle as reflected in the buyer's activities, opinions, interests, and demographics can be manifested in the package names, label design, package copy, and other key communication points.

Let's say you have developed an energy snack bar. Market research shows the target buyers would match the following profile:

  • Demographics
    • income ranging between $40,000 to $100,000
    • high-school education;
    • age 18-49
    • reside primarily in western states
    • married with one or two children
    • live in smaller cities near outdoor recreation areas
  • Lifestyle Variables
    • seek non-traditional work environments (e.g., no coats or ties at work)
    • are outdoor sports enthusiasts
    • shop in natural health food and outdoor equipment stores
    • maintain active life styles every week (e.g., bike to work)
    • are not fashion-conscious
    • are interested in outdoor gear, clothing, and equipment
    • try to eat a healthy, nutritionally sound diet
    • read and listen to music
    • view little TV
  • Opinions:
    • are politically liberal, without party affiliations
    • believe in minimizing government regulations
    • believe in preserving the environment
    • believe in recycling
    • believe in creating a better environment for their children

Package name and communications points. The name of the energy bar would attempt to relate to this carefully defined target buyer, perhaps with a derived reference to the environment or natural foods:

  • MOUNTAIN GOLD
  • PURE & NATURAL
  • NATURAL TRAILS
  • NATURE'S TREAT

Colors of the package may reflect the natural colors of the outdoors in various seasons:

  • yellow, orange, and green for spring and summer
  • brown, gold, and orange for fall
  • white and silver for winter

Product features communicated on the package may include:

  • 100 percent all-natural
  • no preservatives or additives
  • biodegradable wrapper

Product benefits communicated on the package may include:

  • safe energy for the whole family!
  • environmentally compatible!

If the manufacturer were interested in using a celebrity on the package and in promotions, choices would be restricted to non-Hollywood types who reflected the target buyer's values. For example, a famous naturalist would be a good choice.

Packaging Should Communicate Positioning, Identity and Values

Package design essentials apply to both service and physical product companies and must do all of the following:

 

  • reflect the business positioning;
  • communicate graphic identity; and
  • reflect target buyer values.

The unique collection of brand or business values that differentiates the business from the competition is known as "positioning." Packaging designs should communicate the business positioning or unique set of values. For example, Macy's department stores are positioned as upscale and fashionable, but a good value for high-income shoppers. Clothing boxes are more expensive white, glossy stock on both side, imprinted with the familiar, upscale Macy's logo. This contrasts with specialty clothing stores (e.g., Kohl's in the Midwest), who do not carry a full line of clothing, and who target middle-income shoppers. Clothing boxes, available mostly during the Christmas season, are unbleached brown stock on both sides, with a red printed logo. It could be a disadvantage for these stores to have the same package box as Macy's for their price-conscious middle-income shoppers.

Colors are also important to product positioning. Red is considered to be the most exciting, noticeable color on the shelf. Red is a key color component for Coke, Pepsi, Marlboro, and Folger's Coffee, all products that directly, or indirectly, promise stimulation, excitement, energy, and social acceptance. Blues and greens are considered soothing, calming, and serene. Yellow is for bright moods and celebrations. Orange is the color of fire. Black connotes power. Gold and silver connote high value. White is neutral or the color of purity. Many generic grocery products are packaged in simple white with black block printing to indicate the absence of expensive packaging and to separate them from regular, more expensive national brands.

Graphic Identity Captures Buyer's Attention

Walk through any store and look at packages on the shelves. Decide which ones catch your eye in any given section, and why. Chances are the majority of packages that stand out have what's called "graphic identity." Graphic identity is defined as a unique two- or three-dimensional graphic symbol that may be recognized by target buyers as being associated with a particular brand or business.

Sometimes this graphic identity takes the simple form of a unique brand logo or name with unusual letter shapes. For example, Exxon is an artificial computer-derived name without prior meaning. However, the unusual double XX in the name provides a unique graphic identity that makes this name recognizable even at distances where normal words are unreadable. The United Airlines logo also has similar unique graphic identity, even at several miles away.

Small businesses often cannot afford to advertise or promote at the same levels as larger competitors. Therefore, they need to design graphic identity into their logos and packages to ensure reinforcement of uniqueness and positioning. The package may be the only advertising and business positioning communication a small business has.

Tip

Packaging Digest may give you a few ideas! Visit the website for ideas and to learn how to subscribe. website

Packaging Should Mirror Buyer's Values

A precise definition of your target buyer is key to designing a package that reflects your buyers' values and will attract buyers to it on the shelf, or wherever else your products or services are available. Knowledge of the target buyer's lifestyle as reflected in the buyer's activities, opinions, interests, and demographics can be manifested in the package names, label design, package copy, and other key communication points.

Case Study

You have developed an energy snack bar. Market research shows the target buyers would match the following profile:

  • Demographics
    • income ranging between $40,000 to $100,000
    • high-school education;
    • age 18-49
    • reside primarily in western states
    • married with one or two children
    • live in smaller cities near outdoor recreation areas
  • Lifestyle Variables
    • seek non-traditional work environments (e.g., no coats or ties at work)
    • are outdoor sports enthusiasts
    • shop in natural health food and outdoor equipment stores
    • maintain active life styles every week (e.g., bike to work)
    • are not fashion-conscious
    • are interested in outdoor gear, clothing, and equipment
    • try to eat a healthy, nutritionally sound diet
    • read and listen to music
    • view little TV
  • Opinions:
    • are politically liberal, without party affiliations
    • believe in minimizing government regulations
    • believe in preserving the environment
    • believe in recycling
    • believe in creating a better environment for their children

Package name and communications points. The name of the energy bar would attempt to relate to this carefully defined target buyer, perhaps with a derived reference to the environment or natural foods:

  • MOUNTAIN GOLD
  • PURE & NATURAL
  • NATURAL TRAILS
  • NATURE'S TREAT

Colors of the package may reflect the natural colors of the outdoors in various seasons:

  • yellow, orange, and green for spring and summer
  • brown, gold, and orange for fall
  • white and silver for winter

Product features communicated on the package may include:

  • 100 percent all-natural
  • no preservatives or additives
  • biodegradable wrapper

Product benefits communicated on the package may include:

  • safe energy for the whole family!
  • environmentally compatible!

If the manufacturer were interested in using a celebrity on the package and in promotions, choices would be restricted to non-Hollywood types who reflected the target buyer's values. For example, a famous naturalist would be a good choice.

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