Establishing Meaningful Packaging Communications: Across Multiple Retail Channels and Over the White Noise

Companies that are intent on fully leveraging the power of their brands now realize that they had better establish meaningful dialogue that develops into true relationships with their customers. Forming these all-important customer relationships doesn’t just happen. They are the result of a strong corporate and brand identity, developed over time with deliberateness and consistency; the product of a strategic marketing plan. Clear, concise brand communications are an important part of this strategy, and should be carefully designed into every product and every service.

The savviest companies, and the design firms with whom they consult, recognize that they must evaluate and come to understand the customers’ total experience at each touch point. Then, their marketing strategies can be properly aligned across all channels to ensure that they are delivering consistent brand communications, and a personal, meaningful experience to every customer, every time. Packaging presents an integral part of a company’s brand communications to the customer. Since virtually every product and service in the marketplace is packaged, it is absolutely crucial that companies “get it right”.

Nothing communicates the brand and its values like packaging. In an age where many products enjoy widespread distribution in multiple retail channels, among a host of competitors, packaging goes a long way to selling the product. Crowded products in over-merchandised categories clamor to be heard and seen. Advertising and promotions bring customers into retail outlets; but in many cases, packaging communications ultimately sell products right at the shelf.

How well packaging enables a company’s products to own a merchandised presence on the retail shelf, and real visibility, is a crucial issue. How quickly and efficiently packaging communicates the products’ features and attributes will directly affect sales and the potential for category leadership. How meaningfully engaged the targeted demographic is, by specific packaging communications will likewise have a direct impact on sales and category positioning.

So Much Information. So Little Time.

One of the most challenging aspects of establishing packaging communications for complex products or services, is the organization of information hierarchies on packaging. So much packaging the consumer is faced with at the retail shelf presents an overwhelming amount of technical information, that the customer simply hasn’t the time or inclination to read it, thus losing the sale and the opportunity to build a relationship with that customer. It also makes packaging look cluttered and unappealing, no matter how well-designed it is.

Only pertinent, significant information should be utilized in packaging, and it should be presented in a specific way. Simple, clean, customer-friendly messages go a long way with today’s busy consumer. Clear brand differentiators also make the brand and its products the clear choice among myriad competitors. Even more importantly, engaging the customer’s emotions by bringing out the Enjoyment Assets™ of the brand creates the most fertile ground for the establishment of a strong customer relationship.

Effective packaging systems:

  • Present the brand identity and its attributes prominently to the customer, and present them in a consistent manner on every package.
  • Identify the brand and product by leveraging its unique logo and color system.
  • Create new packaging structures, if appropriate, to make the product more visible and appealing to the customer.
  • Make certain the new packaging structures are viable for all applicable retailer plan-o-grams.
  • Bring out the Enjoyment Assets™ of the brand, assist in cuing purchase motivation, and begin the process of customer relationship building.
  • Make the shopping and sales experience enjoyable, informative and easy for the busy customer.
  • Sell the product on its own merits-without the assistance of retail sales personnel–by delivering key product information points in a clear, concise manner.
  • Differentiate the product and brand from all of its competitors in multiple retail channels.
  • Are consistent from product to product under the brand umbrella.
  • Are easily identifiable in a global marketplace.
  • Are cost-effective vs cheap to produce.

When packaging systems are properly researched and developed, three key achievements occur:

  1. Brand identity and brand image are strengthened.
  2. Clear, concise and consistent communication hierarchies – that effectively communicate with the customer – are established. These can be applied to all future line extensions as well as all product revitalization plans.
  3. Enjoyment Assets™ that are brought to the fore assist in developing customer relationships that will cue further purchases of the brand, cementing brand loyalty.

The Customer Experience

For design consultants, the primary goal is to ensure positive, enjoyable customer experiences with the products or services that we brand and package. “Experiential Marketing” is all about uncovering what we call the Enjoyment Assets® of a brand. This becomes the foundation for building a unique visual expression for that brand. Emotionally connecting consumers to a brand is essential. Connecting consumers to a product through Enjoyment is powerful, bringing favorable associations to mind at the point of sale, motivating purchase. When the brand promise is fulfilled in the consumer’s mind, it results in brand loyalty.

Since the sale of products and services are a large and crucial portion of our economy, the packaging of products and services are one of the most significant touch points companies have with their customers. It affords companies a unique and rich opportunity to communicate well with the customer and to deliver on their brand promises. Packaging can make or break the sale. It either makes the case for the brand and its products, or it doesn’t. Packaging can make or break a relationship with the customer. If packaging communicates brand values in a direct and honest manner, it can establish real connections based on trust.

Ultimately, building consumer trust, delivering on the brand promise, building brand equity and brand leaders are the mutual goals of the corporate client and the package design consultancy. It is incumbent on all of us to remember that packaging is our last and most formidable communication to the customer as they stand in front of the retail shelf – it had better be our most meaningful and our best.