Judging a book by its cover: Approaching product packaging

By Ben Gust and Eli Gerson | May 12, 2017

We're all guilty of it. You go to grocery store to buy a product and you often, even perhaps unknowingly, base your decision to purchase one item over another on the packaging design. The colors may draw you in, the unique style may interest you, or the messaging may appeal to you.

The occurrence of 'judging a book by its cover' in this sense is second nature in the consumer marketplace. The choice you make to buy one product over another depends on how the package looks and how it makes you feel. As a result, packaging that emphasizes a unique value proposition makes the product stand apart from competitors and connects with consumers is essential to successful sales.

When embarking on the launch of a new product, it is important to ensure the brand positioning accurately reflects key points of differentiation, business history, vision, and its story. An integral part of executing this consistency through point of sale is ensuring the packaging is an extension of the brand that further engages its target audience.

Companies bringing a new product to market as well as established companies that are growing and evolving need to give careful consideration to packaging design.

Here are a few tips:

Brand new products with designs old and new

When a brand decides to add new products to its line, the primary purpose of packaging will be to differentiate the new product within its sub-category. However, attention must also be paid to the fact that it will act as an extension of the family of products that represent the core brand and its story.

It is important to first establish an individual product story and persona attributes for the new product line, then strategize how it will connect to the established brand root. An important part of approaching this new design is leveraging existing brand equity in the reimagined packaging while not losing sight of the needs of the sub-category.

Allegro Coffee, originally offering handcrafted premium coffee and tea, expanded its product line to include drinking chocolate. As a result, they were in need of packaging unique to this beverage segment while still reflective of the Allegro brand. We at D+i Creative developed individual brand architecture for the new package that utilized the original root of the Allegro story and visual expression as a connective thread in the treatment of each chocolate variety.

Know your audience

Before launching a new product, identify your target audience. The persona of this target audience dictates the expression of the brand, from the voice and tone of the messaging to the visual experience on the product package. The package must quickly capture the attention of that target audience in a relevant and meaningful way. This can make the difference of a successful versus failed product launch.

It is important to first establish an individual product story and persona attributes for the new product line, then strategize how it will connect to the established brand root.

D+i Creative partnered with BrandJuice and The Clorox Company to create a package and visual assets for a heavy-duty cleaning product aimed at a primarily male audience. As cleaning products are primarily marketed via female-focused sales tactics, it was essential to create a verbal and visual definition that shifted this perception. To this end, D+i focused on the functional appeal of the product, emphasizing its strength and effectiveness utilizing striking colors, bold messaging, and a custom container with aesthetics reminiscent of a power tool.

Drive growth with packaging

When bringing a new product to market, it can be challenging to appeal to a variety of buying personas while maintaining core brand attributes. Conversely, if packaging is inaccessible to a larger audience there may be limitations to the growth potential of a product. In this situation it is imperative to consider the future trajectory of the product as it relates to consumer base.

A client came to D+i with the idea for a new automotive cleaning product that had mass-market appeal. The company's leaders hoped to establish a presence amongst commercial truck drivers to increase brand loyalty among this profession, but also target the broader consumer market. This was a comprehensive, ground-up project where we created a custom container inspired by an oil barrel with imagery featuring both a commercial and recreational truck.

Revisiting how your product is packaged can be a powerful tool to re-establish brand presence, expand your brand reach, or shake things up in an overcrowded marketplace. Successful product packaging communicates in a way that creates distinction and engages your audience in a lasting and effective manner.

CEO Eli Gerson and Chief Creative Officer Ben Gust bring nearly 40 years of experience to their Denver-based creative agency, D+i Creative.

Eli Gerson