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"WeListen" Blog

6 Essential Elements of Effective Packaging Design

The average consumer may think he or she shops based on practicality and logic, but usually, that is not the case. A lot of subconscious work goes into the average consumer’s choice of a product when presented with choices on a store shelf or an e-commerce page, and these choices may be made in a split second, even when people tell themselves they are “browsing.”

People can select products subconsciously, in only a fraction of a second.

Effective packaging design understands consumers and allows them to satisfy themselves that they are making a rational decision, while still appealing to emotion, culture, and preferences. It is a lot to ask from simple packaging design, but brands know that design can mean the difference between a successful product and one that languishes on the shelf. Here are six essential elements of effective packaging design.

1. It Must Call Attention to Itself

Packaging design does not necessarily have to shout the loudest from the shelf, but it must stand out by communicating the very essence of the product’s unique selling proposition. Shapes, colors, orientations, and textures all play a role. Even brands that pride themselves on understated or elegant packaging designs often make those designs so that they are different from others, and may stand out because of their understated or elegant nature.

2. It Must Make the Brand and Purpose Clear

Even the most generic budget brands make their product and purpose clear, or else nobody will buy them because nobody will know what they are. While the budget brand may simply state “Tomato Sauce,” other brands must make that clear as a baseline for all other packaging design considerations. People will not buy a product if they do not know what it is and what it does.

3. It Should Awaken Emotions

Emotions are closely linked to memories, and brand packaging designs that provoke emotions are more memorable than those that do not. Precisely what those emotions are may vary. Some brands may appeal to consumers’ sense of nostalgia, joy, or aspiration, for example. Marketing that plucks at people’s emotions is more effective than marketing that simply touts features and benefits. That is because the emotional parts of the brain are key to forming long-term memories.

There is a reason brands use puppies and babies in packaging design.
Brands that pique emotions like happiness, aspiration, or sentimentality are more memorable.

4. It Should Strive for “Iconic Assets”

Think of brand icons that are recognized the world over. Coca-Cola, Apple, and Nike are just three examples. Not every brand will achieve iconic status, but packaging design should strive for it. The more iconic a brand’s design or logo, the easier it is for people to spot in newer contexts (such as new flavor offerings).

5. It Should Capture and Call Out Benefits

“Clean labeling” is hot right now. It means that labels offer clear, concise information about the brand and product, including health benefits, company values, and packaging sustainability. If your packaging is biodegradable or easy to recycle, the design should say so. If your product is low-sugar, organic, or plant-based, likewise, it should say so clearly. People care about unique product attributes.

6. It Should Be Designed for its Target Audience

You would not put a photo of a dog on a bag of cat food. While designing for the target audience is not always this straightforward, it is important for brands to learn to whom, exactly, their packaging designs appeal. Testing could show, for example, that a particular packaging design gives the impression of being “for women,” “for older people,” or “for trendsetters,” and you should know this. If your packaging design does not align with your target audience, it is probably time for a refresh.

Packaging design must not only contain products adequately and safely, it must include required elements like ingredient and nutritional information, as well as barcodes and other necessary elements. At the same time, it must appeal to consumers, often amid dozens of competing items. Packaging design should never be an afterthought because it is such a crucial element of the marketing strategy. Brands that ensure their packaging fulfills all the key elements consumers expect from packaging designs gain an edge over their competitors, whether they are sold online or in physical retail stores.

PKG Brand Design, Food Package Design Company, is always on the forefront of new CPG branding and packaging initiatives - to read more, please subscribe to our blog to always be current on the latest package design industry news. 

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