10 Secrets to Eye-Popping Package Designs

POSTED BY on Apr 24, 2013

How do you make your packaging stand out? Recently, our Executive Creative Director Ben Steele and VP of Design Michael Connors sat down with Advertising Age to share with them our thoughts on current packaging trends. Following is the full perspective, or to view the published Ad Age article, click here.

1. The best brands bring experiences to life.

Instead of designing purely for a product, use the packaging to highlight the brand itself. In the past, packaging acted like a frame in a movie, relying on pictures and imagery to tell the product story. Now, we aim to create brands that engage on their own merits. The packaging is freed from the weight of setting expectations for the product inside or an artificial depiction of “lifestyle” and, instead, is free to focus on creating a moment of engagement with the consumer—setting the stage for their individual experience.

Life “Before and After”

2. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Discovered elements of wit and humor are more important than ever. They create emotional connections and break through the clutter that surrounds. When we revamped Redhook Beer brand and packaging, we created a series of on-label headlines that used a distinctive brand voice to provide cues about each flavor. For instance, their Long Hammer IPA is “a big fan of dry hopping, which sounds much dirtier than it is” and Copper Hook “thinks gold and silver are way overrated.”    


3. Want to convey all-natural? Start by being real and honest.

The days of simply using kraft paper to convey all-natural are long gone. And good riddance. Today’s consumer is savvy about what they buy and looks beyond superficial elements for more substantial proof of what’s inside. Today, the best way to communicate “goodness” is through honest, simple and clean design. It’s about going beyond cliché and convention to focus on the truth of the product inside. And while materials and color palettes still play a role in the aesthetic, a clear brand proposition is more important than a physical package.

Evolution Fresh

4. Start a conversation: Using copy as a design element.

We are seeing more and more uses for text, type and voice as lead design elements and key components of the storytelling for the brand—acting more like a billboard and less like body copy. When it came time to launch new gluten-free pizzas for client Garlic Jim’s, we took an editorial tabloid-style approach. We placed more emphasis on saying “yes” and “embracing” the gluten-free movement, rather than being apologetic for it. The design is built around bold, tongue-in-cheek messaging that injects humor and gets consumers talking.

Garlic Jim’s

5. Limited Editions create urgency.

Buyers love an element of surprise, but it can’t come at the expense of completely changing the brand they have an affinity towards. We’ve found limited edition packaging to be the perfect way to build on that affinity, without messing with the brand’s core attributes. These special packages provide a license to put aside typical constraints and innovate. It’s also an opportunity to drive incredible sales performance. It can be a great shortcut to jump into the premium category and created urgency around the purchase.

Left to right: Vaseline “Pink Bubbly” & Marmite “Ma’amite”

6. A classic never goes out of style.

The popularity of “old-school” sports jerseys can help teams conjure up fond memories of yesteryear. And the same holds true for brands and their packaging. We’ve seen a number of cereal and snack companies bring back classic designs and flavors to pique nostalgia and remind consumers of why they first fell in love with a brand. It’s about recreating an emotional connection and building a bridge to the evolution of the brand. In the case of our client Quaker, a beloved 135-year old brand, our research showed that “Larry” the iconic Quaker was universally considered a positive symbol of the brand, representing trust and leadership globally. But Quaker’s increasing focus on health meant he could benefit from a bit of a makeover, so through a few tweaks and modifications a century-old Quaker retained his persona, while finding a new, healthier and more modern look.

Quaker Oats

7. One love: Global harmonization.

As consumers become more global, they expect their favorite brands to do the same. No matter where in the world a brand lives, success comes when consumers can instantly and intuitively recognize and assign meaning to it. The key is to identify a universal human truth and timeless brand truth that can come together in a unified brand platform. Packaging serves as one of the key filters through which consumers experience the brand, so there needs to be a sense of consistency and relevance no matter where you call home.

Doritos (left to right: US, UK, Mexico)

8. Want to cost more? You better look worth it.

Being a category leader means others will quickly follow suit—whatever you do. Today’s trailblazer can quickly find itself surrounded by a sea of sameness—all at a lower price. Leader brands rely on packaging to stand out among the copycats and private-label options. That starts with clarity on what your brand stands for and offers consumers. Limit the number of claims you make on pack and go beyond superlative assertions (best tasting, healthiest, fast-acting). Avoid selling overall category benefits on pack; you are only helping your competitors. Obviously, there needs to be an exclusivity and eminence in your package design as well, which can include elements like unique form factors, refined simplicity, custom art or superior production.   

Starbucks VIA

9. Equity is built through partnerships, not borrowed.

We’ve all seen the ways that haphazardly “pink washing” packaging to try and tie to a cause can trigger a backlash with consumers. If you’re going to partner with a philanthropic organization you need to be “all in” and the cause should align closely with your overall brand. Our UK office, works closely with Heinz’s HP Sauce, which is a huge supporter of “Movember,” a global initiative to raise awareness of men’s health issues by growing a moustache throughout November. To support the cause, we created limited edition labels with a complete moustache makeover across HP Sauce’s packaging varieties. This past year’s labels featured an image of a moustache and mo-tivational phrases like “Moustaches keep your upper lip warm,” “Men with moustaches look stronger,” and “A great Mo makes a great man.”

HP Sauce “Movember”

10. Packaging is a critical component of an integrated marketing campaign.

Today, more than ever, brand design means partnering with advertising agencies, public relations firms, and digital consultancies to tell a cohesive, integrated brand story. If your packaging feels out of step with the rest of your brand you’re missing out of real opportunities with your consumers. Brands that succeed start by making their packaging a centerpiece of the overall brand experience. The good news is it’s never too late to start building toward integration.  

Tostitos Cantina


Add a comment