Branded packaging design looks fantastic.
As the owner or marketer of a company with a physical product, having awesome packaging design is key to your success.
Whether that’s food packaging or product packaging – having fully branded product packaging will kick your business up a notch.
Imagine if Cadbury’s didn’t use their trademarked purple. Or Coca Cola’s bottles were different each time they made them.
Things just wouldn’t be the same.
So, how can you power up your business with branded packaging design?
Let’s dive in.
Your Brand Strategy Must Come First
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again.
When it comes to design, no matter what type of business you’re in, your brand strategy must come first.
Your brand strategy runs through your entire business. From your values, mission, and story, to the way you look, the way you dress, and even how you speak.
Your brand strategy is the foundation of your business. It should be respected, especially when designing branded packaging.
Creating a brand strategy isn’t easy, but it’s essential.
Think about this:
If your company is all about green, sustainable living, then you’re going to want to use recycled and recyclable packaging.
If you’re all about the cheap and cheerful approach, then sure, you might opt for cheap and nasty plastic packaging (please don’t!) but you could.
Your brand strategy highlights what you care about as a business. This in turn, informs your brand identity and packaging design choices.
It’s important to get your branding right at this level. Your brand strategy is the bedrock of your business. It has value both internally and externally.
Your products sit on top of that foundation, and are more consumer focused. They’re all designed and aimed at a particular type of customer.
But to do that effectively, you have to understand your brand at it’s core.
You Need to Create a Brand Identity System
A lot of people make the mistake of creating a brand identity, but not considering it’s wide range of applications.
It’s rare that you’d see a brand identity laid out in a neat looking PDF. It just doesn’t happen.
Your brand identity is tactile, and will be seen in the most weird and wonderful places!
It’s important your branding agency creates an identity system, rather than some sexy standalone visuals.
Your branding system should contain a range of deliverables, from logo designs and stationery, through to patterns, textures, and other repeatable, reusable elements.
When combined, your brand identity system should be unmistakably yours.
For example, look at McDonald’s:
They use red and yellow as their main brand colours, and the Golden Arches are their famously trademarked logo.
But they extend that out to create branded packaging with ease.
Their fries are served in red cartons, with the Golden Arches front and centre.
Drinks are served in white cups, with the famous arches wrapping around them.
Cheaper burgers like the cheeseburger are served in a white wrapper, with the McDonalds logo, and the word cheeseburger in uppercase. A similar approach is taken with hamburgers.
Premium burgers like the Big Mac come in a box, still featuring the iconic logo, and some simple text.
McDonalds change their packaging design frequently, but because of the strength of their brand identity system, it always fits seamlessly into their franchise operation.
To get the McDonald’s treatment, make sure you understand how to write a good design brief. This’ll go a long way to getting your packaging project right!
Consider Your Whole Product Range
When it comes to actually designing your branded packaging, you need to consider your product range as a whole.
And if you have multiple product ranges, how they work together.
It’s important that single product packaging isn’t designed in isolation.
Your products form an important part of your brand architecture.
If you’re launching a range of fruit snacks, and you’re going to be offering six types of snacks, you need to start with that in mind.
You start designing the packaging for your grapes. You choose a large typeface, it fits the packaging, edge to edge. It looks great!
But now, you need to design the packaging for strawberries.
You’re in real trouble.
The word is a lot longer, and to make it fit, you have to scale it down. That then has a knock on effect on the rest of your product range.
And that’s just one example.
You’re really up the creek when you want to add “Japanese Plum” or “Blood Orange” into your product range.
That’s why it’s important to consider your product range as a whole when creating your branded packaging design.
Product Marketing is Campaign Driven
Once you have your branded packaging designs ready to go, it’s time to bring your products to market.
And there’s a big difference between marketing a product, and marketing your business.
Marketing a product often works on a campaign by campaign basis. But, your business brand should still have a presence within the campaign.
Let’s again look at McDonalds:
They rarely create adverts to promote the business. It’s always product driven.
Their latest adverts for “healthy fruit and salad snack packs” tells a story about their product.
And then, right at the end, you get that five second flash of the McDonald’s logo and their instantly recognisable brand jingle (more on sonic branding coming in the future!)
Each of their adverts tells a different story, and features a unique style, depending on who they’re trying to reach with their adverts.
From “peely peely” to the ever creepy Ronald McDonald, they base their adverts around a product or promotion, and their business brand has a lesser presence (usually right at the end.)
On the flip side, you have Cadbury.
Cadbury went for the all out bizzare, gorilla playing drums to the tune of Phil Collins. Then, with racing airport trucks set to the tune of Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now.
Both are advertising Dairy Milk. Cadbury’s premier product.
Yet, the adverts worked more in favour of the brand, than the product itself. This is important because everyone notices Dairy Milk’s chocolate packaging anyway. So it makes sense to build on their brand.
The adverts were so abstract, they garnered a lot of mainstream coverage.
The product was then slotted into the end of each advert, the same way McDonalds slip their branding in.
When it comes to product marketing, each product, or product range, tends to get it’s own advertising campaign or unique marketing effort.
Again, the business brand is the pillar that the campaign is built on top of. Without a solid brand strategy, it’s hard to imagine any sort of product marketing moving successfully forward.
Don’t Be Tempted to Skip Ahead
The message of this blog post is essentially:
“Don’t skip ahead to designing your packaging, if you haven’t got your branding right first.”
If you do, there are several things that could happen:
- You get your packaging design wrong, and don’t sell any product
- You then have to go back, and start the branding and design process all over again
- You cost yourself a lot of money as a result.
Do it once, and do it right.
Packaging costs can be quite outrageous, especially if you’re printing something bespoke.
Make sure you get the fundamentals of your brand in place. Then, work on bringing that brand through into your packaging design.
Then, before going to print, try user testing.
A Note on User Testing
User testing is great. But it needs to be executed properly.
When creating product packaging, it’s tempting to run off and seek feedback from as many sources as you can.
You should, but consider these three things of the people you’re asking:
- Are they your target audience?
- Are they friends and family? (They’ll never give you the best feedback)
- Do they understand the brand?
When user testing with product packaging, it’s important people understand the brand first.
For example, let’s imagine you’re all about sustainable living and recycling. You present your users two options. One with a white background, one with a paper background.
It’s important people know that part of your brand story, so they can make their judgement call with that in mind.
Context is king when it comes to user testing.
It’s no good showing packaging design options, without showing people what your brand is about first.
Another thing to keep in mind, is try not to overwhelm people. Show them a maximum of three options at any one time.
Just like A/B testing – you need to test and iterate on small changes to make sure feedback doesn’t become clouded!
User testing is valuable, but make sure to give people context before you start.
How to Bring Your Business Brand into Your Packaging Design
We’ve talked a lot about using your business brand as the foundation for success when it comes to your product packaging.
We’ve also talked a lot about food, but this advice is relevant to any business with packaged products.
So, how do you bring your business brand through, into your new packaging design?
Use a Similar Visual Language
Think about your brand strategy and the image you want to portray to potential customers.
Do you use cartoons and illustrations as a business? Or are you more upmarket and sophisticated?
Whatever feeling and vision it is you’re trying to evoke within your customers, is the way you want to design your packaging.
If you use a beautiful serif typeface in your logo, make sure you take a similar approach with your packaging. Make it delicate, and precious. Like you’re being given a wonderful gift.
Apple’s packaging is a great example of bringing their brand through into their packaging design.
Clean white backgrounds, simple black sans-serif typeface, small Apple logo.
There’s no mistaking their packaging, because it’s built on top of a strong brand strategy.
Concepts Can Add Consistency
Another approach you could take, is taking a high level brand concept through to the rest of your packaging.
When designing for one of our recent clients, My Orchard, we had a design concept that used fields and ploughed fields as part of their brand identity system.
This means that for all they’re only producing fruit now, when they produce vegetables in the future, they could still use the fields concept in their packaging.
Taking a concept from your overarching brand, and applying it to your branded packaging design, helps build consistency across your brand touchpoints.
Avoid Colour Separation as an Identifier
This is more of a “don’t” than a “do.”
Don’t use colour to separate product ranges or products within your brand.
If you run a pet food brand, dog food could be green, cat food orange, fish food blue, and so on.
But don’t do it! In fact, you should avoid it at all costs.
Using separate colours to define products and product ranges will create you problems further down the line.
First of all, only select colours look good on packaging. And before you know it, you’ll run out.
You’ll be using blue, dark blue, light blue, in-between blue, nearly blue, and so on. And then there’s really no differentiation!
There are a lot of better ways to create differences between your packaging ranges.
Try using different shapes, sizes, patterns, icons, photography, arrangements, and typography, before resorting to colour.
It might sound like a good idea now, but trust me, it always causes issues later!
Choose Your Materials Wisely
Like anything else in life, certain materials cost a lot more than others.
Certain materials also tell certain stories.
If you have an entirely gold box made, it’s going to look high end (if it’s designed properly!)
Alternatively, if you have a white plastic packet made, it’s going to look quite cheap.
The materials you use for your packaging design should resonate with your target customers and help enhance your brand story.
Consider Your Print Finishing
The same can be said about print finishing, as can be said about materials.
Embossing, debossing, and foiling, can all make your product look high end.
By using huge areas of neon print, you’re probably going to cheapen the look of your brand. And that’s okay, if it’s appropriate!
The way you print onto your packaging can have a huge impact on the finished product, so choose carefully.
We never recommend using cheap or low cost print suppliers, and a good printer should be happy to print samples for you.
Just make sure they do it on your actual packaging material, as different materials can effect printing in different ways.
Branded Packaging Design Examples
We’ve already talked about McDonalds, Cadbury, and Apple in different places throughout this post.
But let’s take a look at two more examples.
Direct from their website:
Jo Malone London is a British lifestyle brand known for its unique fragrance portfolio and luxury products for the bath, body and home.
And they’ve absolutely nailed their branding, product packaging, and in-store experiences.
Everything they do with their brand is consistent.
Just look at their product range above. It’s super high-end. And it’s relatively simple in it’s approach.
But everything matches. From their perfume labels, to their candles, to the boxes and bags everything comes in.
Their in-store experience follows a very similar pattern. A straightforward, upmarket experience.
Jo Malone’s brand comes through in every piece of packaging design, their website, and their stores.
If you’re going to go for high-end simplicity, this is how you want to approach it.
Kono Coffee are a client of ours that we worked with on a branding and coffee packaging design project.
We really had to reign them in. They wanted to dive straight in to creating products and product ranges, without exploring their main brand identity.
We forced the issue, and made them focus on their top level business brand, which was then used to guide the design of the products, rather than the other way on.
Once we started exploring African patterns, we realised that “from Sierra Leone” was in fact the heart and soul of the Kono Coffee brand.
Usually coffee comes from the South American region. Having a brand identity focused around African ideas and patterns was a top level brand decision, that could have only come from working on the business branding.
We were then able to take the patterns and use them to apply to Kono’s product packaging.
If we’d have started with the packaging design rather than the branding, we’d have never ended up using traditional African patterns, and the result wouldn’t have been the same.
Conclusion: Power Up Your Business with Branded Packaging Design
Your branded packaging design plays an important role in the development and growth of your business.
But it’s important that you don’t favour your packaging over your branding!
You must start with your business brand first. Then, you can move on to your packaging design.
Without the fundamentals of your business branding in place, it’s unlikely your packaging design will be a success.
Your brand strategy, and resulting brand identity system, is the foundation of your business. Your packaging design should be layered upon your solid brand foundation.
Your brand strategy and brand identity need to run throughout your entire business, as well as your product range.
Branding first, packaging design second.
That’s how you power up your business with branded packaging design.
What do you think? Did you create your branding before your packaging? Let us know in the comments below.
reading time: 14 minutes